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Peace River
Peace River Crossing (1898–1916)
Rivière-la-Paix (French)
Town
Town of Peace River
A view of Peace River as seen from West Hill. Kauffman Hill is to the left and Grouard Hill to the right separated by Pat's Creek valley
A view of Peace River as seen from West Hill. Kauffman Hill is to the left and Grouard Hill to the right separated by Pat's Creek valley
Coat of arms of Peace River
Coat of arms
Country  Canada
Province  Alberta
Region
Sub-region
Northern Alberta
Peace Country
Census division 19
Municipal district Northern Sunrise County
Incorporated  
 • Village June 2, 1914 (as Peace River Crossing)
 • Name change May 22, 1916
 • Town December 1, 1919
Area (2016)
 • Land 26.26 km2 (10.14 sq mi)
Elevation 330 m (1,080 ft)
Population (2016)
 • Total 6,842
 • Density 260.6/km2 (675/sq mi)
Time zone MST (UTC−7)
 • Summer (DST) MDT (UTC−6)
Postal code span T8S
Area code(s) +1-780, +1-587
Highways Highway 2
Highway 684
Highway 743
Highway 744
Waterways Peace River
Smoky River
Heart River
Pat's Creek

Peace River, originally named Peace River Crossing, and known as Rivière-la-Paix in French, is a town in northwestern Alberta, Canada, situated along the banks of the Peace River, at its confluence with the Smoky River, the Heart River and Pat's Creek. It is located 486 kilometres (302 mi) northwest of Edmonton, and 198 kilometres (123 mi) northeast of Grande Prairie, along Highway 2. It was known as the Village of Peace River Crossing between 1914 and 1916.

The Peace River townsite is nearly 1,000 feet (300 m) below the relatively flat terrain surrounding it. Pat's Creek used to be an open channel though the town but is now channelled though a culvert under the town streets, re-emerging at the mouth on the Peace River at the Riverfront Park.

The population in the Town of Peace River was 6,729 in 2011, a 6.6% increase over its 2006 population. There are significant nodal settlements and subdivisions in the vicinity of the town on acreages along Highway 2 to the west, Highways 684 (Shaftesbury Trail) and 743 as well as the southwest portion of Northern Sunrise County. Regionally, there are various First Nation communities to the northeast, French-Canadian farming communities to the south and to the east, and Mennonite and Hutterite German-Canadian farming communities to the north and northwest of the town.

Peace River was the site of the 2004 Alberta Winter Games. In 2010, Peace River, in conjunction with Grimshaw and surrounding municipalities, jointly hosted the 2010 Alberta Summer Games. These games are held every two years and are Alberta's largest sporting event.

History

After the last glacial ice sheets melted from the northern parts of the Canadian prairies, an ice-free corridor allowed people from Asia to make a way deep into the Americas. When the Ice Age ended, many of these groups moved back north following the large herds of grazing animals which were, in turn, following the grasses northward in the warming climate. In the Peace River area, the two major language groups were the Athapaskan and the Algonquian.

In 1670, following the arrival of the Hudson's Bay Company in Eastern Canada, guns began making their way westward as trade goods and the Algonquian speaking Cree began pushing the Athapaskan speakers Dunne-za or Beaver further west. The Beaver in turn pushed the Sekani deep into the Rocky Mountain Trench in the mid-18th century. A truce was eventually agreed to by the Cree and the Beaver and the great river they called Unchagah (the Peace River) became the boundary between their hunting territories.

The North West Company pushed westward in the late 18th century in an attempt to reach the Pacific Ocean, creating rivalry with the other major fur-trading company, the Hudson's Bay Company.

