Welcome to the heart of the Historical Calling Lake website.

Click on any segment to enter a suite of rooms in our house of history.

Over time, as people share what they know, the rooms will fill with pieces of the puzzle that help us understand how and why this beautifully situated northern Alberta community has attracted First Nations and Métis peoples, settlers and cabin dwellers from neighbouring communities and beyond. If you have stories, photos, artifacts, corrections or anything else to offer, please contact the Calling Lake history team.

Imagine Calling Lake as the hub of a wheel with strong spokes connected to communities that influenced who we are today. Communities such as Lac La Biche, Fort McMurray, Wabasca-Desmarais, Fort Vermilion, Slave Lake, Fort Assiniboine, Athabasca and Elk Point. Many of our forefathers came from or through those places, whether by water or by land. Those connected communities remain a big part of our story – as do the modes of transportation (add link) used to come and go.
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. 
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.
Since earliest times, the Athabasca River bending around Calling Lake has served as both a transportation artery and a barrier to getting here. First Peoples coming to hunt, trap and fish paddled the Athabasca and portaged between smaller waterways, switching to snowshoes and dog teams in winter. Fur traders, missionaries and settlers followed, traveling rutted roads by horse, mule – and later motorized vehicles, including airplanes.

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.
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. 
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.
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.
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.
A project of the Calling Lake Community Society

Land Acknowledgement

Recognizing that we are all 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.

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