Peace River Valley at Dunvegan (North side)
Dunvegan Park! Just the name brings back memories of day trips and picnics, hot sun beating down on our (still blonde) heads. Climbing the hill on the other side of the hwy, because we were following our older brothers and cousins who were much more adventurous than us girls. Of course, one of them then had to go get dad, because we couldn't/wouldn't go down by ourselves. It was steep! I think I was 6 or 7 and Sis would have been just a little bit older.
Yeah, as an adult, it looks really tame now. This is not exactly where we climbed, but the only photo I could find. For some reason I have only two photos that I can say for sure are Dunvegan and as an adult, I drove over that bridge at least six times a month for fours years. I suppose you get complacent about things you see all the time. I always marveled at the beauty, but didn't often stop to take the photo.
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I was raised in Grande Prairie and then I worked in Peace River for four years. I would usually go home on my days off which meant driving through this valley. Trust me in winter those hills can be scary as hell. I worked shift work and would leave at 08.00 after my night shift was over. It takes about an hour to get to the bridge and one fall morning, it was crisp and clear as a bell, which experience has taught me will mean fog in the river valley. The area on both sides of the valley is fairly flat & you can see for miles, but just before the valley there is a little rise in the ground before you head downhill. I came over the rise that morning to see the entire river valley shrouded in fog from bank to bank and yet clear all the way across the top. It was as though the valley had been filled in with cotton and you could drive right over it to the other side. About half way down the hill, you broke out of the fog and it was clear again until half way up the other side. It was, I think the most surreal driving experience I have had in my life.
Another photo again from the North side, but in summer.
Enough reminiscing, Dunvegan Provincial Park is an historical site. It was a fur trading post and mission site and one of the most significant sites on the Peace River.
The site of one of Alberta's earliest fur trade posts and missionary centres dating back to 1805. The Beaver Indians were some of the earliest inhabitants of the area with the first European explorers passing through in the 1700's. In 1805, Archibald Norman Macleod established a trading post naming it Fort Dunvegan, after his family's ancestral castle in Scotland. Dunvegan became a Hudson Bay Company post and operated until 1918. The Factor's House and the St. Charles Rectory and Church (1867) are the only two buildings remaining from that time.
Here and here are short articles about life and the history of the Fort at Dunvegan. This is a bit about the history of the Metis in the area and their relations with the Fort. (I am not sure if that word is commonly used elsewhere, Metis is a French word for mixed blood Indian.)
The demise of the Fort at Dunvegan came about by the establishment of trade at the town site of Peace River which sits at the junction of the Peace River and the Heart River. Dunvegan then became know for the market gardens that had been established during the days of being a Fort.
When we were kids being rescued off of hills, it was much less evolved than it is now. Now they have interpretive actors and guided tours. They have walking trails and campsites (it used to be day use only), boat launches have been upgraded and they have added some other amenities.
And yes, that is a suspension bridge you see in those photos. It is in fact the only suspension bridge in Alberta for automobiles. It replaced the ferry in 1960 and spans 2375 feet and is the fourth largest suspension bridge in Canada.
There have also been dinosaur tracks found along the banks of the river there.
One day, I will have to get back there and take some more photos, in the mean time click on the links and see the church and the beautiful painting inside. This one has great shots of the church.
Have a good day all.
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