The Red Deer River Valley is one of the more stunning places you can visit in the province. Those awesome Alberta Badlands, a wondrous setting, geologically interesting, historically fascinating and of course visually mind blowing. It’s pure magic for the senses. And because of all these qualities, it can be a popular place – come any summer weekend and see, but be prepared for city like gridlock. Don’t even go down by the Dino Museum. You’ve been warned!
Team BIGDoer has an aversion to crowds so when we’re here – and we love the place just not the hustle and bustle – we search out things others don’t. Back road stuff. “Off the beaten path” stuff for which we’re known. This how we roll among the hoodoos. So here, in this fantastic valley, nestled away down a private drive, and once catering to some of those visitors we just spoke about; but now forgotten and all quiet, is the place we’re exploring today. This is the Roadhouse. Today, it’s our domain. And ours alone.
To protect the property we’re going to be vague in regards to the location and certain details. Sad we have to do this, but that’s the reality of things. Still, vandals and pickers and trespassers have gotten in, and as they always do have made a mess and caused problems. They don’t want more touble.
We wander in on the overgrown road. Sections with a quicksand like consistency can be down right treacherous and they often times come without warning (not always easy to spot). More slippery than a well greased pan and all soft and squishy, one step and you’re on your ass or ankle deep in goo. And then there’s the sinkholes some big enough to swallow a kid whole. They’re often hidden by vegetation. The badlands are aptly named.
We pass some old relics, a late 1940s Mercury, and what appears to be a late 1930s Dodge/Plymouth. Both are bent and mangled and full of bullet holes (head shake). Keeping them company is a bus that once belonged to a rafting tour firm that used to operate in the area. Wow, what a cool way to experience the wonder that is this valley, lazily floating along the slow moving Red Deer River and taking it all in. Sign me up!
The roadhouse is reached. They actually used the saloon moniker when operating, but hey. There’s a central building with a large patio overlooking the river (trees are now sorta blocking the view). It’s all empty inside except for a bar to belly up too (all covered in bird poop). A second building houses biffies. Down below is the open area with picnic tables and a stage for the band. Over there, there’s camping spots in case you wanted to spend the night.
For a half dozen years or so, in the 1990s the places rocked, then it went silent. We won’t go into the whys and whats, but it wasn’t for a lack of business but other issues – use your imagination. The owner is tossing around the idea of opening it up again – lots of work ahead of him. Hopefully the problems that dogged them back then don’t return.
The roadhouse is not original to this site and was hauled in from another town a hundred clicks or so away. It’s said the building is connected to the railway somehow – perhaps being accommodations for crews or some such thing – we’re still researching what exactly. The style of roof, the support brackets, the siding certainly has a railway vibe even if I can’t put my finger on it. And it did come from a town with a big railway presence. Maybe there’s something here. We’ll keep on this, if it kills us, and of course experts are always welcome to chime in.
The structure is said have been built about 1912 – again, a tie in with the RR – that’s when it came to that town. The structure looks pretty solid overall. The extended awning and patio were added after the move of course. You need a patio if you have a bar.
Occasional things are found inside and on the grounds reminding us of the building’s past, empty cans and bottles, a forgotten platform shoe (something right out of Saturday Night Fever – hey Tony!), remains of tables and chairs and other bits. Not much really.
Out back an old vehicle. Thinking Red Green here. Or project Boogie Van. Don’t think it’ll be going anywhere soon. It’s being swallowed up by the earth – I kid you not the ground here is so soft, doubly so when wet, that things just sink into it over time.
We take in the site, under glorious skies, a deep blue with puffy clouds. A glance at our watch…it’s been that many hours? Time to go, we hike back to our car, slowly. Soak in the valley – don’t want it to end. Don’t want to leave. This was one cool experience! Thanks to the owner for allowing us in. Nice photos came of it. Now back to researching that building – it’s bugging us.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: May, 2017.
Location: The Alberta Badlands.
Article references (and thanks): John BG.
The roadhouse is on private property. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.