Directions: Exit Edmonton on Hwy 16 west, take the Hwy 22 south exit toward Drayton Valley and Entwistle, keep left at the fork, and follow the signs for Hwy 22 south.

Distance: 145 km, or about 1 hour and 45 minutes, from Edmonton.

Info: Brazeau Regional Tourism Visitor Information Centre is located at 6009-44th Avenue. 780-542-7529; 1-800-633-0899.

The earliest pioneers in the Drayton Valley area began breaking land in 1907. Dora and William Drake, along with their six-year-old daughter, Dolly, were the first to homestead here. The settlement was called Powerhouse because of a plan to build a dam roughly 9.6 kilometres south, but the scheme was abandoned when World War i broke out. Upon opening the area’s first post office, the Drakes discovered that the name Powerhouse had already been used and renamed the community Drayton Valley.

Many of the area’s first pioneers worked as trappers until fur prices dropped in 1920. Others harvested lumber, and in 1930 approximately 350 men worked in 30 lumber camps and floated logs downstream on the North Saskatchewan River to Edmonton. By 1945, the forests were harvested, and mixed farming became the most common way to support a family.

Life changed forever in 1953 when Mobil Oil discovered what became North America’s largest oil find: the Pembina Oil Field. The area boomed as more than 70 oil companies came to Drayton Valley, and the population expanded from 75 to 2,000 people in one year. Drayton Valley changed rapidly with the arrival of prostitutes, around-the-clock saloons, and people living in skid shacks weathered buildings lining a one-kilometre rutted dirt road. The community became a town in 1957.

Today it’s a pleasant drive to Drayton Valleythe largest community in Brazeau County and home to 7,049 people. Fields scattered with pumpjacks lead to town, which sits atop a gorgeous plateau between the North Saskatchewan and Pembina Rivers.

When you arrive, follow the signs to the Omniplex (5737-45th Avenue) for an up-close look at a large pumpjack painted in the town colours. The Lion’s West Valley Park is here and includes a day-use area with picnic tables. Drayton Valley features more than 17 kilometres of pathways that connect all town parks and lead into the countryside. The 23 kilometres of Rotary/Pembina Nordic Community Trails range in length from less than one kilometre to almost three kilometres, are suitable for walking, and are groomed for cross-country skiing.

The annual Thunder in the Valley Drag Races are a North Peace Bracket Race Association (npbra) circuit stop. For information, visit www.thunderinthevalleydragrace.ca or call 780-514-2200.

Other annual events are the Pirates of the Pembina Raft Race (third weekend in August), the Drayton Valley Bench Fair, Snowmobile Snow Drags, the Brazeau Tourism Hidden Treasure Garden Tour (fourth Saturday in July), and the Brazeau County Fair (May). There are also rodeos, livestock shows, and light-horse competitions.

Dedicated to presenting area history, the Drayton Valley Museum is located in the Lion’s West Valley Park, just off Highway 22 at the west entrance to the Drayton Valley RV Park, Omniplex, and Lion’s

Rodeo Grounds. The museum is open on Wednesdays from May to the Labour Day weekend, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., but groups may book a tour at any time by calling in advance. Phone the Drayton Valley Historical Society at 780-542-5482 (summer) or 780-542-4908 (off-season).

If you would like to look at some fine Canadian art, visit the display located at the MacKenzie Conference Centre at the Omniplex.

Location: 59 km from Drayton Valley. Exit Drayton Valley on Hwy 22 south, turn west onto Hwy 13, pass through Alder Flats, and follow the signs to Em-Te Town.

Info: Admission is charged. 780-388-2166; www.emtetown.com.

Em-Te Town is a unique attractiona privately built western ghost town, complete with a jailhouse, harness shop, livery stable, bank, church, restaurant, and the Hogs Breath Saloon. It has been used as a western setting for a number of television and film projects, including a McDonald’s commercial shot in the summer of 1992.

Visitors can enjoy a petting barn, trail and wagon rides, and fully licensed saloon and restaurant. There are areas for riding all-terrain vehicles to nearby crown land, which extends toward Drayton Valley and the North Saskatchewan River.

Brazeau Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area Location: 60 km southwest of Drayton Valley on Hwy 620.

Info: The reservoir offers pleasant boating for canoes, kayaks, and boats, but be careful to avoid driftwood and snags just below the water’s surface. 780-894-0006.

A tributary of the North Saskatchewan River, the Brazeau River is named after Joseph E. Brazeau, a Hudson’s Bay Company clerk and postmaster who worked in Edmonton, Jasper, and Rocky Mountain House between 1852 and 1864. Built for hydroelectric purposes, the 120-metre dam has controlled the river’s flow since 1964. Every year the plant generates enough electricity to meet the needs of the equivalent of 56,285 Alberta homes.

The boreal lower foothills ecoregion that includes the 131 hectares of the Brazeau Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area contains predominantly coniferous and mixed-wood forest, which represents a transition from true boreal to subalpine regions. Lodgepole pine stands are most common, followed by trembling aspen and less-frequent groupings of balsam poplar. Black spruce, Labrador tea, and sphagnum moss populate the areas around the region’s many bogs, and poorly drained peat lands give rise to sedge fens.

Look for moose, elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer, as well as cavity-nesting birds, such as tree swallows and common goldeneyes. Great blue herons nest here, as do ospreyin some years this area sees the province’s greatest concentration of nesting osprey. Watch for these birds near the nesting platforms installed on power poles and walk along the south edge of the canal for especially fine birdwatching.

The Brazeau River is home to a significant number of boreal forest bird species at the limit of their southern range. Look for the sandhill crane, boreal owl, greater yellowlegs, and Philadelphia vireo. A search of the shallow water below may reveal lurking northern pike.

Attractive for its wildlife-watching opportunities, this area appeals to those who enjoy canoeing, kayaking, swimming, fishing, sailing, powerboating, and windsurfing. There is a boat ramp, fish cleaning station, interpretive viewpoint, pit toilets, and sheltersboth with and without a cookstove.


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