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New agri-tourism location near St. Paul has a heart for people and agriculture

River Ranch is Économusée Network Society’s first Heritage Space in Alberta .

LAKELAND – The Lakeland region in northeast Alberta welcomed a new agri-tourism destination following the official opening of the River Ranch, located east of St. Paul, allowing visitors a chance to experience ranching first-hand. 

On June 6, several people gathered to celebrate the occasion out at River Ranch. 

Adam and Crystal Charbonneau are the owners of River Ranch. According to Adam, they have added the concept of tourism to the ranch to “invite people to experience a real, working cattle ranch.” 

This involves showing people how regenerative ranching works and how beef develops – from pasture to the table. Regenerative ranching is a core concept for River Ranch, says Adam.  

As their cattle graze, their hooves break up the soil, promoting aeration and seeding, he explains. Their waste acts as a natural fertilizer, which enriches the soil with nutrients. This process supports the growth of new plants, which provides fresh grazing material for the cattle. 

But there is also the recreational aspect of the ranch. People can go on wagon trail rides to tour and take in the view of the surrounding environment, or they may choose to get their hands dirty and experience how ranching is like. 

It’s about providing people with an adventure, says Adam. 

Asked of the inspiration behind turning their ranch into a tourism site, Adam says welcoming and hosting people is common among most ranchers.  

“That’s just part of how we’re made up. We like having people, and we like hosting. We just kind of have a heart for people as well as agriculture,” he says. 

“So having that mix of the two worlds, you know, having people come, being around people, and influencing people with God's creation - it's fantastic,” says Adam. 

He invites others to come check out the ranch. “Ride a horse, get dirt under your fingernails... We encourage everybody to come,” he says. “We’re really excited and just very ready to have visitors.” 

Heritage Space 

River Ranch is Économusée Network Society’s first “Heritage Space” in Alberta. 

The idea behind a “Heritage Space” is the preservation and promotion of cultural heritage transmitted from generation to generation, says Carl-Éric Guertin, general manager at Économusée. 

Guertin says River Ranch will be promoted abroad. “We really think that this new tourism attraction... will really contribute to elevate the Lakeland as a tourism destination,” says Guertin. 

Other groups involved with turning River Ranch into a tourism attraction include the St. Paul/Elk Point Economic Development Alliance (STEP), Travel Alberta, and Parallèle Alberta.  

“River Ranch joins Alberta’s family of Artisans at work, enhancing a tourism offering that is much appreciated by visitors from all over the world. Parallèle Alberta is delighted to be able to highlight a regional business gem that recognizes the added value of bilingualism. We are proud of the work accomplished and of the trust Adam and Crystal continue to place in us for this project,” says Étienne Alary, Executive Director of Parallèle Alberta. 

The project was funded by Parallèle Alberta and Prairies Economic Development Canada. 


Mario Cabradilla

About the Author: Mario Cabradilla

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