The Peace Country is a region that covers the entire northwestern quadrant of Alberta, Canada.Even with Alberta, an isolated and still young society, this region is considered to be still-more isolated and relatively empty. Most of northern Alberta is part of the sparsely-populated boreal forest. But here there is an isolated patch of farmland, separated from the main population centres of Alberta by the Swan Hills. This is the northernmost agricultural region of any size in North America, and is home to most of Canada's farmed bison (buffalo) and honeybees. The entire region, both farmed and forested, is drained by the "mighty Peace", a major river that goes on to empty into the world's largest inland delta at nearby Wood Buffalo National Park.
Many visitors (especially Americans) pass through this region on their way to the Alaska Highway. While here, you can blast through as fast as possible, or if you know where to look, you can find natural gems like Alberta's largest road-accessible lake (Lesser Slake Lake) or indoor actives like a huge new Dinosaur museum (Philip J. Currie Museum in Wembley).
The Peace County only has one city, Grande Prairie. The other places you would stop to buy supplies or look for a hotel are all small towns of one kind or another, ranging to small but well-serviced (Peace River, Slave Lake) to barely a crossroads (many others).
- 1 Grande Prairie – by far the largest city and economic hub of the Peace Country; pop. 63,000
- 2 Peace River – situated on the banks of the Peace River, at its confluence with the Smoky River, the Heart River; pop. 7,000
- 3 Fairview – pop. 3,000
- 4 Grimshaw – mile zero of the Mackenzie Highway; pop. 2,700
- 5 High Prairie – accessible to the western shore of Lesser Slave Lake; pop. 2,600
- 6 High Level – midway point between Edmonton and Yellowknife and last "major" centre before the Northwest Territories; pop. 3,160
- 7 Slave Lake – situated on the southeastern shore of Lesser Slave Lake; pop. 6,650
- 8 Valleyview – southern gateway into the Peace County; pop. 1,900
- 1 Lesser Slave Lake — Largest recreational lake in Alberta. Many areas with white-sand beaches and places where you can't see the other side of the lake; truly a surreal experience in land-locked Alberta!
Located where the Rocky Mountains give way to the vast Interior Plains of North America, where the the southern fringe of the great subarctic boreal forest meets the northernmost tongue of prairie grasses, and deep in the interior of the continent, this vast region is quintessentially Canadian in it's wildness and remoteness.
Despite the sort growing season found this far north, the Peace Country is of one Canada's richest agricultural areas, with most of the land in cereal crops and hay. Other agriculture here includes beef and bison production, poultry, and pork, and apiculture (honey).
This area has been settled for many years by the local Aboriginal bands, mostly Cree and Dene people. It has been settled by westerners much more recently, and has been explored and lived in by many important figures in Canada's history such as Henry Fuller "Twelve-Foot" Davis, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, David Thompson, and Peter Fidler.
Most of the people who live in this area reside in small towns and are conservative in nature. This is not to say, though, that this is exclusively the case across the board. There is vast culture and art in the area, and locals are often very hospitable and friendly.
The ethnicity of most of the western settlers here derive from England, Ukraine, France, and Germany. There are still many communities of primarily (even exclusively) French or German speaking people.
Most Peace Country communities sprang up in response to the building of the railway, and most communities still exist along railway supply lines.
This area can be extremely remote, and huge tracts of land remain untouched and unexplored, even today.
English is the primary language spoken here, virtually everyone speaks fluent English. You may find that there are a few speakers of French, German, Ukrainian, and Cree (an indigenous language), but you should not expect the average waiter or hotel desk clerk to know anything but English. By law, French services will be provided by federal government employees, but aside from police or perhaps postal clerks, most travellers would never meet one of those here.
The main airport for the region is Grande Prairie Airport (YQU IATA) with service to Edmonton and Calgary, which have international connections. Alternatively, High Level Airport (YOJ IATA) has connection to Edmonton, Hay River, and Fort Smith.
This region has no inter-town bus services of any kind. A private vehicle, whether bought, rented, or shared, is a must. The only exception might be if you're willing to canoe!
There are plenty of historical destinations, and plenty of wilderness and wildlife to see, museums, festivals (music and cultural), scenic views, fishing,hunting, canoeing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, sledding, skiing, horseback riding, golfing, hiking, and even waterskiing.
By far the best music festival in this area is the North Country Fair, a celebration of the summer solstice in Driftpile, near Joussard. It is a haven and a destination for alternative music lovers from all over Canada and even the world. It is usually a three day event punctuated by live folk, country, bluegrass, trance, tribal, and even Inuit musical talent 24 hours a day.
Big attractions which are popular include the World's Largest Beaver (in Beaverlodge, by Grande Prairie), Twelve-Foot Davis' grave site (Peace River).
For environmental tourists, there is also some of the world's largest and most densely populated bird migrating paths and nesting grounds, including the world's only site for the endangered Whooping Crane. There is plenty of wildlife all over the Peace, deer, moose, beaver, coyotes, silver and red fox, black bear, weasel, bald eagle, various hawks and falcons, duck, loon, swan, pelican, bison, and elk are all very common sites in this area. Less common but also very present are lynx, mountain lion, wolf, egret, grizzly, and caribou.
There are also plenty of ghost towns to explore. You can also find local legend and character in the museums and from local people themselves involving haunted residences and places of healing.
- Ken Harris, 5019-41 St., ☏ . The Mackenzie Highway, H-35. There is the "Mile 0" (kilometre 0) sign at Grimshaw. There is much history to this Highway. Part of the history was made by Hamilton Brothers Trucking, later called Grimshaw Trucking. They proved in the early 1950s that they could transport goods from Edmonton to Yellowknife, much quicker than through rail to Fr. Mackay, near Ft. McMurray, then down the rivers to Yellowknife.
This area is a very safe part of Canada. The only place you might run into a bit of trouble is if you are impolite or aggressive towards others, especially in places which serve alcohol.
Most conflicts can be avoided through diplomacy, and most conflicts never get beyond verbal combat.
If you are openly homosexual, you will likely be received with mixed feelings; some will be very welcoming and polite, others indifferent and will not acknowledge you, and other may be downright hostile and defensive.
Strangers and travellers may find it hard to interact with locals at first, as locals may be wary of newcomers. This is not necessarily hostility, just hesitant curiosity for the most part. When they do open conversation, be prepared for many questions, some of which may be personal. It is not considered rude to decline to answer personal questions. Polite and talkative visitors are generally well received.