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Home / Kootenay Rockies / The Elk Valley / Sparwood


A Step Back in Time

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. In addition, there was (and still is) 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.

In order to afford the local portion of the costs, a District Municipality was formed in 1966 which took in the communities of Michel, Natal, Sparwood, Elk Valley (in part only) and Crowsnest.


The District of Sparwood is situated in the southeast corner of British Columbia in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Located on Highway 3, Sparwood lies on the western slope of the Crowsnest Pass, 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 and Vancouver, BC 970 km (582 mi) west of Sparwood.

Things to See and Do
  • Sparwood Golf Club

Enjoy fantastic views, fantastic golf at BC's easternmost golf course. Located in the Rocky Mountains - the scenery is spectacular. The course is finely manicured and a pleasure for all levels of golfers to play.

  • Elk Lakes Provincial Park

Just north of Sparwood and within the western ranges of the Rocky Mountains, Elk Lakes Provincial Park contains outstanding landscapes, glaciers, peaks, and lakes. Possible activities include hiking, mountain climbing, fishing, and camping.

  • Open Pit Mine Tours, Terex Titan

The world's largest tandem axle dump truck, parked permanently by the side of the highway, greets visitors to Sparwood. Board the tour bus at the Visitor Centre for a tour of one of Canada's largest open pit coal mines.

  • Fishing

The nearby Elk River provides world-class fishing, Sparwood - Confluence of the Elk River and Michel Creek - Steve Shortwith abuntant supplies of Westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout.

  • Canoeing and Kayaking

Take a trip down the Elk River and experience inspiring views of Mount Hosmer and Three Sisters Peak, as well as lots of cottonwoods, aspens, and evergreens.

  • Wildlife Watching

Sparwood's alpine setting, near many mountain lakes, woodlands, and glacier fed rivers, abounds in a vast assortment of wildlife. The upper Elk Valley is often referred to as the "Serengeti of North America". Big game animals include: elk, bighorn sheep, deer, grizzly bears, and cougars. Game birds include: ptarmigans, blue grouse, migratory geese, and ducks.

  • Larger-than-Life Mural Tour

Murals painted on the walls of buildings in the downtown core depict Sparwood's mining and railway history. A walking tour brochure is available at the Visitor Centre. 

Nearby Communities
Contact Information

District of Sparwood
Web: www.sparwood.bc.ca



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