Fort Vermilion

Fort Vermilion is a hamlet on the Peace River in northern Alberta, Canada, within Mackenzie County.[4]

This article is about the hamlet in Alberta. For the Indian reserve, see Fort Vermilion 173B. For the stratigraphical sub-unit, see Beaverhill Lake Group. For the other trading post called Fort Vermilion, see Paint Creek House. For the similarly-named town, see Vermilion, Alberta.

Hamlet in Alberta, Canada
Fort Vermilion

Aerial view from north


Fort Vermilion
Location of Fort Vermilion in Alberta

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Fort Vermilion
Fort Vermilion (Canada)

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Country Canada
Province Alberta
Region Northern Alberta
Census division 17
Specialized municipality Mackenzie County
Established 1788 (oldest in Alberta)

  Type Unincorporated
  Reeve Josh Knelsen
  Governing body
  • Jacquie Bateman
  • Peter F. Braun
  • Cameron Cardinal
  • David Driedger
  • Eric Jorgensen
  • Joshua Knelsen
  • Anthony Peters
  • Ernest Peters
  • Walter Sarapuk
  • Lisa Wardley
  MP Arnold Viersen (ConsPeace River—Westlock)
  MLA Dan Williams (UCPPeace River)

  Total 5.8 km2 (2.2 sq mi)

270 m (890 ft)

  Total 639
  Density 110/km2 (290/sq mi)

Time zone UTC−07:00 (MST)
  Summer (DST) UTC−06:00 (MDT)
Postal code
Area code(s) 780, 587, 825
Highways Highway 88 (Bicentennial Highway)
Waterways Peace River

Established in 1788, Fort Vermilion shares the title of oldest European settlement in Alberta with Fort Chipewyan.[5][6] Fort Vermilion contains many modern amenities to serve its inhabitants as well as the surrounding rural community. The municipal office of Mackenzie County, Alberta’s largest municipality by land area, is located in Fort Vermilion.

The hamlet is located in Census Division No. 17.

. . . Fort Vermilion . . .

The Old Bay House
The Hudson’s Bay Company vessel Messenger at Fort Vermilion[7]

The area was inhabited by Dane-zaa (Beaver), Dene and later CreeFirst Nations long before the arrival of European traders and settlers.

Named for the vermilion coloured clays lining the river banks, Fort Vermilion started as a trading community for the North West Company, upstream of the impassible Vermilion Chutes.[7] The fort was established in 1788, following the expeditions of Alexander MacKenzie. Winter residents would trade furs with the native trappers, then send the furs by river during the summer to exchange points to the east and then to Montreal. The fort was later transferred to the Hudson’s Bay Company after the 1821 merger. By 1830, it was a prosperous fur trading post.[8] The first Anglican church was built in 1877.[9]

The main access to the settlements was by means of the river, using river boats and then ferries to haul materials in the summer months, when the water was not frozen. In 1903 the first steam-powered vessel to serve Fort Vermilion was the St. Charles built to navigate the 526 mi (847 km) to the upper reaches of the Peace River, from Hudson’s Hope to Fort Vermilion.[7] In 1974 a bridge was built over the Peace River immediately west of Fort Vermilion, effectively ending the winter isolation of the community.

The original Old Bay House, home of the chief factor, still exists and is now part of the Fort Vermilion National Historic Site. It was listed as such in 1968, for its importance as site of North West Company and Hudson’s Bay Company posts.[10]

The visitor centre is hosted in a 1923 dovetailedlog house. Built on the banks of the Peace River, it was moved to its current location in 1983. Another heritage building is the 1907 Clark House, built for the Hudson’s Bay clerk quarters, and moved in 1994 to the present location near the visitor centre. The Trappers Shack, built in 1912, is another dovetailed log house. It was listed as a provincial historic site.[5]

In 2018 the airport was named after Canadian Wop May, former bush pilot and WW1 flying ace. It was to Fort Vermilion that May flew to in 1929 with lifesaving drugs.

. . . Fort Vermilion . . .

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