History Timeline


Recent History & Fort Walsh

Settlement History

Parks History

Changes in Natural Environment


Recent History

Fort Walsh History


John Palliser led an expedition from Fort Edmonton across the plains to Cypress Hills. He described the hills as a perfect oasis in the desert.

The Hudson's Bay Company relinquished its charter to Rupert’s Land, which included the Cypress Hills. The newly established Dominion of Canada assumed sovereignty over the territory re-named the North West Territories.

Métis families occupied and re-occupied a winter village site along the northwest slope.

Four American whiskey trading posts were established in the Cypress Hills – the stage is set for the Cypress Hills Massacre.

1873- Cypress Hills Massacre
A bloody battle took place when a group of American wolf hunters lost some horses and attacked a nearby camp of Assiniboine. The event was the catalyst that brought the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) out West. Read about the Cypress Hills Massacre and other interesting stories of the history of Fort Walsh.

Thirty men under Superintendent James Morrow Walsh established Fort Walsh. In the next few years, the whiskey trade was eliminated, law and order was established, and treaties with First Nations were negotiated.

Sitting Bull and 3,000-5,000 Lakota Sioux took refuge at Wood Mountain after defeating the U.S Army led by Colonel George Custer in the battle of the Little Big Horn. War was prevented and good relations established by James Walsh of the NWMP.

Tribes of the Blackfoot Confederacy signed Treaty No. 7 at Blackfoot Crossing, surrendering 129,500 sq. km. of southern Alberta.

Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce people tried to seek refuge from the U.S. Army in the Cypress Hills, but were captured near the Bear Paw Mountains en route.

Fort Walsh served as headquarters for the NWMP.


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Settlement History

Settlement History

Middle 1870s
American ranches began to drive their cattle onto the Canadian Plains and permanent European settlement began.

Métis hivernants wintered in the Cypress Hills near Head of the Mountain. (Download a brochure for more information on the Métis)

Constable Graburn (NWMP) was murdered in the Cypress Hills.

Two farms were established in the Cypress Hills to demonstrate farming to natives. One was 48 km northeast of Fort Walsh, near Maple Creek, and the other was at Head of the Mountain.

The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) reached the newly established community of Maple Creek. This led to an influx of farmers, ranchers and homesteaders. Fort Walsh was abandoned and the NWMP established detachments at Maple Creek and Medicine Hat. A number of outposts remained active in the Cypress Hills.

L. Sands Lumber Co. was active in the Cypress Hills.

The Mitchell brothers established the first homestead in the Elkwater Lake area.

Happy Jack Hart opened the first coal mine in the area along the North Shore of Elkwater Lake.

Elkwater subdivision was surveyed and construction of roads was completed.

The Royal NWMP detachment at Eagle Butte closed on March 1.

The first store was opened in Elkwater.

Three stock associations began grazing cattle in Alberta's Cypress Hills.

Cottage lot fees were $5.00/year.

The J.A Flath family opened a store in Elkwater. Over the next thirty years the Flath store and dance hall became a landmark of the area.

Early 1940s
Cobbles were mined from the Cypress Hills for the war effort.

The first school in Elkwater burned down (December 5). Prior to this, a cabin was used.

The second Elkwater School was moved from the #34 Air Force Training Statioin in Medicine Hat.

June 15, Elkwater community hall opened


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Parks History

Parks History


A number of forest reserves were established in Canada as concern over the exploitation of natural resources became prevalent.

Creation of Cypress Hills Forest Reserve comprising 18 sections (18 square miles) under the Federal Forest Reserve Act.

The first telephone line from Medicine Hat reached the Elkwater Lake area.

Forest Reserves and Parks Act expanded Cypress Hills Forest Reserve to 492km2 (190 square miles). Of this, 80 square miles was in Alberta and was known as the Elkwater Block, which coincides with the present Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park- Alberta. The first ranger in the “Elkwater Block” was Mr. Wright.

Cypress Hills Forest Reserve operated under the authority of the Canadian department of the Interior.

The first grazing permits were issued in the Forest Reserve. Prior to this year, the bench area was used only for hay cutting

The first tourist shelter in Elkwater was built by the Forest Service. It took three years to complete and cost $1,005.42.

Transfer of natural resources control from Dominion Government to the provinces. The province established the forest reserve in Centre Block as Cypress Hills Provincial Park. The West Block was maintained as a Wilderness area. The park now encompasses 18,212 hectares of land.

The Forestry Branch established a camp at Nichol Springs as a relief camp.

Establishment of Elkwater Provincial Park.

Establishment of Cypress Hills Provincial Park.

A dam was constructed on Elkwater Lake for Ducks Unlimited.

Elkwater Park Golf course opened.

Park expanded and facilities developed.

Early 1960s
Spruce Coulee Reservoir and Reesor Lake created. Cypress Hills skiers club established a ski lift with a handle tow.

Cypress Hills Visitor Centre built.
Commercial lumbering operations were terminated; but domestic grazing was allowed to continue. Cypress Hills Skier Association moved to its present location.

Mr. Bob Townsend was hired as Cypress Hills Provincial Park’s first naturalist- also the first naturalist within Alberta Provincial Parks.

Late 1960s
Fort Walsh National Historic Park was established.


The West Block becomes a part of the provincial park.

Major upgrading of Elkwater facilities took place. i.e. the marina.

Cypress Hills Interprovincial park agreement signed, which created Canada’s first Interprovincial Park on August 25. New daylodge, quad chair and other improvements at “Hidden Valley” ski hill all opened to the public.

A resurgence of field research in the park- projects ranging from biological to archaeological.

Fort Walsh National Historic Site becomes a part of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. (Prior to this year, Fort Walsh had always been a very active partner in the interprovincial park).

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park designated a Dark-Sky Preserve.

New Visitor Centre in Cypress Hills – Alberta opens for year-round visitor services.

Visitor Centre in Cypress Hills – Saskatchewan opens for year-round visitor services.

New Observatory in Cypress Hills – Saskatchewan opens for astronom


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Changes in Natural Environment

Changes in Natural Environment


Early 1880s
Bison disappear from the Cypress Hills.

L. Sands Lumber Co. was active in the Cypress Hills

1886 and 1889
Major fires burned though most of the Cypress Hills.

The last great plains grizzly was shot in the Cypress Hills.

Much of the large game became extirpated, and populations of smaller mammals and birds were greatly reduced.

Three stock associations (grazing) established in the Cypress Hills.

Eleven permits were issued to hunt wolves in the Forest Reserve. Three wolves were killed a short distance from the west end of the Forest Reserve.

Another major fire burns the vicinity of the Willow Creek.

Elk re-introduced.

Red squirrels introduced. Moose introduced.

Wild turkeys introduced.

Commercial lumbering operations were terminated. Domestic grazing allowed to continue. Police Point slump occurred along the north escarpment of the Cypress Hills plateau.

Elk Hunting season becomes established in the park.

Early 1980s
An infestation of mountain pine beetles affect the park’s lodgepole pine.

Forest Management Program implemented. Small scale cutting occurs in park for a period of 5 years.


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