Innisfail, Canada’s Isle of Destiny
Located in Central Alberta, the town of Innisfail features scenic views of the Canadian Rockies and outdoor activities for the whole family from hiking and water skiing to fishing and horseback riding.
With a population of just under 8,000, Innisfail has a small town feel with the liveliness of a large city. It’s a surrounded by open plains and waterways. Napoleon Lake is located near the center of town while Gleniffer Lake, the Red Deer River and Dickson Dam are just minutes away. Getting to Innisfail is also easy as it is located on west side of the QEII Highway along the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor.
A Rich History
Innisfail was first called Poplar Grove before the Canadian Pacific Railway renamed the area after the Celtic word meaning “Isle of Destiny”.
Englishman Anthony Henday became the first European to step foot in the area when he and a group of traders, accompanied by Cree Indians, visited in 1754. Sent by the Hudson Bay Company to trade furs, Henday and his party camped on the shores of Napoleon Lake.
The first settlers to the area arrived in the mid-1800s and were largely Icelandic and Danish. With its scenic views and abundant water and wildlife, these settlers decided to put down roots in Innisfail. You can still experience their heritage by visiting the Hamlet of Dickson or Historic Markerville just outside of town.
In 1886, a pair of Americans, Napoleon Remillard and Arthur Content, settled just south of Innisfail, which was then still known as Poplar Grove. Five years after their arrival, the Canadian Pacific Railway reached Poplar Grove and trains were running within a year later. An existing road was also extended to reach Edmonton.
With travel becoming easier to and from the area, more homes and businesses began to pop up. In 1891, the area got its first office and soon after, Poplar Grove was renamed Innisfail.
The town of Innisfail was officially incorporated on November 20, 1903. With vast open plans, the beef cattle industry began to thrive as did grain harvesting. To this day, Innisfail hosts grain elevators for many of the large grain companies. It also has one of Canada’s largest livestock auction markets.
A Variety of Attractions
The Innisfail area has plenty of exciting attractions for every member of the family. Opened in 1972, the Innisfail and District Historical Village preserves and shows off the history of the area. Open from the middle of May through Labour Day, there are self-guided tours available to allow for exploration of the grounds. The village also hosts special events including annual Canada Day celebrations on July 1 each year as well as afternoon tea each Friday from June to September.
Meet some famous movie stars … animal movie stars that is. Discovery Wildlife Park in Innisfail features bears, tigers, raccoons and porcupines that have appeared in movies such as Anchorman, Dr. Doolittle 2, RV, Air Buddies and more. The park is also the home of renowned bear trainer Ruth LaBarge. Ruth and her famous bears perform the Bear Awareness show twice a day at the park where Ruth shows off her exotic bears and provides interesting and helpful information. There are a variety of other daily shows at the park as well.
The park features wildlife indigenous to Canada as well as exotic species from around the world. It’s a great place to see and learn about Canadian wildlife and the park’s mission to help care for native, orphaned animals.
The Daines Rodeo Ranch is a working ranch and host of the annual Innisfail Professional Rodeo each June. This annual event has been ongoing for 40 years and draws cowboys from all over Canada and the U.S. The ranch does more than just rodeo as it hosts the Ivan Daines Cowboy Country Music Picnic in August featuring a variety of artists.
If hiking and camping are your thing, the town’s Parks and Trails System offer a variety of scenic walks and hikes while Anthony Henday Campground provides safe and expansive campsites.
Innisfail is also home to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Dog Training Facility. It is the only one of its kind in the country and is open from May to October. In addition to learning about how the RCMP trains its service dogs, the facility also offers private dog training and buys, sells and breeds dogs.
In July and August, you can pick your own strawberries at the Jungle Farm just north of town. Its greenhouse is open in May and pumpkin patch in the fall. The farm also offers hayrides and a corn maze and hosts a variety of events throughout the year.
Learn about the history and Icelandic heritage of Innisfail at the Stephansson House Historic Site and the Markerville Creamery. Go back in time and see where renowned Icelandic-Canadian poet Stephan G. Stephansson wrote his poetry or visit the creamery that was originally built in 1902 and has since been restored. Guided tours are offered during the spring and summer and the creamery server authentic Icelandic food and ice cream at the Kaffistofa Coffee Shop.
With is scenic vistas, abundant recreational activities and rich history, Innisfail is the perfect place to find your own travel destiny.