If you are in the Jasper area and want to see some old mine ruins, sparsely populated towns, and the highest cemetery in Canada, head over to Yellowhead County.
The Coal Branch communities were created with the construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP) around 1910. The GTP travelled west from Edmonton to the Pacific Coast through the Yellowhead Pass, opening up a previously inaccessible coal-producing region, according to Alberta Culture and Tourism. Mining in the area peaked in 1929.
Between 1930 and 1950 the Alberta coal mining industry dwindled, and many mines shut down completely.
The Coal Branch communities originally consisted of Mountain Park, Cadomin, Luscar, Robb, Mercoal, Foothills, and Lovett, however only Mountain Park, Cadomin, Luscar, and Robb have any remains left, according to the Alberta Culture and Tourism website.
If you are in the mood to visit the cemetery with the highest elevation in Canada, head to Mountain Park.
Mountain Park was an old mining town at the end of the Coal Branch Line. There are no longer any residents at Mountain Park and all that remains are some mine structures and a recently restored cemetery that, according to mapcarta.com, has an elevation of 6,200 feet.
To reach the cemetery, the Alberta Parks website directs travellers to head 8.5 kilometres up Grave Flats Road from the Whitehorse Creek Public Recreation Area. To see remains from the old mining town, travel a few hundred metres to the designated trail on the right.
“Although the cemetery and town site are located in the middle of the new Cheviot Mine, they are being retained as heritage sites,” says the Alberta Parks website.
Heading north from Mountain Park is the town of Cadomin. According to Alberta Culture and Tourism, back in its heyday Cadomin was a leading community in the Coal Branch.
There are still a few residents in Cadomin. According to Statistics Canada, the population in 2016 was 40.
The website Ghost Towns Alberta states that in Cadomin there are mine ruins, several abandoned homes, and a still-running general store that features old historical photos and newspaper clippings.
Robb, which is located on Highway 47, about 53 kilometres southwest of Edson, also still has some residents. Statistics Canada’s population for the hamlet was 170 in 2016.
The Coal Branch Hotel, located in Robb, is still up and running. The building has an old-timey, mining-community look to it. Facebook reviews for the hotel say it is a cool spot.
Although Amber Valley was not a mining community, people settled in the area around the same time the coal mine industry took off in the early 1900s.
Amber Valley is a ghost town of one of the first Black settlements in Alberta, about 24 kilometres outside of Athabasca.
The Visit Athabasca website states that, starting in 1910, around 300 Black families settled in Amber Valley to escape the rampant racism in Oklahoma.
Ghost Towns Alberta states that a house or two remain, and the Amber Valley Museum, located in the Amber Valley Community Hall, is available for viewing by advanced registration.
This content was produced by our St. Albert Gazette newsroom for Passport to Summer 2022 and Great West Media's 2022 Hot Summer Guide.