Fort Carlton

FTLComm - West of Beardy's & Duck Lake - Wednesday, August 2, 2006

For decades my brother took his grade eight class to spend a night at Fort Carlton which is located West of Duck Lake and the Beardy's Reservation. I had been fascinated with our visit to Batoche as the facts and issues of the Reil Rebellion hits with considerable impact but I really knew nothing about Fort Carlton. So our visit it this Historical Provincial Park on Friday was a total revelation.

The fur trade is what lead to the exploration of North America and this fort on the Saskatchewan River run by the Hudson's Bay company was at the core of the British portion of this enormous quest.



When you make your visit to this site like us you will begin your journey back in time at the simple but thorough interpretive centre (above) staffed by people who know what they are talking about and are eager to share their knowledge.

Its just a short walk over to the fort with a representative plains people's lodges much in the same location that they would have been during the trading days.


It is breath taking to step through the gate into the restored Hudson's Bay fort. Some of the buildings have been rebuilt and furnished others are marked out on the ground in their original locations.

This fort saw the fur trade transform and witnessed the signing of the treaties that established the rights of Western First Nations People in 1876 then was turned over to the government of the new Dominion and its forces made


a hasty withdrawal five years before the failure to include the Metis in the land deal resulting a shooting war. When they were leaving a fire destroyed the fort.

The Fort's amazing staff let you feel the furs, savour the atmosphere of the Hudson's Bay agents and become a customer at the store that provisioned the people of the area before the rebellion in 1885. This is hands on history and it is the highlight of our summer vacation of 2006.


Walking around the ramparts overlooking the peaceful river valley and realising that this was not a place of conflict but of business and development.

The huge press in the yard to jam the furs into 90lb. bundles and the realisation that at first everything came and went by York boat on the river all the way to and from the Hudson Bay hundreds of miles away. Then the days of the buffalo slaughter and the shipping of the hides by Red River cart to St. Paul. The revolution of the


The revolution of the steam boats that would move things from Edmonton to Carlton, Carlton to Cumberland House, to Nelson House and then down to Winnipeg a trip of twenty days from Carlton to Winnipeg.

We walked down the path through a pleasant wood from the Fort to the River where the York boats docked and the steamboats tied up for winter or to take on fire wood and furs. The river that brought Europeans and European goods to this land and to the fur company's chagrin would be opened to settlement.

Now two damns have ended boat travel on the Saskatchewan from Carlton to the arctic or to Lake Winnipeg. One at Nipawin and the other at the north end of Lake Tobin created by the Campbell damn before the river spills out onto the enormous inland delta between the Campbell Damn and Cumberland House. But when the steamboats worked this waterway one of them the Northcote was able to make five round trips one summer to and from Winnipeg.

I have told you little and shown you even less about what is to be discovered about our history at this outstanding site. The campground is virtually infinite in its capacity and just a short distance from the interpretive centre and the fort.

A pilgrimage to Fort Carlton, Batoche and Fort Walsh she be on every Saskatchewan family's to do list. You can read someone's story about Saskatchewan history but standing on the wall of the fort or looking out over the Batoche rifle pits will change the way you think about your land and its people.



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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
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