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Fort Vermilion

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Subject: List of Indian reserves in Alberta, Steamboats of the Peace River, Mackenzie County, Diocese of Athabasca, Driftpile First Nation
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Fort Vermilion

Fort Vermilion
Aerial View from North
Aerial View from North
Official seal of Fort Vermilion
Official logo of Fort Vermilion
Welcome sign
Fort Vermilion is located in Alberta
Fort Vermilion
Fort Vermilion
Country  Canada
Province  Alberta
Region Northern Alberta
Census division 17
Specialized municipality Mackenzie County
Established 1788 (oldest in Alberta)
 • Type Unincorporated
 • Reeve Bill Neufeld
 • Governing body
 • MP Arnold Viersen (Cons - Peace River—Westlock)
 • MLA Debbie Jabbour (NDP - Peace River)
 • Total 6.81 km2 (2.63 sq mi)
Elevation[3] 270 m (890 ft)
Population (2011)[2]
 • Total 727
 • Density 110/km2 (280/sq mi)
 • Dwellings 278
Time zone MST (UTC−7)
 • Summer (DST) MDT (UTC−6)
Postal code T0H 1N0
Area code(s) +1-780
Highways Highway 88 (Bicentennial Highway)
Waterways Peace River

Fort Vermilion is a hamlet on the Peace River in northern Alberta, Canada, within Mackenzie County.[4]

Established in 1788, Fort Vermilion shares the title of oldest European settlement in Alberta with Fort Chipewyan.[5][6] Fort Vermilion contains many modern amenities to serve its inhabitants as well as the surrounding rural community. The municipal office of Mackenzie County, Alberta's largest municipality by land area, is located in Fort Vermilion.

The hamlet is located in census division No. 17.


The Old Bay House
The Hudson's Bay Company vessel Messenger at Fort Vermilion.[7]

The area was inhabited by Dunneza (Beaver), Dene and later Cree first nations long before the arrival of European traders and settlers.

Named for the vermilion coloured clays lining the river banks, Fort Vermilion began as a trading community for the North West Company, upstream of the impassible Vermilion Chutes.[7] The fort was established in 1788, following the expeditions of Alexander MacKenzie. Winter residents would trade furs with the native trappers, then send the furs by river during the summer to exchange points to the east and then to Montreal. The fort was later transferred to the Hudson's Bay Company after the 1821 merger. By 1830, it was a prosperous fur trading post.[8] The first Anglican church was built in 1877.[9]

The main access to the settlements was by means of the river, using river boats and then ferries to haul materials in the summer months, when the water was not frozen. In 1903 the first steam-powered vessel to serve Fort Vermilion was the St. Charles built to navigate the 526 miles (847 km) the upper reaches of the Peace River, from Hudson's Hope to Fort Vermilion.[7] In 1974 a bridge was built over the Peace River immediately west of Fort Vermilion, effectively ending the winter isolation of the community.

The original Old Bay House, home of the Chief Factor, still exists and is now part of the Fort Vermilion National Historic Site. It was listed as such in 1968, for its importance as site of North West Company and Hudson's Bay Company posts.[10]

The Visitor Centre is hosted in a 1923 dove-tailed log house. Built on the banks of the Peace River, it was moved to its present location in 1983. Another heritage building is the 1907 Clark House, build for the Hudson's Bay Clerk quarters, and moved in 1994 to the present location near the Visitor Centre. The Trappers Shack , built in 1912, is another dove-tailed log house. It was listed as a provincial Historic Site.[5]


Peace River from the shore of Fort Vermilion

Fort Vermilion is located approximately 77 kilometres (48 mi) southeast of High Level and 661 kilometres (411 mi) northwest of Edmonton on the Highway 88 (Bicentennial Highway). The Hamlet of La Crete is located approximately 40 km (25 mi) southwest of Fort Vermilion on Highway 697.

