Ghost Towns of the Alberta Badlands
Ghost Towns of the Alberta Badlands
The original stage-sets of Clint Eastwood’s classics…
With wide, open skies, rocky arid terrain, winding coulees and lonely roads, it isn’t hard to see why the ghost towns of Alberta’s Badlands attract both movie crews and visitors with their rustic atmosphere and western charm. Popular among travellers passing through to see dinosaurs at the Tyrrell Museum, some enjoy new traditions begun by tiny communities to keep their ghost towns alive. Other visitors prefer to let the abandoned weather-beaten buildings and the starkly beautiful scenery around them speak for them of a time long-past. In this article we have put together some of our favourite ghost towns, which are some of the spookiest, yet best, attractions in Alberta.
Once a thriving coal mining town of several thousands and now a small deserted village, Wayne is the definition of a ghost town. Sitting ten miles southeast of Drumheller, the largest town in Alberta’s Badlands, Wayne oversaw its population dwindle to an approximately mere 40 people when all the mines closed down in the 1950’s. Despite this however, getting to Wayne is half of the appeal - snaking your way through the stony valley and crossing 11 plank bridges adds to a sense of traveling through time. Given its isolation, it’s a pleasant surprise to learn that the local Last Chance Saloon is very much a resident icon as part of the movie Shanghai Noon, featuring Jackie Chan, was filmed here. With its wild-west feel – the saloon was nicknamed “Bucket of Blood” during its wild coal-mining days - Wayne attracts locals and summer tourists looking to see the bullet holes in the walls of the saloon. You can even order and barbecue yourself a steak on one of the saloon’s outdoor grills here.
The inhabitants of Rowley have come up with a novel way of keeping their preserved ghost town alive. Every Saturday for three seasons, visitors come to see Rowley’s original grain elevators, one room schoolhouse, restored railway station and even some newer buildings built in the western style for yet another movie set. Then they head to Sam’s Saloon for Pizza Night in Rowley. The ornate cast iron stove, massive wooden counter and sawdust on the floor is a quirky backdrop to enjoy an oven-fired pizza and it’s a great place to linger on a warm summer’s evening.
A particular favourite of photographers, this abandoned hamlet is home to some of the most iconic Badlands landscapes. With its population never surpassing 100 people, this tiny village sits at the foot of a flat valley. Named after the daughter of an early rancher who first arrived in 1900, the community once had a grocery store, two churches, a post office, a butcher shop, a poolroom and a restaurant. Now however, just a dozen people live around Dorothy as the elements have withered away core buildings. When stopping in Dorothy, we recommend you head to the abandoned old church and local school to soak-up the desolately beautiful atmosphere left behind and take your own photos.
Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site
Though not strictly a ghost town, our local experts have heard of several ghostly sightings here at this East Coulee historic site. The Atlas Coal Mine is a preserved landscape that gives visitors a sense of what it was like to be a miner, including the chance to put on a miner’s lamp and take a bumpy ride aboard ‘Linda’, the old mine locomotive. Take the guided ghost walk and hear about all the spooky stories, accidents and brawls that took place in this original old mine.
Snaking your way through the valley and crossing bridges adds to a sense of traveling through time
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