Many times, over many years, I have driven the Akamina Parkway (Cameron Lake Road) from Waterton Townsite and past the south base of prominent, 2,378 m (7,802 ft) Mount Crandell which looms large over Waterton and the infamous Prince of Wales Hotel. Beneath the north-east end of Buchanan Ridge rests the Oil City Exhibit, one of two National Historic Sites in Waterton Lakes National Park (The other is the Prince of Wales Hotel). The Oil City Exhibit, adjacent to Cameron Creek, is an interesting and very beautiful place to discover some of western Canada‘s early history.
Previously, a nondescript turnout on the south side of the Akamina Parkway, a short distance west of the Oil City Exhibit, has eluded my attention. There is a placard titled, ‘Dream Town – Ville de Rêve’. If a vehicle was parked in front of the sign (and, apparently, there frequently is), there would be no reason to suspect anything here worthwhile. There is something worthwhile here. A gravel trail leads perpendicular into the forest.
Within a short distance, a brass plaque identifies the area as the site of a town associated with the brief existence of Oil City. The town was abandoned when the venture failed and the only remaining evidence of the town’s existence is a portion of barely distinguishable rock foundation originally supporting the never-completed, 10 room hotel.
There is no doubt the view of Buchanan Ridge behind would have made the properties scenic. There is some evidence of shallow depressions and unexplained boulders lying about. A couple of narrow trails branch off from the short interpretive loop and lead to the edge of Cameron Creek.
Shrubbery and small trees have obliterated any form of the original town layout. Occasionally, along the path, there is evidence it was once paved but has been neglected. Most of the asphalt path has become covered over with gravel. Is the site is worthy of restoration, with additional plaques to identify the location of streets and key structures? It seems this piece of history is being neglected and doomed to obsolescence.
While the exhibit remains, it seems like a good place for a 10 – 15 minute stroll in combination with a half hour at the Oil City Exhibit. The sound and sight of beautiful Cameron Creek, flowing towards Waterton Townsite, with Buchanan Ridge towering behind makes the time worthwhile.
To end the day, I stop at one more turnout on the Akamina Parkway to capture a picture of Vimy Peak rising over the east shore of Upper Waterton Lake. In the foreground, at the bottom of the canyon, Cameron Creek rushes towards the venerable Cameron Falls, one of the main attractions in Waterton Village.
It has been a grand day beginning with the drive from Calgary to Waterton Lakes National Park. hikes to Wall Lake and Forum Lake, and concluded with a stroll in the brief history of ‘Dream Town – Ville de Rêve’ aka Oil City. I shall sleep well tonight.