Timeline

  • 1792: Alexander MacKenzie established Fort Fork on the eastern bank of Peace River just south of its confluence with the Smoky River.
  • 1818, the HBC opens the first Fort St. Mary's at the forks of the Peace and the Smoky, it lasted for only one season
  • 1820, the HBC built Fort St. Mary’s III on the west side of the Peace River, directly across from the mouth of the Heart River (in the present day Town of Peace River). This was the third and final relocation of Fort St. Mary’s
  • 1886: The Anglican Church sets up the first mission on Shaftesbury Trail.
  • 1888: The Roman Catholic Church sets up St. Augustine mission on Shaftesbury Trail.
  • 1898: The North-West Mounted Police make a permanent post at Peace River Crossing.
  • 1909: The townsite of Peace River is first surveyed.
  • 1914: Peace River Landing Settlement is incorporated as the Village of Peace River Crossing on June 2.
  • 1914: Peace River's first hospital, the Irene Cottage Hospital, opens
  • 1910-1916: Railway reaches the area and settlers begin colonizing the valley.
  • 1916: Village of Peace River Crossing is renamed the Village of Peace River on May 22.
  • 1919: Village of Peace River is incorporated as the Town of Peace River on December 1.
  • 1926-1931: The population continues to grow as the Great Depression took hold of Saskatchewan and Southern Alberta

Historical sites and architecture

NAR Train Station
The NAR train station in the Town of Peace River.

The Northern Alberta Railway (NAR) station was built in 1916 by the Central Canada Railway. It served as a major hub of activity from 1916 to 1956 for passengers. The station was continued for use for freight and the station was closed in 1981. The NAR station suffered a fire in 1986. It was restored back to its former state in 1991, costing nearly $300,000 to complete. It currently houses the Peace River & District Chamber of Commerce and the Tourist Information Centre in Peace River. It is located on 94 Avenue block of 100 Street next to the railway tracks that cross through Peace River.

The NAR station was used again as a railway station for first time in about 30 years by passengers when the Alberta Prairie Steam Tours, owners of the passenger cars, sent eight coaches to Peace River in September 2006, thereby enabling riders to travel like the pioneers of the area did in the 1920s. It involved short trips to DMI, a pulp mill 20 kilometres north of the Town of Peace River, and to Grimshaw. The train ride also included on-board entertainment.

Anglican Church PR
The Anglican Church in Peace River

The Catholic St. Augustine Mission located along Shaftesbury Trail on River Lot 22 was established in 1888 when the missionaries first came to the Peace country to evangelize and educate the First Nations people. Alongside the mission is an old cemetery. This site is located within the Peace River Provincial Correctional Centre which was built in 1968.

Third Mission Heritage Suites located at 100 Avenue block of 98 Street adjacent to Riverfront Park and across from the original Hudson’s Bay Factor’s House (1904). was formerly the priests’ house that was moved by CAT over the ice to Peace River in 1958 and functioned as residential apartments before being renovated into a hotel suite.

Anglican Mission Site was established on River Lot 11 on Shaftesbury Trail in 1886, all that remains now is a small cemetery.

The St. James Anglican Cathedral Church was built in 1936. The Parish also erected Athabasca Hall around the same time adjacent to it. With the Athabasca Hall being the largest facility in town at that time, the hall bookings became too much for the Parish decided to lease it to the Peace River Recreation Board in 1972 for 20 years. In 1979, the Parish's first Dean Emeritus sold it to the Town of Peace River and used the proceeding to add a new church hall connected to the Cathedral.

12 Foot Davis Grave Site
12 Foot Davis grave site on top of Grouard Hill

The McNamara Hotel was built in 1921 by Martin Joseph McNamara. It has burnt down twice in the past; once in 1926 and 1993, and rebuilt both times.

Fort Fork site, located in the Peace River Wildland Provincial Park is a National Historic Site. The fort was erected in 1792 by the North West Company. Alexander Mackenzie wintered at Fort Fork in 1792 as did David Thompson in 1802. The fort was abandoned in 1805 and has since been almost completed eroded by the Peace River. A flag planted at Fort Fork's former site is all that remains. Mackenzie Cairn was erected on River Lot 19 in the Municipal District (M.D.) of Peace No. 135 in 1929 to commemorate Fort Fork.

