Fort Steele, first known as Galbraith’s Ferry during the 1864 Kootenay Gold Rush, was renamed in 1888 in honour of Superintendent Samuel Steele of the North West Mounted Police, who peacefully settled tensions between white settlers and the Ktunaxa people.
During the mining boom of the late 1890s, Fort Steele thrived as the commercial, social and administrative centre of the region. However, Fort Steele declined after 1989, when the BC Southern Railway bypassed the town in favour of nearby Cranbrook.
Today, Fort Steele is a Heritage Town, where visitors can travel back in time to the 1890s and enjoy daily re-enactments of the town’s past history and heritage year-round, with full programming from mid-June to Labour Day. Throughout British Columbia, diverse historic 19th-century forts have been preserved as reminders of how the west was settled by Europeans. Fort Steele Heritage Town, near Cranbrook on Highway 93/95, is undoubtedly the best example and is well worth a day’s visit when travelling through the East Kootenays in summer months.
Don’t miss the popular rollicking and foot stomping musical variety and comedy shows staged in the Wild Horse Theatre during the summer.
Hop aboard for a ride on an old steam train to a scenic viewpoint or catch a horse-drawn wagon tour down Main Street and around the town.
Blacksmiths: Follow the ring of an anvil and watch blacksmiths and tinsmiths working their trade at the town’s forge.
Testify at a trial, or pick up a copy of the local newspaper and watch another edition being set up on the press at the Prospector!
In the H. Kershaw & Son General Store you’ll find an enticing selection of replica items; everything from scrub boards to top hats.
Kids will be drawn to the City Bakery and Ice Cream Corner – the baking is always fresh at Fort Steele! Hard candy sticks, the best licorice, imported toffee and the best in good Canadian maple sugar are all available. The Fort Steele children of the 1890s didn’t have it any better than this at Mrs. Sprague’s Confectionery.
Farther down the street the Pioneer Tinshop is open 12 months of the year, crafting turn-of-the-century tinware and copperware items for sale. The tinsmith offers the most amazing range of functional and decorative products imaginable. In the cool of winter the Tinshop may be the only place for miles around where a coffee pot simmers on the wood heater. No promises, but try the tinsmith for a bracing tin cup of hot black coffee in the quiet of January.
Let your youngsters follow the White Polish, Barred Rock, Black Giants and other 19th-century breeds of chickens as they wander the site. Tiring of that, they may want to watch our young Cotsold Lambs gambol about the pasture. They are part of a small herd of this rare breed that Fort Steele is trying to build.
Golf: Golfers have a number of golf courses to choose from in the neighbouring communities, including the delightful and challenging 9-hole executive par-4 Will-O-Bend Golf & RV Park, set in a peaceful country setting in Jaffray, and 4 courses in Cranbrook: Cranbrook Golf Club on 2nd Street South, Way-Lyn Ranch Golf Course in the beautiful Saint Mary’s River Valley, the family-oriented executive Par-3 Mission Hills Golf Course on Theatre Road, and the 18-hole St. Eugene Mission. Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Events: Special Events at Fort Steele include sheep herding and shearing, ploughing, baling, binding and other horse-farming demonstrations. Don’t miss the highlight event of the summer; the annual Harvest Festival, held during the third week in August. Join in the fun and activity on Canada Day, July 1st, for a turn-of-the-century style celebration of the national birthday.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on the Okanagan and Kootenay Rockies Circle Tour or the Kootenay Rockies Hot Springs Circle Tour. Travel the sunny interior of British Columbia, north through the Okanagan to Sicamous, following Highway 1 into the mountains of the BC Rockies. From Golden, head south through the Columbia Valley to Creston, and west through Boundary Country and the Southern Okanagan to complete the loop. Circle Tours in British Columbia.