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Fort Vermilion
Hamlet
Aerial view from north
Aerial view from north
Official seal of Fort Vermilion
Seal
Official logo of Fort Vermilion
Welcome sign
Country  Canada
Province  Alberta
Region Northern Alberta
Census division 17
Specialized municipality Mackenzie County
Established 1788 (oldest in Alberta)
Area
 • Total 6.81 km2 (2.63 sq mi)
Elevation 270 m (890 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Total 727
 • Density 106.75/km2 (276.5/sq mi)
 • Dwellings 278
Time zone MST (UTC−7)
 • Summer (DST) MDT (UTC−6)
Postal code T0H 1N0
Area code(s) +1-780
Highways Highway 88 (Bicentennial Highway)
Waterways Peace River

Fort Vermilion is a hamlet on the Peace River in northern Alberta, Canada, within Mackenzie County.

Established in 1788, Fort Vermilion shares the title of oldest European settlement in Alberta with Fort Chipewyan. Fort Vermilion contains many modern amenities to serve its inhabitants as well as the surrounding rural community. The municipal office of Mackenzie County, Alberta's largest municipality by land area, is located in Fort Vermilion.

The hamlet is located in census division No. 17.

History

OBH (Small)
The Old Bay House
The Hudson's Bay Company tug Messenger at the Saint Henri Mission, Fort Vermilion
The Hudson's Bay Company vessel Messenger at Fort Vermilion.

The area was inhabited by Dunneza (Beaver), Dene and later Cree first nations long before the arrival of European traders and settlers.

Named for the vermilion coloured clays lining the river banks, Fort Vermilion began as a trading community for the North West Company, upstream of the impassible Vermilion Chutes. The fort was established in 1788, following the expeditions of Alexander MacKenzie. Winter residents would trade furs with the native trappers, then send the furs by river during the summer to exchange points to the east and then to Montreal. The fort was later transferred to the Hudson's Bay Company after the 1821 merger. By 1830, it was a prosperous fur trading post. The first Anglican church was built in 1877.

The main access to the settlements was by means of the river, using river boats and then ferries to haul materials in the summer months, when the water was not frozen. In 1903 the first steam-powered vessel to serve Fort Vermilion was the St. Charles built to navigate the 526 miles (847 km) the upper reaches of the Peace River, from Hudson's Hope to Fort Vermilion. In 1974 a bridge was built over the Peace River immediately west of Fort Vermilion, effectively ending the winter isolation of the community.

The original Old Bay House, home of the chief factor, still exists and is now part of the Fort Vermilion National Historic Site. It was listed as such in 1968, for its importance as site of North West Company and Hudson's Bay Company posts.

The visitor centre is hosted in a 1923 dovetailed log house. Built on the banks of the Peace River, it was moved to its present location in 1983. Another heritage building is the 1907 Clark House, built for the Hudson's Bay clerk quarters, and moved in 1994 to the present location near the visitor centre. The Trappers Shack, built in 1912, is another dovetailed log house. It was listed as a provincial historic site.

Geography

FortVermilion-Sunset
Peace River from the shore of Fort Vermilion

Fort Vermilion is located approximately 77 kilometres (48 mi) southeast of High Level and 661 kilometres (411 mi) northwest of Edmonton on the Highway 88 (Bicentennial Highway). The hamlet of La Crete is located approximately 40 km (25 mi) southwest of Fort Vermilion on Highway 697.

The hamlet is one of the northernmost communities in the Peace River Country. Peace Country, in the aspen parkland biome, is Canada's northernmost land suitable for agriculture. The landscape is dominated by aspen, poplars and spruce, occasionally interspersed with areas of grasslands. Wildlife is abundant in the area, and includes bears, moose, deer, beavers, foxes, coyotes and Canada geese.

The hamlet is situated on the southern banks of the Peace River, with an elevation ranging from 255 m (837 ft) to 282 m (925 ft). The North Vermilion Settlement lies on the opposite (northern) shore of the river, while Fort Vermilion Airport is located 6 km (3.7 mi) downstream.

