ghosts Towns Canada

These strange and tragic ghosts towns are a forgotten part of Canada

Ghosts towns in Canada are proof that communities fail. It's part of our history, but in their failure is proof that not all is lost, where memorials of personal ambition and economic catastrophe stand in their wake.

Here are some notable ghosts towns that you might want to know about.

Rowley, Alberta

A boom town of several hundred in the 1920s, Rowley popped up as a small community a decade earlier when the Canadian Northern Railway was built under charter of the Alberta Midland railway.

Located in Southern Alberta, about two hours from Calgary, the town boasts three preserved, historic prairie sentinels and an historic train station.

The grain-producing economy in the area was hit hard during the Great Depression, when wheat prices collapsed, and in the decades following the 1930s the population steadily dwindled.

Visitors to the town today often remark on the fact that they see more cats than people.

Because of its pioneer-reminiscent architecture, Rowley was used as the filming site of the 1989 Canadian film Bye Bye Blues.

For the shoot, crews built several additional period buildings, which still stand today, such as a mock funeral home. It adds a weird quality, since many of these buildings aren't period accurate, making for an old ghost town set against an old ghost film set.

One kind Reddit user made a full map of the other ghost towns you can visit across Alberta.

Broughton, Nova Scotia

At the turn of the 20th century, Broughton was destined to be one of Canada's first planned towns, until a local mining industry collapse left those dreams to be turned to moss. 

What remains of the town today are the foundations of old buildings overgrown by and subsumed into the living forest. The site is about a 30-minute drive from Cape Breton.

At its early 20th century height, Broughton was a town of 1,000. But two investors formed the Cape Breton Coal, Iron & Railway Company with the hopes of expanding it to a community of up to 12,000.

broughton arms hotel

The Broughton Arms Hotel closed down in long gone. Photo by the Beaton Institute Archives.

Millions were raised for the new city layout, but the company went bankrupt in 1907 after it was too costly and difficult to transport coal from the area.

For a time, Broughton was home to one of the most elegant hotels in Canada. The Broughton Arms Hotel was thought to have the first revolving door on the continent.

By the time of the first World War, the town was nearly empty and local buildings were used to house 1,200 soldiers in 1916 before they were shipped off to fight in Europe.

In the decades following their departure, Broughton dwindled to a ghost town.

Silver City, Yukon

Born to a Tagish mother and a Tlingit father, Káa Goox — or Dawson Charlie, as he would become known — made Canada's gold rush possible.

As one of the co-discoverers of the Discovery Claim that triggered the Klondike Gold Rush, he ushered in an era where an estimated 100,000 prospectors made their way to the Yukon.

When Charlie staked a claim in July 1903 in the Kluane Lake area, nearly 2,000 claims followed by the end of the year. And so, up rose Silver City, a small community complete with barracks, a post office, a mining office and residential cabins.

Companies invested tens of thousands of dollars in the area, hoping for major returns, but by 1914 only about $40,000 worth of gold had been found in the area.

While the town has been abandoned, there are many well-preserved structures, making Silver City one of the great windows into the Gold Rush life.

Just be careful, you might see a Grizzly bear out there.

Kitsault, British Columbia

Established in 1979 for 1,200 residents with everything from a bowling alley to a shopping mall, Kitsault, British Columbia was designed to grow a community around a nearby molybdenum mine run by the U.S.-based Phelps Dodge corporation.

The community was was abandoned in 1982, 18 months after people took up residence

A collapse in the price of molybdenum left the development project unsustainable, and Kitsault sat empty. Then, in 2004, it was purchased by businessman Krishnan Suthanthiran for $5.7 million.

Suthanthiran has pledged to redevelop the town in tandem with the establishment of a liquefied natural gas plant, though last year it was revealed that Belgian authorities were investigating his businesses over the alleged misuse of over $14 million.

He denies any wrongdoing, and it is unclear when or if his ambitious plans for the empty community will materialize.

Saskatchewan's Ghost Town Trail

Okay, this isn't really a single abandoned town, it's a remarkable stretch of 32 of them.

Over 676 kilometres along Saskatchewan Highway 13 — between Wauchope and Govenlock — you can visit early 20th century churches, mills, gas stations, farm houses, general stores, post offices and more.

Because the Canadian government offered free land to settlers in the early 1900s, many set out for the open prairies to build farming communities.

But the Great Depression, which coincided with droughts and a collapse in grain prices, left many farmers to give up their land and take their families elsewhere

However, there may yet be opportunity in the area: one group of young Ontarians even decided to purchase property in and redevelop the abandoned town of Palmer.

Lead photo by

dubraykz in Rowley Alberta


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