12 foot davis
12 feet tall statue of Twelve Foot Davis at Riverfront Park

A 12 feet (3.7 m) tall wooden statue stands at the Riverfront Park in Peace River to commemorate Henry Fuller Davis, one of the most famous figures in the Town of Peace River's history. His “Twelve Foot Davis” nickname stems from the twelve foot land claim during the Cariboo Country gold rush in British Columbia which netted him almost $30,000 worth of gold. He took these profits and staked it all on a trading post close to where the Town of Peace River stands today. It is for this reason that the Town of Peace River is sometimes referred to as the Land of Twelve Foot Davis. Twelve Foot Davis' gravesite is designated a park and is located on the top of Grouard Hill just east of the town.

Dr. Greene Cairn located in Greene Valley Provincial Park is a historical fixture that remembers Dr. William Greene for his contributions to the community and to the organizations to which he belonged to. Born and raised in San Francisco, Dr. Greene was a medical doctor and dentist in addition to being among first eight men to fly, according to a 1910 edition of New York Sun.

Legends

An ancient Beaver Indian legend says: "Drink the water of the Peace River and you will return."

Geography

The Peace River
The Peace River as it winds past the town.

Physiographically, the Town of Peace River lies within the Peace River Formation, a stratigraphical unit of middle Albian age in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin. The area developed on sediments of the former lake bottom of Glacial Lake Peace, which covered most of the areas in the region that were below 610 m in elevation.

The specific landform in which the town is situated is the Peace River Lowland which was incised by the Peace River and its tributaries right through the area's former glacial lake sediments and into the Cretaceous bedrock. The Peace River Lowlands is flanked by the Buffalo Head Hills to the east and the Whitemud and Clear Hills to the west.

Heart River AB
The Heart River valley within the town.

The general area is categorized ecologically as aspen parkland with mixedwood stands understory. There is a variety of wetland habitats in the area with several being quite marshy with shallow water, soft bottoms, and abundant aquatic vegetation. Some of the lakes and sloughs are used by various waterfowls, both migrating and resident, for nesting. The parkland also supports a host of terrestrial and aquatic animals. It is also Canada's most northerly agricultural region.

The Greene Valley Provincial Park lies just east of the town in the Northern Sunrise County and the Peace River Wildland Provincial Park is to the south on the east bank of the Peace River. These parks and the rest of the river valley, including some river islands, provide habitat for wildlife such as moose, deer, bear, coyotes, bats, reptiles, birds and numerous fish species. Maintaining natural areas in the river valley and limiting use to suitable recreational use has minimized impacts to wildlife habitat.

Historically, the town has been the subject of flooding. However, the town has developed a continuous dyke system to prevent flood damage from to 1:100 year flood events and protect against ice-jam floods. As a result, the risk of flooding has been significantly reduced and no longer poses the same threat to the town.

Climate

Fog in PR valley
Early morning fog in the Peace River valley

The Peace River area is generally characterized by a continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb) with low year-round precipitation. Its dry climate, which results in reduced humidity, causes the summer heat and winter cold feel less severe than in places with higher humidity.

Moisture coming with Pacific Ocean air is lost over the mountain ranges as precipitation before moving into the area, while air from the Arctic flows uninterrupted into the region. Due to cold air drainage, the river valley is often completely filled with stratus and fog while outside the valley is clear. The fog usually clears in a few hours. Winds in town are channeled along the Peace River valley (towards the northeast or southwest) while winds outside the valley are quite variable. During both summer and winter, the wind patterns outside the valley are mostly from the southwest or north. The passage of a migratory low to the north of Peace River will cause southwest winds to shift around to the north.

Winters are often cold enough to see the formation of an ice cover on the Peace River from January to late March or early April. The ice cover is composed of juxtaposed frazil ice pans and break-away border ice pieces that consolidate in the river flow direction. This produces a very jugged surface. The formation of ice cover results in a gradual increase in river water levels in town and is monitored by both Alberta Environment and BC Hydro. BC Hydro operates two hydroelectric dams on the Peace River in British Columbia: the W. A. C. Bennett Dam and Peace Canyon Dam. These dams have significant effect on the Peace River's water levels.

