The Hamlet of Fort Vermilion was founded in 1788 as a post for the North West Company, this picturesque community stretches for six kilometers along the southern banks of the Mighty Peace River.
During the early years, riverboats were a way of life and Fort Vermilion’s riverbanks bustled with these stately vessels. Laborers manually pulled goods up the Vermilion Chutes and reloaded them onto riverboats to continue on their way. The grand entrance of the railway in High Level and Fort Chipewyan divided the North and ended the river trading system. In 1952 the M.B. Watson Lake made the final commercial run to Fort Vermilion, bringing the riverboat era to an end.
Aboriginal people, represented by two major language groups, the Dene and the Cree, were the first to inhabit the area. With the onset of the fur trade in the late 1700s, the aboriginal way of life changed and outside goods were offered in trade for furs, hides, and provisions from the native peoples.
When the province of Alberta was formed in 1905, the thriving trade and settlement at Fort Vermilion influenced the political decision to strike the northern boundary of Alberta at 60 degrees north latitude. In 1974 the bridge across the Peace River was opened and the region changed forever. There was no longer a need for the ferry in summer and an ice bridge in winter to link Fort Vermilion with people and services across the river.
The community has preserved many of the old original buildings, including a Hudson’s Bay trading post and office and a trapper’s shack. The 1923 dove-tailed log St. Germain House is now the Visitor Information Centre. The Lean-To Museum and Archives constructed in 1995, features exhibits depicting historical life in Fort Vermilion with artifacts dating back as far as the late 1700s.
Fort Vermilion has a handsome modern hospital overlooking the Peace River Valley. This was the first facility to service the entire municipality. The Bicentennial Park is situated along the Mighty Peace River and features a monument and time capsule from the 1988 celebration. The site of the old Roman Catholic mission hospital was replaced by an all-service RV Park and golf course.
The Fort Vermilion Nature Trail is an easy hike along the river shore through a mostly forested area promising an incredible view of the Peace River. The trail is marked by signs on each end and is accessible from River Road.
Annual community events include a winter carnival, outdoor rodeo, and River Daze.
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