Experiencing The Old West At Fort Whoop-Up In Lethbrige, Alberta

Many people who visit Alberta want to get a taste of the old west. Anyone looking for a real western experience usually goes to the Bar-U-Ranch, the Cowboy Trail, and the scattered small towns across the plains.

But the culture of the old west is still alive in Lethbridge, Alberta. We just got a taste of it at Fort Whoop-Up.

The fort is near the bottom of the beautiful Lethbridge Coulees. It is surrounded by canyon-like scenery, cacti, and the occasional rattlesnake.

As we walked to the fort, our minds took us back hundreds of years to a time when people rode horses instead of cars and were much less polite.

Experiencing The Old West At Fort Whoop-up In Lethbridge, Alberta

Fort Whoop-Up is a copy of a real fur trade fort that was built not too far from here in the late 1800s. It used to be called Fort Hamilton. In the late 19th century, it was the center of a number of economic activities, including the illegal whiskey trade.

Before 1874, whiskey merchants did well here because there were no police and they could charge high prices for their goods.

Harrison Red Crow, one of the fort’s interpreters and a Blackfoot, joined us. He told us about the history of the First Nations people who lived in this area and the pioneers who finally settled here.

Experiencing The Old West At Fort Whoop-Up

Harrison’s knowledge of the history of the area and passion for the subject immediately drew us in and brought the fort to life.

Harrison told us before our tour, “Fort Whoop-Up was built to study the history, customs, and traditions of the people who lived in the area during this time, bringing to life the tribes and traders who called this place home.”

We started by learning about the Blackfoot people’s history, from before the pioneers rode their horses into town to the time when alcohol was illegal. We learned that the Blackfoot would steal wolf cubs and raise them as working dogs.

They would also catch eagles for their feathers, which they would use in ceremonies. We also learned what a teepee was and how it was made. Then we went outside into the fort, which was surrounded by beautiful scenery, to see what life was like there.

It all started with the trade in buffalo robes, which brought Canadians, Americans, British, and Métis into the fur trading business. Then, as is often the case, the fur trade brought money, which led to greed, which led to high-quality alcohol, which led to low-quality alcohol.

The lives of the First Nations people were changed, which led to the creation of the North-West Mounted Police, which is now a branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

As we walked around the fort, we went into the different rooms where people lived and worked.

The many items added to the fort’s authenticity, and their explanations, along with our great guide’s knowledge, made for an interesting and educational day.

Experiencing The Old West At Fort Whoop-Up

After exploring Fort Whoop-Up for a few hours, we decided to check out what else Lethbridge had to offer. We went to the Galt Museum to learn about the city’s long history and see the beautiful coulees in the area.

Then we went to the nearby Lethbridge Fish and Game Association gun range to try out some revolvers and get a feel for what it was like to be a “outlaw” back in the day. When smoke came out of the barrel as we aimed, the day of western-style shooting in Lethbridge was over.


Lethbridge is a city in southern Alberta. It is about two hours by car south of Calgary. It has only one small airport and is about an hour from the US state of Montana. Most people who go there drive.


Lethbridge is one of the most remote big cities in Canada. You can expect hot, dry summers and cold, windy winters.

Lethbridge is known for its wind, but the storms are not dangerous, even when they are strong. During the winter, it gets very cold (-30 C) and snows, but from June to September, the weather is warm.

Experiencing The Old West At Fort Whoop-Up


In Lethbridge, Alberta, there are many hotels to choose from. We stayed at the Sandman Signature Lethbridge Lodge, which just finished a big renovation. The Galt Museum and the Lethbridge Trestle Bridge, which are two of the best things to see in the city, are close to the hotel.

You are close to walking paths that go through the coulees, Fort Whoop-Up, and Lethbridge’s downtown. There is a great breakfast spread, and the charming interior courtyard has a pool and a hot tub.

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