Whether it's on motorbikes, ATVs or personal watercraft, the Land of the Big, the Lakeland area northeast of Edmonton, has more than enough to keep everyone occupied all summer long. This area takes in Smoky Lake and the County of St. Paul.
The Victoria Trail is the oldest road in Alberta still in regular use today. It's an easy motorbike ride through miles of farmland, green pastures and grain fields. It winds along the North Saskatchewan River southeast of Redwater to Victoria Settlement.
Victoria Trail “began as an Indian trail running along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River,” said Marianne Price, administrative coordinator for Alberta’s Iron Horse Trail.
Along the trail there is a monument commemorating the 1874 trek of the Mounties, pointed out Price.
Victoria Settlement began as a Hudson's Bay trading post called Fort Victoria (established 1864). At this Provincial Historic Site explore an 1864 clerk's quarters from the old fort and a Methodist church built in 1906.
For the more adventurous, get off the trail and take the backroads to any number of small rural towns in the Land of the Big. This is where you'll see some very large icons—the world’s largest mushrooms in Vilna, giant pumpkins in Smoky Lake, a 24-foot perogy in Glendon and St. Paul's UFO landing pad. That's right, a UFO landing pad!
Not only are there mushrooms in Vilna, but the community’s Main Street is lined with 1920s boom town buildings, as well as the oldest operating pool hall in Alberta.
The Iron Horse Trail
Running 300 kilometres through the Lakeland, the Iron Horse Trail is an historic rails-to-trail adventure route well known to RidersWest readers.
For those who don't know, the trail runs from Waskatenau through Smoky Lake and on to Cold Lake, Alberta.
Price urges vacationers to get off trail and explore the many rural communities with their unique histories. “There are a whole wide range of things taking place every single weekend [this summer] that are all accessible from the Iron Horse Trail,” said Price.
Fort George Buckingham House is one such destination, along with numerous festivals, rodeos and summer fairs.
The Smoky Lake Stampede (August 1 to 3) is a classic Alberta rodeo with horses, cowboys, broncs, bulls and probably more cotton candy than you can wrap around a stick.
According to Price there are dozens and dozens of lakes in the Lakeland area for all types of watercraft, powered and non-powered.
Personal watercraft are usable on most of the region’s lakes. Just be sure to check before you launch as there are a few lakes, such as Whitney Lake, for non-motorized use only.
For Price, exploring a lake by watercraft takes you places not accessible by wheels. “You can end up on a sandy beach you can't access any other way,” she said.
Events in Lakeland
July 10 -12, 2015
Hillbilly Jam Outdoor Festival
This weekend of great music, free camping, and music by Alberta artists takes place at Boscombe in St. Paul County.
August 1 - 2, 2015
Haying in the '30s
Over 5,000 people attend over two days. There is free camping with admission by donation; 100 per cent of the money goes to assist individuals and families undergoing cancer treatment.
September 3 - 6, 2015
LRA 2015 Showdown Finals
The Lakeland Rodeo Association (LRA), hosts this year-end event at the St. Paul Rodeo Grounds. It includes the Great Canadian Hoedown, pancake breakfasts, corn roasts, a talent contest and, of course, the rodeo.