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Maple Creek

Town, pop 2,270, located 40 km E of the Saskatchewan-Alberta border on Hwy 21, 8 km S of the Trans-Canada Hwy. Maple Creek serves as a gateway for an estimated 250,000 tourists each year heading to the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Fort Walsh, and the historic site of the Cypress Hills Massacre. The town got its name and its beginning in the fall of 1882, when construction of the trans-continental railway was halted and workmen spent the winter on the banks of a small creek lined with Manitoba maples—the creek which flows northward along the west side of the present town. In 1875, prior to significant settlement in the North-West Territories, the NWMP established Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills approximately 50 km southwest of the location. But with the coming of the railroad in 1883, Fort Walsh was abandoned and the NWMP detachment, “A” Division, relocated to new barracks near what was called Maple Creek. The Maple Creek post office was established that year. Within a few years, community institutions such as a school and churches were established. Ranching developed into the main industry in the area, and on April 28, 1896, Maple Creek was incorporated as a village. By April 30, 1903, the community had grown sufficiently to attain town status. However, as more settlers arrived, the vast ranching empires began to give way to fences, homesteads, and crop production. Maple Creek would become a community of firsts: in 1907, a gravity-fed water system was established, with water piped into the community from springs several kilometres to the southeast; a few years later, a sewage system was installed and an electric light system was established; and Maple Creek became one of the first communities of its size in the province to have most of its streets paved. While today agriculture remains the substantial contributor to the town’s economy (generally speaking, crop production to the north and ranching to the south), gas exploration and production, tourism, various small manufacturing enterprises, and service industries provide a significant degree of economic diversity. Maple Creek has two museums: the Oldtimer’s Museum, established in 1926, houses artifacts and an extensive collection of photographs documenting the 1870–1910 frontier period of the region; and the Jasper Cultural and Historic Centre features theme exhibits depicting different aspects of pioneer life. Maple Creek, living up to its long-established moniker “The Old Cowtown,” hosts five or six rodeos over the course of the year, as well as the Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Western Art and Cowboy Gear Show in September, and the Stock Dog Trials in October. Additionally, the Cowtown Livestock Exchange is one of the most important livestock auction rings in the country. Maple Creek also enjoys the warmest annual average temperature in the province and, subsequently, the largest number of frost-free days.

David McLennan

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