If you arrive, in Camrose, coming from the west, via Wetaskiwin and the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, on 48th Avenue you’ll be greeted by the usual array of big box stores, fast food restaurants and hotels that would make most travelers pass by…But don’t! Turn left, on 50th Street and head into the revitalized old downtown of Camrose!
Tourists and trekkers that take a trip to Camrose will discover a charming and friendly small central Alberta city. The moniker “Rose City”, was chosen for the amount of Alberta wild roses growing in the area.
Camrose is not too large and not too small. Known, for the most part, as the home of the large country music Big Valley Jamboree. The Jamboree attracts thousands of country music fans and some of the biggest names in the industry have graced the huge main stage.
Camrose was recently listed in a recent Huffington Post, Travel article as the Alberta destination for Top Small Towns In Canada. Camrose was also in the running to be named Cultureville 2011 by CBC. Unfortunately, Camrose was inched out by Peace River, another fine, small Alberta city, located in the northwest Peace Country.
Camrose has many deer, within it’s boundaries and has also been in the national and international news, when a herd of locally ranched bison, escaped and came into the city. Some were seen charging down the local golf course!
Camrose like many towns and small cities, in Alberta, took advantage of the Alberta Main Street Program and have restored many of the building in the historical downtown. The most outstanding, of these restorations is the 100 year old Bailey Theatre (5041 50 St). The Bailey’s restoration has provided a cultural meeting place, for residents of Camrose and visitors!
As described on their Facebook Page:
“The oldest theatre in Alberta is back on its feet once again. The focus of the new theatre is primarily live performance, including plays and concerts. But, wanting to maintain Stan Bailey’s legacy of diversity, you’ll find that the newly renovated Bailey is quite versatile, and can be a suitable home for multiple performance media. We’ve taken our vaudevillian stage and added 1.2 million dollars in state of the art theatre tech. Some of this tech includes an Ion touchscreen lighting board, Six robotic arms from Apollo Design Technologies, and a brand new digital fly system. Not content to simply be a state of the art theatre, The Bailey’s primary mandate is the maintenance of the historic legacy that it carries, that is, being a cultural nexus within the City of Camrose. A place where the hard working people of Camrose would gather to be entertained, to dive into someone else’s story, to laugh when they laugh, or cry when they cry. Whether it was seeing the rapid fire sitcom-esque vaudevillian shows, throwing popcorn over the balcony, or getting paid an unexpected visit from our resident ghost, everyone leaves the Bailey with new memories.”
Camrose main street (50 St.) is also home to Jaywalker’s Jamboree and the Camrose Cruisers Show ‘n Shine. For these events the City of Camrose blocks off main street, from traffic so people can walk around and take in the event. Following the Show ‘n Shine, the street is opened and winning vehicles cruise the main street.
Camrose and other surrounding communities have a strong Scandinavian background, as many early residents came from Norway. The Scandinavian influence can be found:
Visitors interested in historical buildings, Camrose should take to the streets. Suggestions, for a walking tour would include an Alberta Heritage Building, the old Public Library (4857 50 St). Built in 1908 to house the Canadian Club of Camrose, this building offered the city’s prominent businessmen a place to read, play billiards, and socialize. It was sold in 1918 and was later occupied by a Provincial Courthouse and Treasury Branch. In 1957, it was moved one block to its present location and transformed into the former Camrose Public Library. (Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 163)
The following is a list of other historical places, in Camrose:
Looking for more historical buidings? Go south, of Mirror Lake, on 53 St. for more of Camrose history. At 4612 – 53 St, across from St. Mary’s Hospital you will what was the Camrose Normal School. Constructed by the province in 1915 as the second institution in the province dedicated to educating teachers, now houses the Rosehaven Care Centre.
Further down 53 St. you can visit the Camrose Centennial Museum at 48 Ave. The museum has replicas, on the property, some re-built Camrose structures (Original Camrose Canadian newspaper building and Fire hall. As well there many things of interest, on the site.
Looking for historical places, outside of Camrose? Go south on Hwy. 21, for the the Hwy. 13 traffic circle west of Camrose. For your first stop of interest, go down into the Battle River Valley after crossing the bridge. There you will find Ross’ Flats Campground, with 10 unserviced sites, camp shelter, picnic tables, fire pits.
At the entrance to the camp ground, there is an sign commemorating he Duhamel Trestle Bridge. The Duhamel/Battle River rail bridge was one of the largest wooden rail bridges ever constructed, at 3,972 feet (1210 m) in length and 120 feet (32 m) in height.The bridge stood only 14 years before it fell victim to railway consolidation. The great structure was dismantled, its huge timbers salvaged for building and repairing other bridges.
Alter Catholic Church of St Thomas
In the valley, before you go into the campground take take a right turn, up the hill to the village of Duhamel and visit the Catholic Church of St. Thomas. This Alberta Historical site, built 1883, is associated with the work of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate among Alberta’s Metis communities during the latter half of the nineteenth century and as an example of a Gothic Revival church built using traditional French-Canadian construction methods. It is also The Catholic Church of St. Thomas is the sole remaining Metis mission church on its original site in Alberta.
