Located in Canada’s Rocky Mountains, the history of Alberta’s Bow Valley is about coal mining, mountain wilderness exploration, and local landmarks. The next time your family plans a trip to Canmore or Banff, make sure to include time to stop and learn about the area’s history at these places.
From about 1903 to 1922, Bankhead was a small coal mining town at the foot of the Cascade Mountain. With the closing of the mine in 1922, some town residents moved, and some of the buildings were moved from Bankhead to Banff or Canmore.
These days, visitors can take an interpretive walk through Lower Bankhead and see a few of the foundations and remnants of the buildings. There are signs, with text and photos, along the path to explain more about the history of the area and the buildings. You will see the foundations of the church that used to be part of Bankhead as well as the ruins of the lamp house.
By visiting Bankhead, you and your family may be interested in discovering other former towns either in Alberta or in your province. It can be a good way to discover how people lived in the past as well as about industries and jobs in earlier decades and centuries.
Cave and Basin National Historic Site
Formerly, Cave and Basin National Historic Site used to be the location of the hot springs in Banff. Now, it is the place where visitors can learn more about the area such as that Banff National Park was Canada’s first national park. On a visit to this location, visitors can see the cave and the basin and learn from interactive exhibits as well as go on an interpretive walk nearby. If you have a current Parks Canada pass, you can receive a discount on the entrance or admission fee to Cave and Basin National Historic Site.
Parks Canada Discovery Pass
The Discovery Pass provides unlimited admission for a full year at over 80 Parks Canada national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas that typically charge a daily entrance fee.
Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
The Whyte Museum has a collection of artifacts and archives which help to understand more about the heritage and history of the area. The museum is named after its founders, Peter and Catherine Robb Whyte. The museum has various exhibitions, programs, and events throughout the year as well as walking tours (available if booked ahead) and virtual resources. This is a great place to visit when in Banff.
Banff Park Museum National Historic Site
A natural history museum located next to the Bow River Bridge in a building built in 1903, the Banff Park Museum National Historic Site provides an opportunity for visitors to learn about the wildlife and landscape of the area. There are many exhibits to see, and the museum’s website says that it has a collection of more than 5,000 natural history specimens.
Historic Luxton Home Museum
The Luxton Home was home to the Luxton family for ninety years or so. The home, built around 1905, shows what life was like from the 1900s to the 1970s with each room focused on a different decade. The Luxton Home Museum is open June to September by appointment only.
Located in Canmore, the Canmore Museum offers more information about the history of Canmore and the Bow Valley such as coal mining, the Northwest Mounted Police, and local landmarks. This museum also has a collection of artifacts and archives. On the museum’s website, visitors can learn about the historic places and buildings located throughout the town which could be another way for families to explore the area while learning about local history.
The history of the railroad is also an important part of the development of Banff and the Bow Valley. Of note, too, is that the blueprints for the Banff Springs Hotel were commissioned by William Cornelius van Horne, who oversaw the construction of the Canadian transcontinental railway. A visit to the Banff Springs Hotel can be an opportunity to discover more local history or might be a chance to delve into discovering the story of Canada’s railway from its beginning to the last spike.
By visiting these sites and places, you and your family will also learn the names of mountain peaks, many of which were named after explorers and guides to the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Bow Valley — home to Canmore and Banff — is a great place to visit, not only to see and enjoy God’s beautiful creation of mountains and nature but also to include a history lesson or two. A trip to the mountains can provide a good time of family fun and learning for all ages.
This article has been written by homeschooling staff writers of The Canadian Schoolhouse (TCS). Enjoy more of our content from TCS contributors and staff writers by visiting our themes page that has a new theme topic added every month!