Summer frequently features thunderstorms that are preceded with persistent winds and occasionally produce small grain-sized hail. Tornadoes and severe winds are a rarity in the Peace River area, although it is suspected that Grimshaw, a town 20 kilometres to the west, was struck by a tornado on June 30, 2003.

Due to Peace River's northerly latitude, the summer solstice on June 21 brings 17 hours and 41 minutes of daylight. This turns around in when the area sees less than seven hours of daylight during the winter solstice on December 21. Regardless of the season, when there is daylight out, Peace River will usually have sunny skies. There is on average 2,060 hours of sunshine every year.

An exposed field will have a different microclimate than sheltered locations. The temperature in the Peace River valley has been observed to be up to 5 °C warmer than that of the prairie land surrounding it. The unique micro-climate tends to help vegetables thrive in the Peace River valley.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Peace River was 38.9 °C (102 °F) on 4 July 1926. The coldest temperature ever recorded was −56.7 °C (−70 °F) on 12 January 1911.

Climate data for Peace River Airport, 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1907–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 12.1
(53.8)
12.8
(55)
20.6
(69.1)
29.4
(84.9)
36.7
(98.1)
36.1
(97)
38.9
(102)
36.7
(98.1)
34.4
(93.9)
28.3
(82.9)
20.0
(68)
15.6
(60.1)
38.9
(102)
Average high °C (°F) −9.9
(14.2)
−6.4
(20.5)
0.0
(32)
9.8
(49.6)
16.6
(61.9)
20.5
(68.9)
22.6
(72.7)
21.5
(70.7)
15.9
(60.6)
8.2
(46.8)
−3.3
(26.1)
−7.7
(18.1)
7.3
(45.1)
Daily mean °C (°F) −14.9
(5.2)
−11.9
(10.6)
−5.6
(21.9)
3.8
(38.8)
10.0
(50)
14.3
(57.7)
16.3
(61.3)
14.9
(58.8)
9.6
(49.3)
2.8
(37)
−7.8
(18)
−12.7
(9.1)
1.6
(34.9)
Average low °C (°F) −19.9
(-3.8)
−17.4
(0.7)
−11.3
(11.7)
−2.3
(27.9)
3.3
(37.9)
8.1
(46.6)
10.0
(50)
8.3
(46.9)
3.2
(37.8)
−2.7
(27.1)
−12.3
(9.9)
−17.8
(-0)
−4.2
(24.4)
Record low °C (°F) −56.7
(-70.1)
−48.9
(-56)
−42.2
(-44)
−38.9
(-38)
−11.4
(11.5)
−4.4
(24.1)
-1.1
(30)
−3.7
(25.3)
−15.6
(3.9)
−30.0
(-22)
−42.2
(-44)
−53.9
(-65)
−56.7
(-70.1)
Precipitation mm (inches) 21.6
(0.85)
14.2
(0.559)
15.3
(0.602)
18.1
(0.713)
40.2
(1.583)
66.4
(2.614)
63.4
(2.496)
45.4
(1.787)
39.2
(1.543)
23.5
(0.925)
21.7
(0.854)
17.4
(0.685)
386.3
(15.209)
Rainfall mm (inches) 0.8
(0.031)
0.5
(0.02)
1.1
(0.043)
10.1
(0.398)
37.3
(1.469)
66.4
(2.614)
63.4
(2.496)
45.4
(1.787)
38.0
(1.496)
13.3
(0.524)
3.7
(0.146)
0.7
(0.028)
280.7
(11.051)
Snowfall cm (inches) 22.7
(8.94)
15.7
(6.18)
16.6
(6.54)
8.8
(3.46)
2.9
(1.14)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
1.5
(0.59)
10.7
(4.21)
21.1
(8.31)
18.6
(7.32)
118.5
(46.65)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm) 10.6 8.3 8.2 6.9 10.2 11.7 13.6 11.1 10.3 9.6 11.4 9.9 121.7
Avg. rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 0.78 0.56 1.0 4.4 9.4 11.7 13.6 11.1 9.9 6.7 2.4 0.58 72.0
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm) 10.3 8.0 7.6 3.2 1.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.67 4.2 10.0 9.4 54.5
Source: Environment Canada

Contemporary issues

Urban planning

Peace River as seen from West Hill. The East Hill is to the left and Judah Hill to the right. Greene Valley Provincial Park is in the background.

