Cool Little Towns

Today we are going to share with you some “Cool Little Towns” that are a short drive from Riverbend Campground. We have already shared a little bit of Okotoks and High River in previous posts and if you haven`t done so already you can find them here. In addition to these two, the towns of Bragg Creek, Black Diamond, Turner Valley, Longview and Nanton, along with our Municipal District of Foothills, cooperate to present themselves as the “Cool Little Towns.”

A visit to the “Cool Little Towns” website is worthwhile as they provide highlights for each of the participating communities plus events and tours. You will discover that some of the events are ongoing such as exhibits at a museum, while some, like festivals, happen over a weekend or on a specific day. Each tour has a theme and takes you through several communities. You can follow their tours or use one of their tours as a jumping off point for your own adventure. One example is the “One of a Kind Finds” Tour which offers up more than 40 boutiques, galleries, artisan shops and studios. You can expect to discover treasures you won’t find anywhere else. Your curiosity might take you into such eclectic establishments as Classic Rodeo Boutique in Nanton or Suncatcher’s Design Studio in Bragg Creek.

Now we are going to give you a little flavor of each of the other towns. Our geography includes prairie, foothills and the nearby Rocky Mountains. The first town we are highlighting, Bragg Creek, is the farthest west, and is in the heart of the foothills. As one would expect, the area is scenic, and heavily treed. This is considered the gateway to Kananaskis Country. Outdoor recreation is popular with nearby Elbow Falls, Bragg Creek Provincial Park and the Canyon Creek Ice Caves. Visitors come to enjoy hiking, fishing, off-roading, trail riding and sight-seeing. In town you will find is a vibrant community of artists and artisans and culinary champions.

This plaque tells visitors the history of Woo`s General Store in Black Diamond.

Black Diamond and Turner Valley are two towns so geographically close there has been talk over the years of amalgamating. A three kilometer walking path, the Friendship Trail, connects these communities. They date back to the 1880’s. Black Diamond was named for coal deposits found in the area and a significant milestone for Turner Valley was the discovery of petroleum in 1914. A local historian says that by 1942 the oilfield was producing 90% of Canada’s oil. Guided tours of the historic Turner Valley Gas Plant from this era are available during the summer. Outdoor adventures abound in this area and, within the communities, enjoy shopping and dining experiences. Two popular stops are the famous Chuckwagon Café and Cattle Co. in Turner Valley and Marv’s Classic Soda Shop in Black Diamond.

The famous Chuckwagon Cafe in Turner Valley.

South of Black Diamond, in the heart of ranching country, is Longview. The town experienced a boom in the 1930’s with oil exploration and production.  At that time it was known as Little New York and a sister town to the north was known as Little Chicago. All that is left of Little Chicago is a roadside monument. Paying tribute to the era is the Twin Cities Hotel, which is a popular spot for dining and live music. Another local attraction is the famous Longview Beef Jerky Shop. A short drive south is the Bar U Ranch. The ranch was established in 1882 and is now a National Historic Site preserving the west’s ranching history. Legend has it that the Sundance Kid visited the Bar U.

Next, the Town of Nanton, which is 49 kilometres south of Riverbend Campground. Years ago, Nanton was a popular stop for water when folks were travelling through the area. The town provided a public water tap, and Nanton water was well known throughout southern Alberta. This was one of the first waters to be bottled and sold, and the Nanton Water & Soda Company continues to operate today. There are two standout attractions in Nanton. The first is the Bomber Command Museum of Canada. For those interested in aviation and military history this is a must see. A highlight for many is being able to enter a restored Lancaster Bomber.  The second standout is the Canadian Grain Elevator Discovery Centre. Grain farming shaped the west and every fall farmers brought their harvest to the local grain elevator. These huge wooden structures stood as sentinels along the rail lines in almost every town and village. Most of these elevators are gone, victims of progress but Nanton has preserved three of them. The Discovery Centre tells of the history of farming in Alberta.

This look at our neighboring towns is not meant to be a comprehensive look, but rather a little flavor of each. Each town presents a plethora of shops, sights and adventures. We encourage you to visit and discover for yourself. Until next time, happy motoring.

Grain Elevators, once found in nearly every town in the west, are gone. The people of Nanton have save three and you can study their history at the Canadian Grain Elevator Discovery Centre.