Sparwood is situated in the southeast corner of British Columbia in the heart of the Canadian Rockies on the western slope of the Crowsnest Pass. Just north is Elk Lakes Provincial Park with outstanding landscapes, glaciers, peaks, and lakes. A range of outdoor adventures include hiking, mountain climbing, fishing and wildlife viewing. The nearby golf course offers stunning views as well as first-class golf. A local attraction includes a tour of one of Canada’s largest open pit mines. Murals painted on the walls of buildings in the downtown core depict Sparwood’s mining and railway history.
Located on Hwy 3, Sparwood is 18 km (11 mi) west of the Alberta/British Columbia border. The nearest United States border crossing is located at Roosville, approximately 97 km (60 mi) to the south-west. Calgary, Alberta is 270 km (162 mi) north-east of Sparwood. North of Sparwood 35 km (22 mi) on Hwy 43 is the community of Elkford and 31 km (19 mi) south of Sparwood on Hwy 3 is the town of Fernie.
Prior to 1900, there was a railroad stop known as Sparwood which was so named because of the trees from this area being shipped to the Coast for manufacturing spars for ocean vessels.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, coal development in this area resulted in the creation of small communities known as Michel, Natal and Sparwood, respectively. The former two communities were in the immediate area of the coal mines and the latter, Sparwood, was a few miles removed and thus not affected by the coal dust.
Further afield, at the Alberta/B.C. border, there was (and still is) a small CPR settlement known as Crowsnest and a rural area extending northward along the Elk River Valley. In 1960 the Natal settlement incorporated as a Village. By 1966, the Village of Natal and the settlement of Michel had become devastated by coal dust pollution. There was no regulatory legislation to protect the public. The Village of Natal, in cooperation with the Provincial and Federal Governments, entered into an Urban Renewal and Land Assembly program which eventually resulted in the total elimination of Natal and Michel and the expansion of the Sparwood community.
A District Municipality was formed in 1966 which took in the communities of Michel, Natal, Sparwood, Elk Valley (in part only) and Crowsnest.