OUR TOWN HISTORY
For millions of years the Entrance area basked under warm, tropical seas teeming with marine life, remnants of this life that was long ago compressed and folded into the scenic Rockies. Fossil hunters may find many treasures between Entrance and Jasper, particularly in Hidden Valley. Fragments of duck-billed dinosaurs were found recently along the Athabasca banks near the bridge on Hwy 40.
More recently (well, 60 million years ago) the region was a huge swamp with enormous trees, ferns, some of the first flowering plants and of course dinosaurs. This ancient swamp left us with the beautiful sandstones you find in the foothills as well the coal deposits at Pocahontas, Brule, Cadomin, Mountain Park and Hinton.
Stone hide scraper
Discovered by Maggie Ellen, Geologist & Local Resident
Although little evidence remains of the earliest people here, during the last Ice Age, warmer periods opened an ice-free corridor. Eurasian peoples migrated over the Bering Strait land bridge connecting Russia with Alaska, travelling alongside and through the Rockies all the way to South America. They left behind stone axe heads, hide scrapers, arrowheads and rare pictographs. Some have been found in nearby Willmore Wilderness (including by me!).
The Native peoples moved throughout the area using the rivers that provided easy access to abundant game along the broad valley. They established a network of footpaths and (later) horse trails. The first documented settlement in the area by Native peoples was at the junction of Hardisty Creek and the Athabasca River (near the existing pulp mill). Europeans started arriving around the 1700’s, spurred on by the emerging Fur Trade with the competing North West and Hudson Bay companies.
Photo from “Entrance & Brule Much the Same” chapter in “Picture Hinton, Entrance, Brule and Cadomin,” by Mary, Bargery, 1999. With permission by The Hinton Municipal Library, Copyright Holder.
With the Fur Trade in full swing a trading post was established in the early 1820’s at the junction of the Athabasca River and Solomon Creek (on the nearby Brule Road). It remained until the 1880s when it was moved closer to Jasper. The influx of Trappers, Guides and Outfitters, establishing various trails and cabins, almost hunted out the valley.
The Dominion Forestry Act (1872) established crown owned forests for logging and game preserves. The Rangers hired to patrol these preserves, built a series of cabins a day’s horseback ride apart, connected by pack trails. There was often a valley and mountain trail to cover all weather/snow conditions. Regionally, trails and cabins came north from Sundre/Nordegg to Hinton/Brule and Grande Cache, with cabins at Gregg River and Entrance. The lower valley trails are now covered by Hwy 40 North and South whilst the higher mountain trails are used for recreation: the Bighorn Trail for hiking/biking, the Mountain Trail from Brule through Rock Lake to Grande Cache for horse guiding and outfitting.
Shortly after Canada started establishing National Parks, Jasper Park was established in 1907. This brought tourists, guides and wranglers. It also meant the Native peoples in Jasper Park were moved to a new settlement of Prairie Creek (roughly where Hwy 16 meets Hwy 40 North). The boundary of Jasper Park at that time was nearby, immediately across the Athabasca River from here. An “entrance” booth was located on the West bank of the river, across a ford which is where this new, small settlement got its name, “Entrance”, both the entrance to Jasper Park and the start of the Rockies.
In conjunction with National Parks and tourism, rail lines were being built. CN and CPR were building lines on either bank of the river, reaching this area in 1916/1917 and included an “Entrance” station.
When the rail lines amalgamated into one the “Entrance” station was abandoned (it is now part of the Old Entrance B and B). The Jasper Park boundary was changed with the discovery and mining of coal at Brule. The settlement was thus no longer an entrance and was renamed “Old Entrance”. Entrance became the name of a new community across the river.
More guides and trappers moved into this area now outside the park where restrictions were less, this became the frontier “cowboy culture” which exists to this day. Residence with names like Montana Pete, Curly Philips, One-eyed Jack have given this area many
many colorful stories.
In its heyday over 125 people lived in Entrance, with a store, hotel, restaurant and laundromat. It boomed until the advent on the automobile, the growth of forestry and pulp mills and establishment of Hinton proper in the 1950s.
Written by: Maggie Ellen
Geologist & Local Resident