Welcome to the heart of the Historical Calling Lake website.
Click on any segment to enter a room in our house of history.
Explore the broad sweep of Calling Lake history, from early times when its bounty and beauty drew people to hunt and fish, to the diverse community of Treaty, Metis, settler and cabin folk it is today.
Indigenous people in their oral tradition say they have been on this land from time immemorial. Elders here describe a migration pattern that brought people to Calling Lake for a time each year to benefit from the bounty of fish before moving a bit north to Rock Island Lake to hunt. Later, Indigenous peoples were the first humans to live here year round. We have much to learn about their stories over time.
Beginning around 1916, later than further south, settlers began arriving by water and along the rutted trails. Many fished, trapped, hunted, farmed and learned alongside the First Peoples already here.
In 1955, the provincial government opened lots along Calling Lake for tourist cabins. The number of cottagers has since risen to nearly 2,000, with some living in the community full time.
Until 1940, travel to Athabasca meant two days on a rutted trail. Many opted to come via the Calling River, the community’s link to the Athabasca River. Airplanes also filled the gap, especially for whisking fish to market.
A key part of Calling Lake’s history involves the harvesting of its natural abundance. It’s an evolving story with many tales – and tails. Fishing, trapping, hunting, forestry and mining exploration have ebbed and flowed, as seen in the local economy as well as the landscape.
Early Indigenous peoples selected from the trees surrounding Calling Lake for many uses, from teepee poles to travois runners. In settler times and beyond, small sawmills dotted the forests, moving as wood supplies in any one spot dwindled. As forestry operations grew in size and complexity, larger mills took root and the wood started coming to them. By the 1940s, forestry began to outstrip fishing and trapping as a major industry, a welcome source of employment.
Indigenous beliefs and practices predate all other expressions of faith in Calling Lake, and continue to be practiced. As traders and settlers came north, Catholic, Protestant and Mennonite missions added to the mix.
Soon after arriving, settlers banded together to open the first Calling Lake school in 1922. Now part of the Northlands School Division, the school offers K-12 education. Adult education has taken various forms in Calling Lake over time. Those efforts include a job corps that ran in the 1970s.
Being of service comes naturally in this northern outpost, where survival means depending on each other. We salute those who serve in special ways, including the military, firefighting, emergency services, policing or government.
Early businesses in Calling Lake ranged from fur buying and fishing to offering lodging and selling the necessities of life. Living far from the nearest town, making a living took (still takes) some ingenuity.
The people of Calling Lake have always enjoyed playing together. We can boast our share of talented athletes, competitive teams and remarkable events in a variety of sports, including hockey, baseball, sailing and martial arts.
Recognizing that we are all Treaty people, equally responsible to know our shared history and journey forward in good faith, we acknowledge with respect that Calling Lake stands on land, and alongside water, where Indigenous peoples have gathered, hunted, fished and held ceremonies from time immemorial. Knowing that J.B. Gambler Indian Reserve #183 is part of Bigstone Cree Nation within Treaty 8 Territory, and that we are within Métis Nation of Alberta District 22, we wish to understand the spirit and intent of promises made so that we can take action to create a just and caring future built on truth and reconciliation.