Things to Do in Pincher Creek
Pincher Creek is a town in southwest Alberta, located just off the #3 Interprovincial Crowsnest Highway about half an hour’s drive east of the Crowsnest Pass. Situated at the junction of two of Western Canada’s largest natural regions, Pincher Creek enjoys the best of both the Rocky Mountains and the Canadian prairies.
Prior to its incorporation as a town in 1906, the area that would become Pincher Creek served as a commercial and social centre for local ranchers. Upon its incorporation, the town was named after the eponymous Pincher Creek, a distributary of the Oldman River which runs through it. According to historians, the creek itself owes its name to a pair of valuable farrier pincers (used for shoeing horses) used by Joe Kipp, Charlie Thomas and John Wren (Montanans who would eventually co-found the notorious whisky posts Fort Standoff and Fort Kipp) while on an 1868 prospecting expedition in the Canadian Rockies. The three Americans lost their pincers in the creek while camping along it near the entrance to the Crowsnest Pass. Years later, in 1874, after making their great trek west and establishing Fort Macleod, the first officers of the North West Mounted Police found the lost pincers rusting in the creek bed and named the creek accordingly.
For many Lethbridge, Calgary and Medicine Hat residents, the town of Pincher Creek is perhaps best known as the last pit stop before Waterton Lakes National Park, located about thirty-five minutes south down the #6 Alberta Highway. Many of these same southern Albertan tourists might be surprised to learn that Pincher Creek boasts a couple of very impressive attractions of its own:
Tuesday – Saturday: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
If you’re a lover of the arts, consider stopping by the Lebel Mansion, the current home of Pincher Creek’s Allied Arts Council and arguably the most magnificent building in town.
The Lebel Mansion was built by prominent Pincher Creek businessman Timothee Lebel in 1910. Fronted by a curved white-railed veranda and two adjoined brick turrets topped with multi-sided bell roofs, the three-story mansion reflects both Lebel’s French-Canadian roots and the Queen Anne revival architectural style popular at the time of its construction.
Lebel and his family lived in the mansion from 1910 until 1924, when they donated it to Les Filles de Jesus (The Daughters of Jesus), a French Roman Catholic Order of nuns. The religious sisters converted the mansion into St. Vincent’s Municipal Hospital, an institution that served Pincher Creek for half a century.
In 1976, the mansion was designated as a Historic Resource, and in 1985, it was purchased by the Town of Pincher Creek. Ever since, it has served a cultural centre and the home of the Allied Arts Council.
Today, the Lebel Mansion features a monthly public art gallery and offers pottery studios, quilting and weaving workshops, community arts programs and classes, an annual Arts and Crafts Market (held in November), and a gift shop.
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
May Long Weekend- Labour Day: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, Monday – Friday
Fall/Winter Hours: 10:00 am- 4:00 pm, Monday – Friday
Arguably the most prominent attraction in Pincher Creek is the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village, a small artificial ghost town reminiscent of an 1890 Western Canadian frontier village. The Village is named after John George “Kootenai” Brown, a great Irish-born Canadian-American frontiersman who, after twenty years of adventure, haunted the Waterton (formerly Kootenay) Lakes area about 45 kilometers south of Pincher Creek from the late 1870’s until his death in 1916.
Visitors enter the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village through its main office, a beautiful log building styled “Pioneer Place”. This structure houses the Tourist Information Centre, the Pincher Creek and District Historical Society archives, and a gift shop stocked with handmade Canadian arts and crafts, moccasins, and historical books.
The Village boasts two museums filled with pioneer and First Nations/Metis artifacts collected from the Pincher Creek area, the Waterton Lakes area, the Porcupine Hills, the Crowsnest Pass and the Piikani reserve to the east, as a well as twenty two historic cabins and buildings from the aforementioned areas that have been uprooted from their original locations and transported to the site. Some of these so-called “heritage cabins” include:
- The Kootenai Brown Cabin, the Waterton Lakes residence of frontiersman John George “Kootenai” Brown, a major catalyst for the formation of Waterton Lakes National Park, and the Park’s first ranger.
- The Hermitage of Albert Lacombe, a Roman Catholic missionary who lived with and evangelized the Cree of northwestern Canada. Respected by both the Cree and the warlike Blackfoot, Lacombe was instrumental in brokering a peace between the two enemy nations following the Battle of Belly River, convincing the Blackfoot to tolerate the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway through their territory, and preventing the Blackfoot from joining Louis Riel’s Cree and Metis warriors in the North-West Rebellion. The hermitage at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village was constructed in 1885 on the present-day site of the Lebel Mansion.
- The Waldrond Ranch House, the living and social quarters of the managers of the Waldrond Ranch, a historic ranch established in 1883 on the Oldman River, between the Porcupine Hills and the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The ranch house itself was constructed in 1894.
- The Gas Station, an antiquated Shell gas station and accompanying garage filled with antique cars.
- The Cox House, the home of the family of Arthur Edgar Cox, Pincher Creek’s first schoolteacher, from 1884-1891.
- The Reg and Mildred Beere Exhibition Hall, the original museum building for the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village named in honour of Reg and Mildred Beere, longstanding Village volunteers. The Hall includes a General Store furnished with appropriate general store artifacts, an education theatre, and a military exhibit with a focus on the Rocky Mountain Rangers, the Second Boer War, World War I, and World War II.
- The North West Mounted Police Horse Barn, a relic of the North West Mounted Police’s horse ranch established on Pincher Creek in 1878.
- The North West Mounted Police Kootenai Outpost, a Mountie post built on the Waterton River in 1887. It was from this outpost that the North West Mounted Police conducted their manhunt for Charcoal, a Blood Indian who murdered NWMP Sergeant Brocke Wilde in 1896.
- The Blacksmith Shop, a local Pincher Creek smithy that once provided horseshoes to local ranchers and cowboys. The shop is furnished with scythes, horse and oxen yokes, a variety of saws, a forge and bellows, and other miscellaneous tools.
- Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village guidebook