town office

Welcome to Spirit River

The Town of Spirit River is a thriving community in northwestern Alberta, Canada. Its local economy is supported by agriculture as well as the oil and gas industry. The official 2011 Census lists the Town of Spirit River’s population at 1,025 with 466 private dwellings. Bordering two large counties, the Town of Spirit River is also the major trading area for a large rural population estimated at 10,000.
Located 80 kms north of Grande Prairie, Spirit River is one of the oldest towns in the Central Peace Region. The Old Spirit River Settlement was located about 3 miles southeast of the old Mission. In 1888, the Hudson Bay Company began a cattle ranch four kilometers to the southeast on the banks of the Spirit River to serve traders at Fort Dunvegan.

How Spirit River was named
The Central Peace was initially inhabited by the Beaver First Nations and later on, the Cree. In Cree, Spirit River translates to Chepi Sepe, which means Ghost River. Through different tribes there were many legends for why the river's name was chosen. One was the belief that when the wind whistled through the trees it was the voice of a deceased woman's spirit who was buried in a grove of trees. The second legend was of an Aboriginal who thought he saw the lights of spirits in the river while he was washing his face, these lights turned out to be the sunlight reflecting off of the 'fool's gold'. The third legend came about after an Aboriginal killed a deer and needed help. He called to his tribe for assistance and was shocked to hear his own voice echoing back. He believed this was spirits calling out to him so he ran back to camp where his tribe dropped everything and quietly slipped away. From this, Spirit River gained its name; full of beauty and mystery.

Fun facts about Spirit River
  • 1840-70 - The Hudson Bay Company Cattle Ranch was started.
  • 1905 - It took three days to travel from Grande Prairie to Spirit River.
  • 1907 - Until the railroad arrived, a trip from the Peace River Trail to Edmonton took 20 days there and 25 days to two months to return. Their only option was to camp as there were no hotels.
  • 1910 - Spirit River School District No.2109 was establish. It was the first school district south of Peace River.
  • 1913 - Department of Interior sold land that year for $3.00 an acre.
  • 1915 - Lots sold anywhere from $75.00 to $300.00
  • 1916 - It took one farmer two and a half days by sleigh to deliver 100 bushels from Peace River during the winter season. Once the railroad arrived, it only took four hours by train.
  • 1916 - Spirit River consisted of four general stores, three hardware stores, three lumber yards, a drug store, a bank, three hotels, three restaurants, two harness & furniture stores, a meat market, two implement stores, an elevator, a newspaper office, three pool rooms, and a black smith shop. All of these stores popped up within four months.
  • 1916 - The railroad arrived: Pick-and-shovel men earned $3.00 a day. 
    January 17: The first train steamed into Spirit River. It took three hours for it to travel from Rycroft.
    February 1: Spirit River received its first load of freight.
    March 7: Spirit River received its first hog shipment.
  • 1921 - June 21: The first fire broke out. It burned almost the entire east and west sides of main street. As soon as possible, they moved new buildings in.
  • 1923 - Summer: Another fire broke out and burned both sides of main street.
  • 1923 - The Wheat Pool was organized.
  • 1941 - The Holy Cross Hospital was built.
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