Time Space Equation

The Fort Steele Legacy

Leonard Lea Frazer

Introduction: When former, no nonsense, Valemount Elementary School teacher Joan Nordli, met with the parents of her Grade Five class every September, the “Fort Steele Trip” was always at the forefront. Joan would explain that each of her students would require $120 to cover the cost of the school bus and driver for the annual school field trip.

Through school fundraising, each year her students always managed to secure a ticket on the trip of a lifetime.

Mrs. Nordli, who taught in Valemount for 35 years, started the Fort Steele excursion in 1977. She planned and supervised 13 separate road trips with Fort Steele as the main attraction. Each year she would have some parents ride along to help chaperone. However, the valuable learning experience that was gained each year by the Grade Five students always began in the school classroom. Two months before each trip Joan taught lessons in Gold Panning, Building the Railway and Glaciations. This prepared each student and helped enhance their focus.

The Fort Steele Legacy
Steam train at the Fort Steele station.
The Fort Steele Legacy
A freight wagon transporting visitors at Fort Steele.







The Valemount Elementary School has a history of teachers who have recognized the value in school field trips for their students. At one time, Grade Four teacher Frank Kiyooka arranged for his students to go to Medicine Hat to see the largest collection of dinosaur bones, Joan Nordli spearheaded the Fort Steele trip for Grade Four and, over the years, various teachers lead the Grade Seven class on the “Berg Lake Challenge.”

Joan Nordli recently recalled how one year she had 42 students on the Fort Steele Trip. Each year she would assemble a scrapbook with photographs from each class. “Even today,” says Joan, “When I meet any of my former students who are back in town for a visit… they say, ‘I’ll remember that trip forever!’”

Fort Steele 1985 Travel Log - from the Canoe Mt. Echo newspaper

Thirty-one Grade Five students, under the super­vision of Elaine Rose, Martha Ross, Mariann Watt, Sharon Hoy and Denise Nordli left with the bus driver Gale Tuggle for Fort Steele at 6:15 a.m. on Monday, June 17.

We arrived at the Columbia Ice Fields about 11 a.m. after a brief stop for drink and fruit at Sunwapta Falls, and a view of Stutfield Glacier. We visited the information center, viewed the model and film re: Athabasca Glacier of the Columbia Ice Fields. Then to the toe for a tour and guided experimentation - tempera­tures, wind direction and general glaciations dis­covery. After an hour's lesson, we returned to the info center and had lunch. After lunch we had a ride in the snowmobile - an extra­ordinary experience!

The Fort Steele Legacy
Store fronts at Fort Steele.
The Fort Steele Legacy
The Stagecoach Office.







Our first night was spent camping at Castle Meadows, camping grounds near Banff; a beautiful evening. Rose to a chilly morning but early enough to view two bucks (elk) in full velvet!

On our way to Radium Hot Springs we made two stops: The Continental Divide (where we decided if we were Albertans or B.C.ers and stood on the appropriate side of the monument) and Kootenay Valley Lookout, where we viewed a tame chipmunk and birds, as well as the Kootenay Valley.

Everyone enjoyed a swim and lunch at Radium and we left for Cranbrook about 2:30. We arrived at the Tenth Avenue School about 5 p.m., made a "hurry-up supper" and returned to Fort Steele for a tour of the town. We spent about two hours touring the town site, locating our class areas for the next two days, and filling out our guide form, which we discussed upon returning to our "home-base".

The next morning, dressed in our finery of "Heritage Day" or the 1860s, we had classes - Gold Fever, Horses, Harnesses & Sawbucks (with the Clydesdales) and N.W.M.P. (movie and skit). In the afternoon we had Home Sweet Home and the “The First Spike.” The next day Group One and Two swapped classes. The children were able to view "flour making" and actually make some whole wheat, participate as jury­men in the courthouse, view actors & actresses enacting some portion of the Fort's history, and partici­pate as a class in the old schoolhouse.

On the evening of Wednesday, we had a delicious lasagne supper at the Coach House Inn in Cranbrook. In addition we had a surprise cake for Terri Yuen's birthday. The follow­ing evening we had a sur­prise birthday cake for Billy Ewart at the school where we had a supper "built by the skilful hands of the supervisors".

The Fort Steele Legacy
A student makes fresh lemon aid.

After supper on Wednesday, we had a swim at Cranbrook's public pool with its Tarzan rope, slide and very popular Jacuzzi bath.

Thursday evening was our first night with no real project in mind but to relax -- and it rained! The super­visors made a picnic lunch, watched TV and went for a walk. The children played basketball and viewed TV. Lights out at 10:30 -- as Friday was to be a busy day.

On Friday, George Williams, our guide at Cominco Mines, gave the groups a viewing of the model of the whole mine operations. Then, we had a truck - Teledyne ride up to the first mine shafts of Sullivan discovered in 1892. This stop was followed by a ride down the ventilation shaft -- an exceptional experience! This was to be followed by a visit to the machine shops to view pins being made from white hot steel!

Upon leaving Cominco Mines, Kimberley, we journeyed back to a camp­site outside of Cranbrook - on the way to Wardner and the fish hatchery and had a joyous picnic where every­one picked Ponderosa pine cones by the bagful!

At 1:30 we toured the fish hatchery which held 2 1/2 million fish in one stage or another - egg, fry, and brooders in the outside pools.

Then, on to Invermere Elementary School gym and a night on the town. We left the hatchery about 2:30, had a "pit stop" for drink, fruit and cookies at the Wild Horse Creek and arrived in Invermere about 4:40. We unloaded the bus, and returned to the center of town to find a suitable dining place.

After supper we travelled to Radium for our last swim! We returned to Invermere School about 11 p.m. and wrote in our log­books for the last time. The next morning we travelled to Radium where we had breakfast at Smitty's before we travelled to Golden.

Onward to Golden and the Kicking Horse Pass - beautiful morning! We had a picnic lunch at David Thompson Crossing and the last stop was for ice cream in Jasper about 4 p.m. The last of our money! Home­ward - arrived in Valemount about 5:20 p.m.

The Fort Steele Legacy
The school house and church at Fort Steele.

To conclude my travel log, I wish to thank the parents, supervisors, bus driver and the Parks for the use of their super kitchen kit. However, I wish to extend a special thanks to the thirty-one children who had earned their $120 for the trip and were very good ambassadors for our school and village. I'm certain that everyone involved in the trip will have life-long memories of our Fort Steele trip.

Albums of pictures and plants pertaining to our trips to Fort Steele along with autographed lists of the participants available in the LAC of the Valemount Elementary School. Six weeks before the trip, I had classes pertaining to glaciations, Clydesdales, Cominco Mines, camping, fish hatcheries and all the Fort Steele programs with the supervisors and Grade Five students. Each child and supervisor kept a daily log during the trip -- a treasure indeed.

See you next year --Many thanks again!  -  B.J. Nordli