The hamlet is one of the northernmost communities in the Peace River Country. Peace Country, in the aspen parkland biome, is Canada's northernmost lands suitable for agriculture. The landscape is dominated by aspen poplars and spruce, occasionally interspersed with areas of grasslands. Wildlife is abundant in the area, and include bears, moose, deer, beavers, foxes, coyotes and Canada geese.[8]

The hamlet is situated on the southern banks of the Peace River, with an elevation ranging from 255 m (837 ft) to 282 m (925 ft). The North Vermilion Settlement lies on the opposite (northern) shore of the river, while Fort Vermilion Airport is located 6 km (3.7 mi) downstream.

The climate is humid continental to subarctic, with long cold winters and short fairly warm summers. Temperatures during the winter can drop to −40 °C (−40.0 °F) to −50 °C (−58.0 °F). Summer days benefit from long hours of daylight due to its northern location.[8] Mosquitoes are a hazard during the summer months.

Fort Vermilion holds the record for the coldest temperature in Canada recorded outside Yukon, when on January 11, 1911, the temperature dropped down to −60.6 °C (−77.1 °F).[11][12]


Main Street

As a designated place in the 2011 Census, Fort Vermilion had a population of 727 living in 239 of its 278 total dwellings, a 1.8% change from its 2006 population of 714. With a land area of 6.81 km2 (2.63 sq mi), it had a population density of 106.75/km2 (276.5/sq mi) in 2011.[2]

As of 2006, Fort Vermilion had a total population of 714 living in 227 dwellings. With a land area of 6.81 km2 (2.63 sq mi), it has a population density of 104.8/km2 (271/sq mi).[13]


Fort Vermilion Public School

Two schools are located in Fort Vermilion, both administered by the Fort Vermilion School Division No. 52.[14]

Fort Vermilion Public is part of the public school system and offers education from grade 6 to grade 12. Approximately 150 students attend this school. St. Mary's Elementary functions in the catholic school system and is a Kindergarten to grade 6 school. It has approximately 145 students.

The Northern Lakes College, established in 1999, has one of its 26 campuses in Fort Vermilion. It was previously known as Alberta Vocational Centre Grouard, and offered education to first nation students.[15]


Community Complex

The Community Complex includes a hockey rink, a dance hall and a curling rink. The Fort Vermilion Heritage Centre manages 25 sites (listed as both provincial and national historic sites), including the old log houses, the Dominion Experimental Farm, first nations and natural history exhibits.[16]

St. Theresa General Hospital is a facility built in 1983, offering 26 acute care beds and 8 long term care beds, as well as an Emergency Department. It employs approximately 76 health workers, and is administered by Alberta Health Services.[17] The Provincial Court of Alberta maintains a circuit court in Fort Vermilion,[18] with the base point located in High Level. The court is hosted in the old hospital building.

The Fantasy North Golf & Country Club is a 9 hole golf course with a 150 years history. Additional facilities include a mini golf park, driving range and clubhouse.

The hamlet also has by a public library[19] and four churches. The St. Luke's Anglican Church Cemetery dates back to 1877. Located east of the settlement is the Fort Vermilion Airport (TC LID: CEZ4), administered by the Mackenzie County. It has a small airstrip that serves Fort Vermilion as well as other settlements in the surrounding area.

The Rodeo Grounds are located 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) south-west of the community, and hosts a rodeo every year in July (check for dates). The event features cattle roping and bucking broncos along with other competition. Other events and festivals held in Fort Vermilion include Canada Day celebrations, Town and Country Fair, River Daze and Arts and Crafts Show.


Fort Vermilion is in the federal riding of Peace River—Westlock, represented by MP Arnold Viersen. Prior to the 2012 redistribution of federal electoral riding boundaries, the area was part of the Peace River electoral district.

Notable residents

Fort Vermilion was the childhood home of writers - and brothers - Will Ferguson and Ian Ferguson. Will vividly describes his childhood there in his travel memoirs Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw. Among other things he mentions that the town was included in the 1976 version of Ghost Towns of Alberta, much to the chagrin of its residents at that time. Dave Hancock, named 15th Premier of Alberta on March 23, 2014 following the resignation of Alison Redford, grew up in Fort Vermilion.[20]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ Athabasca Tribal Council - Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
  7. ^ a b c
  8. ^ a b c
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ [1]
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