Following a dirt road from behind the church, will take you to the church’s burial grounds. There you will find many family plots, as well unmarked graves. Near the centre of the area, be sure to find the head stone for Father Hippolyte Beillevaire.
Camrose has also created an excellent urban park, just west of downtown. Mirror Lake is former reservoir used for the electrical plants which powered the city. Yes those are real swans on the lake. They have clipped wings, that have made the lake home for twenty years.
Drive further south to 45 Ave. and you will reach the Camrose Recreation Centre. Go into the main entrance to see the Camrose contribution to the Canada 150 Mural project The mural uses small hand painted tiles, to make a mural representing the history, culture and features of a community.
Canada 150 murals are a made in Alberta project for Canadian cities and towns, across the country, to celebrate the 150th year since the Confederation of Canada began in 1867.
If you need to get around Camrose during the day, or just take a tour around the city; why not hop on the Camrose Community Bus. For $2.00, one way fare the bus runs from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays).
Further north, in Strathcona County, cross country ski fans can take part in the annual Canadian Birkie. This ski festival, held in early February, relives the 800-year-old historic legend of the original Birkebeiners who saved the heir to the Norwegian throne in a 55 km epic journey.
There are also many outdoors and nature related things to do and visit, in the surrounding Camrose County. These include the Ministik Bird Sanctuary and the Waskahegan Trail, with sections of trail though Ministik and south through the Battle River. The area is also a bird watchers delight, being on a major flyway, both spring and fall! Here’s a link to the County tourism map.
If it’s “Arts” you’re looking for: In addition to the Bailey Theatre, the UofA Augustana Campus, at Camrose, has the new Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre. The Centre houses The Cargill Theatre, with seating for 572 and the Mayer Family Community Hall which seats up to 200. Roots music fans will pleased with the productions of the Rose City Roots Music Society, who bring a fine compliment of performers to Camrose venues. With all of arts venues and festivals in Camrose, the City has adopted a new slogan and logo (below).
Travelers to Camrose can also travel from Edmonton via Highway 14 and 21. For an interesting country drive, turn east onto Highway 617, at Hay Lakes. Then turn south on 833, before Kingman. This becomes a scenic circular route, between Camrose and Edmonton. Travelers can also leave Camrose by this route but turning east, off 833 and onto 617 for a little more than a kilometre, and then going north on 833 towards Tofield. Then turn back west on Highway 14.
Using the route through Tofield, it takes you through the rolling “kettle and bowl” terrain, of the Beaver Hills, caused by the melting of the glaciers of the ice age. There is a large prehistoric moraine, of glacial till, that runs in an east-west direction. The Beaver Hills have now become a Biosphere Reserve as designated by UNESCO.
Going west from Hwy. 833, on Hwy. 14 will lead you to the Cooking Lake – Blackfoot Grazing, Wildlife & Provincial Recreation Area. Watch for the signs, directing you to staging areas, for hiking, trail bikes and horses.
Going east, on 617 from 833, will also take you to Miquelon Lake Provincial Park. During the late spring to early fall, the park is a full use beach, picnic area and campground. For camping reservations are recommended during peak months from June through August!
The Miquelon Lakes area has been designated as an Important Bird Area. This ares and much of central Alberta, are on the Fall and Spring migration routes for a wide variety of birds. It’s well known as a birding paradise.
Going west, on 48th Avenue and by Highway 13 towards Wetaskiwin, travelers will reach a deep valley at Gwynn. The water to the north is Coal Lake and is a reservoir made by damming Blackmud Creek. Geologically this spot is known as the Gwynn Outlet, where the prehistoric Lake Edmonton burst out, to the south, and carved out the deeper and flat Battle River valley. Further north on following 618 (north of Millet on Hwy 2A) Coal Lake, Provincial Recreation Area is available for day use. Camrose is located in the The Battle River watershed and the Battle River Watershed Alliance, has many educational and interesting programs to help conserve the watershed.
The County of Camrose, also has developed a creative and environmentally method, for cleaning sewage and waste water. They’ve developed sewage lagoons, where waste water from lagoons is fed into man-made willow thickets.
The willows thrive on the sewage and clean the water. The willows, grown in rows, harvest it every three years and then burned for either heat or power or mulch it for compost. Camrose replaced their natural gas boilers with a biomass heating system and are using their willows and other waste wood streams to heat their main county office. This unique process is being done the hamlet of Ohaton, southeast of Camrose on Hwy 13.
Camrose is near the the north end of the Boomtown Trail tourist region, at New Sarepta. The region encompasses Highways 21, 56 & 9 and ends at town of Bassano in the south, along the Trans Canada #1 Highway west of Medicine Hat. The major tourism, trekking and dinosaur centre of Drumheller, is also along the Boomtown Trail.
Camrose and the surrounding area, is an enjoyable destination for hiking, nature, history and shopping. Camrose can also be very economical destination. (see below)
Read Ya’Gotta Bob’s Yelp Reviews about Camrose coffee houses, pubs and restaurants:
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