The Town of Peace River is bounded by the M.D. of Peace No. 135 to the west and southwest, Northern Sunrise County to the east, the County of Northern Lights to the north and Birch Hills County further south at the confluence of the Peace and Smoky Rivers. In recognizing the need to plan for the growth of the Town of Peace River, the M.D. of Peace No. 135, Northern Sunrise County and the County of Northern Lights participated in the Peace River Inter-Municipal Development Plan (IDP) in July 1999. Through the adoption of the Peace River IDP, the four municipalities confirmed their commitment to cooperate and work together for the purpose of realizing the opportunities associated with the future growth of the Peace River area. The IDP addresses the future land use planning of the Peace River area, as well as other matters related to the physical, social and economic development of the region. The four municipalities are in the process of updating the IDP. In preparation for this, the municipalities also reviewed and updated their respective municipal development plans. While Northern Sunrise County established a serviced industrial area, the Sunrise Gateway Business Park on its own on the eastern boundary of the town, the M.D of Peace and County of Northern Lights included in their municipal development plans areas of joint development planning with the Town of Peace River on lands abutting the town to the north and to the west. The joint development planning was a partnership agreement to share the costs of servicing the lands and then jointly collecting taxes instead of the town annexing these lands. This was in response to the town’s growing need for commercial and industrial land, and also part of the its long term plan to have industrial establishments on the scenic banks of the Peace River cede the riverfront to future residential development while gradually relocating to industrial parks now to be located away from the river bank.

With a land area of 24.87 km2 (9.60 sq mi), the population density in the Town of Peace River averages 253.9/km2 (658/sq mi) compared to Grimshaw's 352.1/km2 (912/sq mi) and Manning's 436.1/km2 (1,129/sq mi). The lower population density of Town of Peace River relative to surrounding communities is attributable, in part to the rugged terrain in the river valley. The town’s 2010 Municipal Development Plan indicates that 14.50 km2 (5.60 sq mi) of the land base or 58.3% of the town’s total land area is developable and 8.36 km2 (3.23 sq mi) has actually been developed. The density based on developed land is 755.38/km2 (1,956.4/sq mi). The existing land base just meets the 30 year requirement of residential development based on the 2006 Peace River Growth study that projected the population growing to 28,200 citizens. If future residential development occurs at higher than current densities and in more land-efficient manner, the town’s existing residential land supply should last even longer. Citadel Park Area Structure Plan for example is on a 0.14 km2 (0.054 sq mi) parcel of land with a projection to accommodate 1600 persons, for a density of 11,510.80/km2 (29,812.8/sq mi). Due to the topographic constraints of the valley as well as the need to protect the natural areas and agricultural lands, the town is committed to optimize the existing developable land base as indicated in the 2010 Municipal Development Plan. Not only does higher density development lead to efficient use of available land and of existing infrastructure, but it also supports public transit.

Downtown revitalization

PR Foot Bridge
A foot bridge connecting the Riverfront District to South End.

In 2009, the town engaged Avi Friedman, an architect and professor at McGill School of Architecture on an ambitious downtown revitalization and tourism development master plan. It can be found at the town's website. The highlights of his design recommendations were:

  • Redevelopment of the Riverfront District to include a marina, an upgraded Riverfront Park with lights and paving as well as high density residential development.
  • Opening the south end of Main Street to the Heart River with a ramp up the earthen dyke and landscaping as well as the addition of an open air public art gallery to act as a counterpoint to the traffic circle on the north end of it.
  • Opening up the west end of 96 Avenue to the river with terraced ramps and landscaping. A commercial/light industrial entity currently occupies parcel of land at the west end of 96 Ave.
  • Creation of a heritage and welcoming park north of 100 Street between 94 Avenue and 96 Avenue adjacent to the Tourist Information Centre run by the Peace River & District Chamber of Commerce. Currently Linc Park occupies a small portion of these lands and is connected to Pat's Creek Trail and Friendship Trail.
  • Densification of Main Street and the downtown in general with a minimum of 3 storey buildings as well as aesthetic additions to Main Street like large-scale awnings and street furniture.
  • Upgrading the Twelve Foot Davis (baseball) Ball Park into a festival square equipped with better sitting and a stage. The baseball diamond currently hosts PeaceFest and Peace River Pow Wow. Peace River Aboriginal Inter-agency Committee made a formal request in June 2008 to erect a dance arbour for hosting traditional Aboriginal events.

Neighbourhoods

PR South End
An apartment building in the South End of Peace River with Grouard Hill serving as a backdrop..

The Town of Peace River has various distinct neighbourhoods separated by geographic features of the area. The Downtown core is the civic business, administrative, social services and cultural centre of the town. It is split vaguely into three districts - the Commercial District, a Mixed Commercial/Residential District, and a Riverfront District.

The Commercial District is centred on the intersection of Main Street (100 Street), which forms part of Highway 744, and 100 Avenue. It spans from a block on either side of Main Street and along 100 Avenue. The Commercial District consists mostly of government, professional and commercial offices, financial institution, restaurants, cafés, retail stores and hotels.

The Riverfront District borders the Peace River and River Road between 94 Avenue to the north and 102 Avenue to the south adjacent to the Heart River bridge. It is home to restaurants, an enclosed shopping mall, an arts performance hall, a mini-golf facility, hotels, a museum, a convention centre, apartments, parks, trails and a boat launch.

The Mixed Commercial/Residential District makes the rest of the Downtown and consists of a mixture of low density and high density housing, government offices, professional and commercial offices, recreational facilities, hotels, bars, retail stores and restaurants.

Outside of Downtown core, the South End is the oldest neighbourhood in the town. It is located immediately south of the Downtown core, across the Heart River bridge, and west of Judah Hill. It is developed in a long and somewhat linear form parallel to the Peace River. The South End consists of mostly older single detached homes, a relatively small number of duplexes and apartments and various seniors' residences including a large seniors' apartment lodge immediately across the Heart River bridge on 103 Avenue, which is managed by the North Peace Housing Foundation. The South End stretches a far as 118 Avenue block after which the bank slopes become too unstable and has resulted in slides in past.

The North End is located north of the Highway 2 and west of Kauffman Hill, and is also developed in a linear form parallel to the Peace River. The North End is actually two neighbourhoods: Springfield and Norglen, which are seamlessly connected. The town's schools and most of its recreational facilities are located in the North End. In addition to single detached housing, the North End consists of the majority of the town's high density housing. The North End has a boat launch. Bewley Island, a sizable Crown owned island on the Peace River is also located on the North End of town.

Peace River neighbourhoods
Peace River neighbourhoods: South End on the front left while Upper West Peace is at the foot of Misery mountain. Lower West Peace almost at river level.

West Peace lies southeast of the old Highway 2 alignment on the west shore of the Peace River. It includes two sub-neighbourhoods - Upper and Lower West Peace - that are divided by Shaftesbury Trail (Highway 684). Upper West Peace is on the west side of Highway 684 to the foot of the Misery Mountain Ski Hill. Lower West Peace is on the east side of Highway 684 and abuts Sisson Island, an 83 Acre privately owned island on the Peace River. Both Upper and Lower West Peace are predominantly developed with low density housing with some interspersed medium-density housing. Lower West Peace features a boat launch.

