Thursday, June 23, 2011

Marine Park Museum

While Fort McMurray will always be known as the home of the oil sands, for those who live here, it is much more than that. Even without the oil sands, Canada still owes a great deal of its development to Fort McMurray. At one time, Waterways (then a separate community and now a quiet suburb of modern Fort McMurray) was the "end of steel". All goods heading north were sent here via rail and then transferred to ships for transit further north. (Even before this, the Athabasca-Clearwater juncture formed a critical link in the continental fur trade, but I will leave this for another post.)

While a trip in a steamer up the BC coast was the most common way of reaching the Klondike, a trip north from Edmonton through Waterways was another (if less-travelled) way of getting there. Much of the men and materiel sent to construct the Alaska highway in the 1940's passed through here. The area also played an important link in the supply chain for the construction of the Distant Early Warning (DEW Line) Sites and for years barges (until the arrival of regular air service) leaving here supplied the north with everything from mail to meat to building supplies.

Which is why the history buff in me is quite pleased to see that this contribution will be recognized with a future Marine Park Museum. For the past little while (ever since moving here actually) I had caught glimpses of ships along the shore of the Clearwater behind where the Canadian Tire and a condo sit today. I was never really sure what it was until just recently when I had a chance to talk a wander back there for a closer look.

These rail cars will also be part of the exhibit. Back in the day, rail service was available between here and Edmonton, though it was cancelled back in the '80's.

This area was where the docks once stood and if I recall correctly, it is the only remaining shipyard in Alberta. It's so quiet there now it is difficult to imagine the hustle and bustle this little stretch of river once experienced during the formative years of our country.

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