Climate

Despite being so high in latitude, Fort Vermilion experiences a humid continental climate, with long, cold winters and brief but fairly warm summers. Temperatures during the winter can drop to −40 °C (−40.0 °F) to −50 °C (−58.0 °F). Summer days benefit from long hours of daylight due to its northern location. Mosquitoes are a hazard during the summer months.

Fort Vermilion holds the record for the coldest temperature in Canada recorded outside Yukon, when on 11 January 1911, the temperature dropped down to −61.1 °C (−78 °F). The highest temperature ever recorded was 38.3 °C (101 °F) on 17 August 1912.

Climate data for Fort Vermilion CDA, 1961–1990 normals, extremes 1905–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 11.7
(53.1)
11.7
(53.1)
16.7
(62.1)
28.3
(82.9)
33.9
(93)
36.7
(98.1)
37.8
(100)
38.3
(100.9)
31.1
(88)
26.7
(80.1)
16.5
(61.7)
18.3
(64.9)
38.3
(100.9)
Average high °C (°F) −18.2
(-0.8)
−12.0
(10)
-3.7
(25.3)
7.8
(46)
16.7
(62.1)
21.6
(70.9)
23.1
(73.6)
21.3
(70.3)
14.6
(58.3)
6.7
(44.1)
−6.8
(19.8)
−15.7
(3.7)
4.6
(40.3)
Daily mean °C (°F) −22.7
(-8.9)
−17.3
(0.9)
−10.0
(14)
1.8
(35.2)
10.2
(50.4)
15.0
(59)
16.9
(62.4)
15.0
(59)
8.9
(48)
2.2
(36)
−10.5
(13.1)
−19.8
(-3.6)
-0.9
(30.4)
Average low °C (°F) −27.3
(-17.1)
−22.8
(-9)
−16.2
(2.8)
−4.2
(24.4)
3.7
(38.7)
8.4
(47.1)
10.6
(51.1)
8.7
(47.7)
3.2
(37.8)
−2.4
(27.7)
−14.4
(6.1)
−24.2
(-11.6)
−6.4
(20.5)
Record low °C (°F) −61.1
(-78)
−57.2
(-71)
−47.2
(-53)
−38.9
(-38)
−14.4
(6.1)
−8.9
(16)
-6.7
(19.9)
−5.6
(21.9)
−15.0
(5)
−32.0
(-26)
−43.9
(-47)
−57.8
(-72)
−61.1
(-78)
Precipitation mm (inches) 20.2
(0.795)
17.5
(0.689)
19.8
(0.78)
18.8
(0.74)
35.3
(1.39)
47.1
(1.854)
64.4
(2.535)
54.7
(2.154)
35.4
(1.394)
28.1
(1.106)
20.8
(0.819)
19.7
(0.776)
381.7
(15.028)
Rainfall mm (inches) 0.9
(0.035)
0.7
(0.028)
0.8
(0.031)
7.6
(0.299)
32.9
(1.295)
47.1
(1.854)
64.4
(2.535)
54.7
(2.154)
34.5
(1.358)
16.1
(0.634)
1.3
(0.051)
0.9
(0.035)
261.9
(10.311)
Snowfall cm (inches) 21.0
(8.27)
17.5
(6.89)
20.7
(8.15)
11.7
(4.61)
2.2
(0.87)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.8
(0.31)
10.8
(4.25)
20.9
(8.23)
20.2
(7.95)
125.8
(49.53)
Source: Environment Canada

Demographics

Main Streetfortvermilion
Main Street

As a designated place in the 2016 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Fort Vermilion recorded a population of 639 living in 224 of its 294 total private dwellings, a change of -12.1% from its 2011 population of 727. With a land area of 5.8 km2 (2.2 sq mi), it had a population density of 110.2/km2 (285/sq mi) in 2016.

As a designated place in the 2011 Census, Fort Vermilion had a population of 727 living in 239 of its 278 total dwellings, a 1.8% increase from its 2006 population of 714. With a land area of 6.81 km2 (2.63 sq mi), it had a population density of 106.75/km2 (276.5/sq mi) in 2011.

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