The Sturgeon River defines the St. Albert landscape
Earlier this year, the Alberta Heritage Markers Program installed a marker on the banks of the Sturgeon River in St. Albert. Our heritage markers can be found along walking trails and roadside pull-offs throughout Alberta, offering glimpses into the past.
This marker tells us how the people of St. Albert related to the Sturgeon River, which winds through their community.
Summer Idyll, Winter Wonderland
Before it reaches St. Albert the Sturgeon River has meandered about 180 kilometres from its beginnings in Hoople Lake west of Isle Lake. After it leaves St. Albert the Sturgeon continues flowing eastwards to Fort Saskatchewan, and empties into the North Saskatchewan River.
For the people of St. Albert in the early 1900s the river was much more than an obstacle requiring bridges, much more than a method of winter transportation when snow blocked the roads. It became a place of wonder where small children watched tadpoles darting just beneath the surface and dragonflies glinting in the sun above it. It helped create memories not linked to the hard work of daily life. “Young men who were studying for the priesthood,” Jane Ternon Sherwood recalled, “paddled up and down the river … their Gregorian chanting drifting over the water on a warm summer evening was beautiful to hear.”
The Sturgeon River became landmark and destination, the passing of time measured by seasonal opportunities to have fun and build community. On its banks and in its refreshing summer waters families played, groups held picnics and went boating, and young people paddled Sunday afternoons away. “In the winter, it was our skating rink and landing spot when we slid down the bank on our sleds,” recalled Dorothy Bellerose Chartrand. It was a hockey rink too where tin cans and frozen horse manure stood in for pucks.
For a brief time a steamer, La Thérèse, chugged lazily up and down the river. “I believe the river was much bigger then,” Jane Ternan Sherwood reminisced in the 1980s, remembering riding in the steamer in 1912. Memory had made the Sturgeon wider and more exciting, rekindling the joy of a small child splashing happily at its edge.
If you’d like to visit the marker, it can be found here:
Prepared by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer.