Description of Historic Place
Fort Carlton Provincial Park consists of 114 hectares of land in the North Saskatchewan River valley, approximately 60 kilometres southwest of the City of Prince Albert. The park features the archaeological remains of a nineteenth-century Hudson’s Bay Company trading post and a partially reconstructed version of the post as it existed in the late 1870s. The reconstruction includes five replica buildings and the post’s stockade. Remnants of the historic Carlton Trail, the trading post’s garden plot and groves of maple trees that were exploited for sugar and used to dry bison meat are also found within the park.
The heritage value of Fort Carlton Provincial Park resides in its association with a pre-eminent nineteenth-century Hudson’s Bay Company trading post. Carlton House, later known as Fort Carlton, was established in 1810, when the Hudson’s Bay Company was expanding its operations inland to compete with the North West Company. Due to its strategic location, Fort Carlton endured, with minor shifts in location and several phases of rebuilding, for 75 years. Situated on the bison’s winter range, it was well-positioned to become the Company’s most important source of pemmican and related provisions. The fort was also a vital transportation hub. People and goods traveled from Hudson Bay, up the Saskatchewan River to Fort Carlton, then to posts farther inland by river and trail. Furs moved to European markets in the opposite direction. After the development of rail and steamship connections via St. Paul, Minnesota in 1859, Fort Garry, at the site of present-day Winnipeg, became the Company’s principal gateway to the interior. Red River carts now carried most of the Company’s trade on the “Carlton Trail” that connected Fort Garry with Fort Edmonton via Fort Carlton. Located on a major crossroads of water and land routes, Fort Carlton was an important way station. Notable visitors to the fort included explorers Sir John Franklin and John Palliser, artist Paul Kane, and Samuel Steele of the North-West Mounted Police.
Heritage value also lies in Fort Carlton’s associations with the changing social and political landscape of the Northwest in the late nineteenth century. In 1875, a detachment of North-West Mounted Police was stationed at the post prior to negotiations for Treaty 6, signed near the fort on August 23, 1876. On March 26, 1885, a force of police and militia, led by L. N. F. Crozier, confronted a group of Métis at Duck Lake in the first armed engagement of the North-West Resistance. Crozier took heavy casualties and retreated to Fort Carlton, which he abandoned two days later. A fire accidentally started during the evacuation, destroying the fort. On July 2, 1885, a month after his involvement in the last fighting of the Resistance at Loon Lake, Cree Chief Big Bear (mistahi-maskwa) surrendered near the burned fort.
Further heritage value resides in Fort Carlton’s association with First Nations history. The fort is located at a traditional gathering place known as the “Waiting Place” (Cree: péhowin; Saulteaux/ Nakawé: píhitowin) or “Meeting Place” (Cree: mámowipayowin; Saulteaux/Nakawé: nagiskatowin), likely an important consideration in the Hudson’s Bay Company’s decision to build at the site. First Nations also hold the park in high esteem for its association with the signing of Treaty 6. Significant cultural and spiritual value is attached to the park, which is still a venue for gatherings and ceremonies.
Heritage value also lies in the park’s educational role. Opened 1967, the park recreates features of Fort Carlton that existed ca. 1880. The four replicated buildings within the palisade illustrate “Red River Frame” construction, the predominant building method of the fur trade in which squared, horizontally-stacked logs were slotted into grooved, closely-spaced upright posts. This technique permitted short logs to be used to construct large buildings that were easy to dismantle, reconfigure or move. The layout of the palisade and the placement of its bastions also interpret the period. The concrete-capped foundations of archaeologically identified structures show the arrangement of former buildings within the palisade. Outside the palisade, the visitor centre replicates the exterior of the Chief Factor’s residence, built in 1879, when milled lumber from Prince Albert became available. First Nations participation in park programming ensures authentic interpretation of First Nations culture and history.
Province of Saskatchewan, The Parks Act, May 26, 1986.
The heritage value of Fort Carlton Provincial Park resides in the following character-defining elements:
-elements that speak to Fort Carlton’s strategic location and importance as a transportation hub, including its river valley setting amidst native parkland vegetation near a natural river ford, remnant tracks of the Carlton trail, and any archaeological vestiges of the ferry site or boatmen’s camp;
-elements that reveal information regarding precontact First Nations, Hudson’s Bay Company and North-West Mounted Police use of the site, including: artifacts; cultural features such as hearths, cellars, and the foundations of buildings and palisades; and the spatial relationships and environmental context of the archaeological remains;
-elements of the landscape that reflect post activities, such as the garden area next to the reconstructed palisade, trees with bent boughs where bison meat was dried, and maple trees, which were a source of sugar;
-elements that interpret Fort Carlton’s history and speak to its educational role, such as the log construction of the reproduced buildings within the palisade; the exterior finishing of the factor’s house; the form, function and spatial relationships of the buildings; representations of First Nations encampments; and public access to the park for interpretive purposes;
-elements that express the park’s value for First Nations, including locations considered to have cultural or spiritual significance, access to the park for First Nations ceremonies, and structures used for ceremonial purposes.