About Police Outpost
Police Outpost Provincial Park is Alberta’s southernmost provincial park and the only one that shares a border with the United States. The park is located about 32 kilometers south of Cardston, Alberta. It was established in 1970 on the shores of Outpost Lake. South of the border is the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Glacier County, Montana.
Police Outpost Provincial Park in one of 3 Alberta Provincial Parks located within what is known as the “Crown of The Continent” which spans about 73,000 square kilometers around where Alberta, British Columbia, and Montana meet. This is a region of cultural and environmental significance. It includes Waterton National Park as well as the headwaters for 3 different major continental river systems.
History of Police Outpost
The park is built around a former North West Mounted Police outpost established in the area in 1891 to help the authorities catch whiskey runners. South of the border in the 1860s, there was deadly battles between the Montanan white settlers and the South Peigan tribes due to dishonest business practices in the Fort Benton area. These conflicts would collectively be known as the “Blackfoot Wars”. By 1970, the conflict escalated and the Marias Massacre occurred in which the U.S. Army slaughtered nearly 200 South Peigan women and children – pushing the tribe north into what is today Lethbridge.
After this conflict, the U.S. Government cracked down on whiskey trading in the Montanan regions and trades began to migrate to Canada instead. American traders Alfred B. Hamilton, and John J. Healy would establish an outpost near what is Lethbridge today known as Fort Whoop Up. They would sell a nasty (and lethal) blend of whiskey and other chemicals to the native populations which destroyed the local tribes.
Side note: After his ‘success’ with Fort Whoop Up, John J. Healy would become part of another dishonest business which became an important part of Banff National Park’s History.
In the following years, other American traders would bring wagonloads of whiskey north of the border to sell to the first nations. Many of them set up camp along the Oldman River where many of the Blackfoot tribes camped in the winter. The whiskey would be very destructive for the Blackfoot and it wasn’t uncommon for them to either die as the direct result of drinking the whiskey or getting so drunk that they would walk into the wilderness and freeze to death. Chief Crowfoot of the Siksika Blackfoot described the whiskey as:
“The whiskey brought among us by the Traders is fast killing us off and we are powerless before the evil. [We are] totally unable to resist the temptation to drink when brought in contact with the white man’s water. We are also unable to pitch anywhere that the Trader cannot follow us. Our horses, Buffalo robes and other articles of trade go for whisky; a large number of our people have killed one another and perished in various ways under the influence.”
The North West Mounted Police would be established in 1870 when the Canadian government banned the sale of alcohol entirely in the west. In the following decades, there would be several police forts established in southern Alberta to arrest those that were bringing illegal whiskey up from Montana. Fort Macleod served as their headquarters, but they also set up other forts along the US border. Police Outpost Provincial Park is the former site of one of these forts.
Summer at Police Outpost
In the summertime, visitors at Police Outpost Provincial Park can enjoy a wide range of activities both on and off of the lake. The lake is popular for canoers, kayakers, and boaters (although there is a 12km/h speed limit so not where you want to water ski). Fishing and birding are popular activities on the lake as well.
On land, there is camping opportunities as well as several hikes. Geocaching one activity that visitors to the park can also enjoy. The park offers some great views into Montana and one of the trails brings you right to the Canada/United States border (though the border itself has cameras and is watched by the US and Canadian border security).
Winter at Police Outpost
In the wintertime, cross country skiers have about 7km of ungroomed trails to explore and there are opportunities for snowshoeing as well.
Camping at Police Outpost
Police Outpost Provincial Park has one campground and one group use area available for guests.
|Campground||Amenities||Type of Site||Amount Available||Cost/Night|
|Police Outpost Campground|
(April 1 – October 13)
|Boat launch, firepits, firewood (sold), fish cleaning stations, pier, outhouses, playground, tap water||Unserviced||46||$24.00|
|Outpost Meadows Group Use|
(April 1 – October 13)
|Firepits, Firewood (sold), Picnic Shelter, Outhouses, Playground, Water (pump)||Unserviced||25 units||$160/5 units + $20/extra unit|
Day Use at Police Outpost
Police Outpost Provincial Park has one day use area that is open between April 1 and October 15. Liquor is permitted here between the hours of 11am and 9pm. They day use area contains a boat launch, fish cleaning stations, hand launch (for canoes and kayaks), an interpretive viewpoint, outhouses, sewage dump, and tap water – note that the water is not drinkable so you should bring your own.
Distances to Alberta Cities
Distance to Calgary: 277km
Distance to Edmonton: 557km
Distance to Red Deer: 407km
Distance to Lethbridge: 110km
Distance to Grande Prairie: 971km
Coordinates: 49°00’25.3″N 113°28’22.8″W
Peters, Hammerson. “The Whisky Trade in Canada.” Mysteriesofcanada.com, 2021, mysteriesofcanada.com/saskatchewan/the-whisky-trade-in-canada/. Accessed 13 Feb. 2023.