Directions: Exit Edmonton on Hwy 16 west.

Distance: 202 km, or about 2 hours and 15 minutes, from Edmonton.

Info: www.townofedson.ca.

The town of Edson marks the trailhead from which early settlers once travelled through the Peace River Valley and on to the North. Before the town existed, the trailhead site was chosen to serve as a Grand Trunk Pacific Railway divisional point. Surveyors marked the townsite, and 15 people settled here when the tracks were laid in August 1910. The area was advertised as a booming place to live, and lots selling for $200 were suddenly valued at more than $1,000. In 1911, the population grew from 490 people in January to 1,200 residents that summer. The same year, clay marl, used for making cement, was discovered west of Edson, and a plant in nearby Marlboro opened, with cement being shipped to Edmonton and more distant locations. Clay for use in cosmetics was also mined from McLeod River deposits in 1934.

The region’s first post office was called Heatherwood but was later named after the general manager and eventual president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad: Edson J. Chamberlain.

Edson was officially incorporated in 1911, and between 1911 and 1915 travellers aiming to reach Grande Prairie took the Edson Trail. The province of Alberta hired crews of men to cut a path through the forest; they cut their way through the forest with axes to create a 400-kilometre overland route across continuous stretches of muskeg and deep mud. When rutted mud on the trail dried, wagons swayed precariously, which prompted many passengers to walk rather than ride. Travellers faced a difficult route, and many individuals drowned while trying to transport their belongings across the perilous waters at one of four major river crossings. The unforgiving trail was gradually improved with the introduction of rest areas and ferries. Hay was also stored for animal feed. The introduction of the Edmonton, Dunvegan, and British Columbia Railway made the trail redundant in 1916.

Today the Trans-Canada Yellowhead Highway passes through Edson. Its name comes from the

Iroquois trapper and guide Pierre Bostonais, who was nicknamed Tete Jaune (French for yellow head) because of his light-coloured hair. In 1825, Bostonais accompanied James Macmillan, a Hudson’s Bay Company employee who had been sent to survey a low pass across the continental divide near Jasper House. The two men were seeking a route to transport dressed leather to New Caledoniathe area now known as central British Columbia. New Caledonia had little in the way of large game and needed leather to make sturdy moccasins for Aboriginal trappers. Also called Leather Track and Leather Pass, Yellowhead is the name that has endured.

About 10,000 vehicles pass through Edson daily on the Trans-Canada Yellowhead Highway. The region’s rich natural resourcesoil, gas, coal, and timberhelp support a population of 8,646 residents. The community is home to the world’s largest ballpark, with 24 regulation-sized diamonds, the Galloway Station Museum, a great cross-country ski trail system, and many outdoor recreational opportunities. The Kinsmen Spray Park (7th Avenue and 48th Street) is a great place to cool off or just relax and enjoy a picnic. (Open daily, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., from May to September). You’ll also find a dry playground, picnic tables, firepits, and washrooms.

Annual events include the Mooseheart Loppet Family Fun Cross Country Race (March), the Holy Redeemer Drama Festival (April), the Medicine Lodge Rodeo (May), Sundays in the Park music festivals (all summer), Canada Day Celebrations, Kin Slo Pitch Tournament (August long weekend), Chamber of Commerce Sidewalk Jamboree (August), and a Santa Claus Parade (December).

Centennial ParkTourist Information Centre and Galloway Station Museum,

Location: Turn left onto 53rd Street from Hwy 16 west, Edson.

Info: The Tourist Information Centre and Galloway Station Museum are open daily from Victoria Day weekend to Labour Day weekend, from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and the rest of the year from Monday to Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There is a small admission charge to visit the museum. 780-7235696; www.gallowaystationmuseum.com.

You will know you have reached Centennial Park when you see the mounted Lockheed T33 jet along the Yellowhead Highway. This popular stopping point is a good place to walk around and relax. Be sure to take a stroll to the giant water fountain along Bench Creek, visit the giant statue of Eddie the squirrel, and enjoy the park’s ponds, waterfalls, and bridges. The park is home to a 1907 Canadian National caboose, which is one of the oldest CN relics exhibited in Canada. You will also find the Edson and District Chamber of Commerce, Tourist Information Centre, and Galloway Station Museum. The latter displays industrial artifacts from the railway, coal mining, and lumber sectors.

Eddie the Squirrel, an icon in Edson for more than 50 years, sits proudly in the middle of Centennial Park.

Red Brick Arts Centre Location: 48187th Avenue, Edson.

Info: Open Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is by donation. Wheelchair accessible. 780-723-3582.

The Red Brick Arts Centre is a registered historic resource that will interest visitors of all ages. Restored and renovated, the 1913 school building is Edson’s central point for artistic and cultural events throughout the year. It is home to the Hatlen Theatre, dance studios, an art gallery, and a gift, shop. Tour the School Room Museum and get a feel for what school was like for early pioneers.

Fickle Lake Provincial Recreation Area Location: 39 km southwest of Edson, off Hwy 47.

Info: Open May 1 to mid-October. Powerboat speed limit in posted areas is 12 km per hour. 780-797-4154; 780-723-0738.

Fickle Lake is a popular fishing spot and offers a pleasant place to paddle a kayak or canoe. The swimming area is on the east side of the lake. Despite the chilly water, it is a favourite spot for children who enjoy shallow water and building sandcastles. Recreation area amenities include a boat launch, picnic tables, firepits, fish-cleaning station, and pit toilets. Firewood is available for purchase. In addition to the main pier, boaters will find a couple of smaller landing areas along the lake.


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