Nestled in the middle of southern Alberta, just before the prairies meet the Rocky Mountains, Lethbridge has a history as deep as the Oldman River that snakes its way through the city.
Notorious Alberta Whiskey Trade Pivotal to Lethbridge’s Beginning
Its beginnings go back to the notorious whiskey trade of the 1860s, Fort Whoop-Up, on the banks of the Oldman River, was a whiskey trading outpost from 1869 to 1874. In order to quell the increasing violence in the area Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald created the North-West Mounted Police (the precursor to today’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and sent them to the area in October 1874. Soon after the whiskey trade was stopped.
Re-enactment of Gunfights Thrill Kids and Historians of All Ages
Today an interpretation of Fort Whoop-Up remains in Indian Battle Park next to the Oldman River, which separates Lethbridge’s west side from the rest of the city. Through interactive exhibits and well-researched displays, and during the summer a re-creation of “The Siege on Fort Whoop-Up” complete with gunfights, “The Fort” pays tribute to the North-West Mounted Police, the Aboriginal people, the pioneers and all those who had a hand in shaping the early history of Lethbridge.
After peace had been brought to the area, the city saw a period of growth based mainly on coal and agriculture.
World-famous High Level Bridge an Alberta Landmark
In 1905 Lethbridge became a regional hub for southern Alberta when the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to shorten the Crowsnest Line and run it through the city. Doing this would require construction of a bridge over the Oldman River Valley. This would become known as the High Level Bridge and put Lethbridge on the national radar. At more than 5,300 feet long and over 300 feet high the bridge is the largest of its kind in the world.
One of the best views of the bridge is from the atrium of the Galt Museum.
Originally the city’s hospital, the museum now tells the history of the city in Discovery Hall, which includes a replica of the High Level Bridge, a look into the Lethbridge’s coal mining history and exhibits explaining the traditions and culture of the Kainai people.
Serenity in the Middle of the City at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden
After learning the city’s history step into the tranquility of Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, located just off Mayor Magrath Drive.
Loosely translated to mean Japan Canada friendship, Nikka Yuko, established in 1967, combines the local natural landscape and culture of southern Alberta with Japanes symbols and philosophy in perfect harmony. Moonlight viewings, exhibitions by local artisans and traditional tea ceremonies continue to amaze and inspire the thousands of visitors to the gardens.