The Crowsnest Pass is the richest archaeological zone in the Canadian Rockies. Located in southeast British Columbia and southwest Alberta, and is the southernmost rail and highway route through the Canadian Rockies.
The Canadian Pacific Railway built the Crowsnest Route line from Lethbridge, Alberta, to Kootenay Landing, British Columbia through the Crowsnest Pass between 1897 and 1898. The Crowsnest Pass area on both sides of the provincial boundary is rich in coal deposits, which were quickly developed after completion of the rail line. All the mines on the Alberta side were closed by the end of the 20th century as cheaper and safer open-pit mines opened on the British Columbia side of the pass. Some logging and oil and gas exploitation also occurs in the area, and a sulphur plant has been in operation there for several years.
Elkford, with approximately 2,500 residents, is located 32 km north of the junction at Sparwood, nestled within the majestic Rocky Mountain range.
The town and area boast many kilometers of horse riding, hiking, snowmobiling and cross country ski trails, as well as a family oriented ski hill, Wapiti, run by Elkford resident volunteers.
There are 5 open-pit coal mines within an hour’s drive of Elkford: Fording River Operations (FRO), Greenhills Operations (GHO), Line Creek Operations (LCO), Elkview Operations (EVO) and Coal Mountain Operations (CMO). All mines belong to Teck Resources. Elkford was created, due to mining activity, in the early 1970s.
Fernie is located in the Elk Valley area of the East Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia, Canada. Founded in 1898, the municipality has a population of 4811 with an additional 1899 outside city limits. A substantial seasonal population swells the city during the winter months.
Fernie lies on the Elk River, along Canada’s southernmost east-west transportation corridor through the Rockies that crosses the range via the Crowsnest Pass, 40 kilometres to the east. Fernie is the only city-class municipality in Canada that is fully encircled by the Rocky Mountains. The townsite was laid out in the crook of a doglegged glacial valley that today is drained by the Elk River. In the summer the Elk River is a popular attraction for fly fishing. Mountain biking, hiking and golf are becoming increasingly more popular. In the winter, Fernie is well known for it’s legendary powder.
The vast Crowsnest Coal Field lies just to the east of the city, and Fernie owes its origins to nineteenth-century prospector William Fernie, who established the coal industry that continues to exist to this day.
Sparwood, located approximately 30 kilometers from Fernie has approximately 4200 residents. The name Sparwood comes from founding father, Sparky Sparson, proprietor of the first retail lumberyard west of the Rockies, east of Hope, BC. Originally the town was known as “Spar’s Woodton”, but has been abbreviated since at least the 1870s.
The local economy is heavily dependent on coal mining. A large part of the population either works in the mines, logging or as tradesmen and labourers in related support industries, such as trucking or as mechanics.
Sparwood is home of the Terex Titan, at one time the largest truck in the world. The green Titan stands a few yards from the Crowsnest Highway where it can attract the attention of tourists and travelers.