Directions: Exit Edmonton on Hwy 16 west, turn right onto Hwy 43 north, and right at Hwy 33.
Distance: 121 km, or about 1 hour and 30 minutes, from Edmonton.
Info: 780-674-3301; www.barrhead.ca.
Nestled in the valley of the Paddle River, Barrhead is situated on the southern edge of the boreal forest. Settlers began coming to the valley in 1906, mostly from Britain and the United States. They set up sawmills to take advantage of the extensive timber and cleared land to grow cereal crops, but the community's location near the now-historic Klondike Trail is what helped the town grow as a trade centre. Hundreds of gold seekers passed through during the Klondike Gold Rush, which was triggered by the discovery of gold in Bonanza Creek, Yukon, in 1896. The town of Barrhead is also near the fur-trade trail that linked Edmonton and Fort Assiniboine.
Incorporated as a town in 1946, Barrhead was named after the birthplace of an early settler James McGuire from Barrhead in East Renfrewshire, Scotland. In January 1914, a post office was opened, and the community began to settle around it and other establishments, such as the community hall and store run by the Paddle River and District Co-operative Society. The town, originally located three kilometres to the northwest, moved to its current location in 1927 when the Pembina Valley Railway arrived.
A town with an agricultural base and a population of 4,432 at last count, Barrhead is a popular launching spot for outdoor enthusiasts seeking lakes and wilderness. Barrhead County features three rivers, numerous lakes, and the Natural Sandhills Ecological Area. Watch for the town mascot Aaron the blue heronnear the large gazebo in Barrhead's town centre.
Some of Barrhead's annual events include an ice carnival (March), blksmarch (June), Blue Heron Fair Days (August), and the Wildrose Rodeo Finals and Centre of Alberta blksmarch (September). Barrhead picnic spots include Clear Lake (780-674-5307), Elks Beach on Lac La Nonne (780-967-5029), and Dolberg Lake and Peanut Lake (780-674-3331).