Friday, August 11

Bank Head—The Rocky Mountain Ghost Town

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Aug 11, 2023

Bank Head—The Rocky Mountain Ghost Town

Welcome to Bankhead, Alberta—a time capsule that whisks us back to a captivating era of history. The now ghost -town of Bankhead is situated just a few minutes out of the town of Banff, and it on the way to Lake Minnewanka, home to its own underwater ghost town. 


This once-thriving coal-mining town offers an enthralling glimpse into its ambitious rise, daunting challenges, and eventual abandonment during the early 20th century.


In the early 1900s, Bankhead was a bustling coal-mining community, drawing people in with its allure of prosperity and the discovery of vast coal deposits in the Bow Valley.


Spearheaded by the Canadian Pacific Railway, mining operations flourished, and this mountainous region's potential for growth was realized.


As the coal industry prospered, Bankhead's population swelled, and by 1911, the town boasted a school, hotel, hospital, and rows of houses that nurtured a close-knit community. The town's heartbeat pulsed with the excitement of progress and the promise of a bright future. However, like the sun sets quickly behind the mountain peaks, Bankhead's fortune proved to be transient.


Over time, the once-rich coal seams began to deplete. Accompanying this where labor disputes and a decline in coal demand. The dreams that had once ignited the town now faced an uncertain future.


In 1922, the Canadian Pacific Railway faced a heart-wrenching decision—the mines were to be closed, and the town dismantled. Families bid farewell to their cherished homes, leaving Bankhead to transform into a virtual ghost town. As the years passed, nature gradually reclaimed the land, and the town's remnants slowly depleted.


Today's travelers have a unique opportunity to wander through Bankhead's hauntingly beautiful relics. The town's foundations, old coal cooking ovens (known as coke ovens*), and railway tracks that once transported coal serve as tangible reminders of its industrious past. It is a place where you can almost hear the clatter of mining equipment, and the hopes of those who called this place home—the whispers of history of a forgotten town.


Visiting Bankhead is a captivating journey back in time—a chance to forge a connection with a forgotten chapter of Canada's history. The town's tale of rise and fall serves as a reminder to cherish the legacies left behind by those who once thrived here.


If you ever get the chance to learn more about Bank Head, we invite you to do so. This little ghost town can pull you back into the Rockies intriguing past.


*An old coke oven (coal cooking oven) is a structure used for converting coal into coke, a high-carbon fuel used in industrial processes, by heating coal in the absence of air to remove impurities and volatile components.