Lethbridge is located 133 miles south of Calgary and 66 miles north of the U.S.–Canada international border at the junction of Alberta Highways 3, 4 and 5.
Tourism Lethbridge, 2805 Scenic Dr. South, (phone 403-394-2403 or 1-888-384-8687); public restrooms in park; open daily from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. year-round; restrooms. RV parking, restrooms, picnic shelter, playground and interpretive panels, dump station, dumpster. Websites: www.tourismlethbridge.com, www.lethbridge.ca, www.visitlethbridge.com and www.downtownlethbridge.com. Email: [email protected]. Newspaper: Lethbridge Herald (daily).
The Lethbridge region was home to 3 Indigenous nations: the Sik-sika (Blackfoot), Kainai (Many Leaders, now called Bloods), and Pikani (including the Ammsskaapipiikain in Montana and Apatohsipiikani in Southern Alberta, also called Peigan). Collectively, they formed the Sow-ki’tapi (Prairie People). Because European fur traders along the North Saskatchewan River first came into contact with the Blackfoot, that tribal name came to be applied to the entire confederacy.
In December 1869, 2 American traders, John J. Healy and Alfred B. Hamilton, built a trading post at the junction of the St. Mary and Belly (now Oldman) rivers, near the future site of Lethbridge. The post, named Fort Hamilton, became known as Fort Whoop-Up. It was the most notorious of some 44 trading posts built in southern Alberta from 1869 to 1874. Whiskey was an important trade commodity, although the “whiskey,” was a concoction of 9 parts river water to 1-part pure alcohol, to which was added a plug of chewing tobacco for color and a can of lye for more taste.
Alarmed by the activities of the whiskey traders, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald formed the North West Mounted Police (NWMP), now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to bring law and order to the West. The NWMP reached Fort Whoop-Up on Oct. 9, 1874, and immediately put a stop to the whiskey trade.
By the late 1870s, Lethbridge had developed a steady coal market and a permanent settlement. Construction of the CPR brought more settlers to the west. Lethbridge’s High Level Bridge, built by CPR in 1907, today carries freight shipments by rail west to Vancouver, British Columbia. The “Bridge”—with a mile-long span and 300-foot elevation—is still the longest and highest bridge of its kind in the world.
Lethbridge is Alberta’s third largest city. It has a strong agricultural economy and is home to the highly ranked University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College. The city’s ENMAX Centre, a sports and special events venue, is home to the Lethbridge Hurricanes hockey team, while the Spitz Stadium is home to the Lethbridge Bulls baseball team.
Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens
Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens offers an unforgettable cultural experience combining the beauty of nature in a serene setting. From spring blossoms to autumn leaves and winter light, this authentic garden has been impressing visitors for more than 50 years. Located on the corner of 9th Avenue South and Mayor Magrath Drive (next to Henderson Lake). Limited RV and bus parking available. Open in summer, Thursday to Monday, 10 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. Also open for the Winter Light Festival. Admission charged. Phone 403-328-3511 or visit https://nikkayuko.com for details.
Fort Whoop-Up Interpretive Center
Fort Whoop-Up Interpretive Center is located 0.8 mile/1 km west of Scenic Drive (turn at 3rd Avenue) in Indian Battle Park. Fort Whoop-Up is a re-creation of the original trading post for trappers and Indians and NWMP fort that served this area in the late 1800s. It gained its name from brisk whiskey sales. Historical reenactments are held in summer. Open in summer until Labor Day. Admission charged. Phone 403-320-3777 or visit https://fort.galtmuseum.com.
Galt Museum features regional history and art and offers a fantastic view of the High Level Bridge. Located at 502 1st St. S., at the west end of 5th Avenue South off Scenic Drive. (For parking, use the 4th Avenue turnoff from Scenic Drive.) Open daily. Admission charged. Phone 403-320-3954 or visit www.galtmuseum.com.
Helen Schuler Nature Centre
The Helen Schuler Nature Centre has self-guided trails which explore the beautiful Oldman River valley. It has interactive, hands-on exhibits for learning about local wildlife. Just off of 3rd Avenue South. Open daily 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. June–Aug.; 1 to 4 P.M. Sept.–May (closed Mondays). Phone 403-320-3064 or visit www.lethbridge.ca/hsnc.
Henderson Lake Park
Henderson Lake Park on Mayor Magrath Drive includes a golf course, swimming pool, picnic area and rose gardens. Adjacent to the park, and best accessed via Mayor Magrath Dr. and 9th Ave. South is the site of the Henderson Outdoor Pool. The pool is open in summer. Admission charged.
Southern Alberta Art Gallery
Southern Alberta Art Gallery is located in downtown Lethbridge. This gallery offers a dynamic variety of changing exhibitions of contemporary art. It is noted as one of Canada’s top ten contemporary galleries and it has been recognized at an international level. Open year-round. Admission charged. Phone 403-327-8770 or visit www.saag.ca.
Scenic Drive Dog Run
Scenic Drive Dog Run, located 2.2 miles from the visitor center at the Highway 4/5 junction on Scenic Drive, is one of 3 designated off-leash dog parks in Lethbridge. It is part of the 200-acre Botterill Bottom Park, which includes the Coal Banks Trail. There are fine views of the University of Lethbridge from Scenic Drive.
Alberta Birds of Prey Centre
Alberta Birds of Prey Centre, 2124 16th Avenue, Coaldale, is a 10-minute drive east of Lethbridge. This is a rescue and rehabilitation center featuring hawks, falcons, eagles and owls, the majority of which have been rescued from traumatic events and rehabilitated for hopeful release to the wild. Daily flight shows (weather permitting) and tours of the facilities. Open summers from 9:30 A.M. to 5 P.M. daily. Admission charged. Phone 403-331-9520 or visit www.burrowingowl.com.