The Pines neighbourhood is located north of Upper and Lower West Peace, generally between the old and current Highway 2 alignments and more specifically across 100 Avenue from the Lions Camp Site. It was named for the numerous pine trees that grew in the area. The pine trees have since been chopped down after being ravaged by pine beetles. The Pines is single detached housing neighbourhood.

Rosedale is located to the south of Lower West Peace between Highway 684 and the Peace River. It consists of single detached housing with relatively larger lots on un-paved roads.

Shaftesbury Estates is further south of Rosedale separated by a short strip of undeveloped land and St. Germaine Creek along Highway 684 and abutting the Peace River. It is the town's most rapidly growing neighbourhood and consists of single detached housing.

Saddleback Ridge, or Saddleback, is atop the West Hill immediately behind Misery Mountain and south of Highway 2 behind an industrial area. Rolling Hills neighbourhood is often considered to be part of Saddleback, although it is separate neighbourhood of single detached housing with some duplexes and row housing. Saddleback consists mostly of single detached housing, and after a bylaw amendment allowed medium density housing and not high density residential.

Peace River Saddleback Ridge Estates
Saddleback Ridge neighbourhood at the foot of Misery Mountain

Westbrook Estates is approximately 1 kilometre south of Saddleback, west of 80 Street separated by a stretch of undeveloped wilderness with trails through which St. Germain Creek and one of its tributaries cut while flowing to the Peace River. It is flanked by Misery Mountain to the east and Brick Hill on the west side. It consists single detached housing on acreages and lacking in town sewer and potable piped water services.

West Hill Commercial District extends from 80 Street to 73 Street on either side of Highway 2. The District encompasses Freson Centre which is home to most of the big-box stores in Peace River, a veterinary clinic, hotels, coffee shops, fast food restaurants, car and holiday trailers dealerships and the Northern Lakes College Peace River Campus. The Peace River Community Health Centre is also located in the District, on 68 Street and south of Highway 2.

There are three trailer parks in the Town of Peace River: Cheviot Heights Trailer Park behind Freson Center on West Hill, Terrace Trailer Park adjacent to Bridgeview Industrial Park just across the bridge on the west side of the Peace River and Coolsprings Mobile Home Park at the foot of Kauffman Hill just outside the downtown.

Area structure plans containing new residential neighbourhoods were adopted in 2009 and 2010, including St. Germaine Creek on a recently annexed land northwest of the intersection of Highway 2 and Highway 743, and Citadel Park on land west of Highway 684 between the Pines and Upper West Peace. Future residential development is also planned in Westview on the lands adjacent to the Peace River Community Health Centre.

Demographics

Federal census
population history
Year Pop. ±%
1956 2,034 —    
1961 2,651 +30.3%
1966 4,087 +54.2%
1971 5,039 +23.3%
1976 4,840 −3.9%
1981 6,043 +24.9%
1986 6,355 +5.2%
1991 6,717 +5.7%
1996 6,536 −2.7%
2001 6,240 −4.5%
2006 6,315 +1.2%
2011 6,729 +6.6%
2011 6,842 +1.7%

In the 2016 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, the Town of Peace River recorded a population of 6,842 living in 2,601 of its 2,970 total private dwellings, a 1.7% change from its 2011 population of 6,729. With a land area of 26.26 km2 (10.14 sq mi), it had a population density of 260.5/km2 (675/sq mi) in 2016.

In the 2011 Census, Statistics Canada originally reported that the Town of Peace River had a population of 6,744 living in 2,591 of its 2,894 total dwellings, a 6.8% change from its 2006 population of 6,315. Statistics Canada subsequently amended the 2011 census results to a population of 6,729 living in 2,588 of its 2,891 total dwellings, a 6.6% change from 2006. With a land area of 25.92 km2 (10.01 sq mi), it had a population density of 259.6/km2 (672/sq mi) in 2011.

Peace River's population in 1921 was 980. According to the 2006 census, the median age was 32.2 years compared to Alberta's 36.0 years and Canada's 39.5 years. Also 7.4% of the population in Town of Peace River was under 5 years old according to the 2006 census. This is on the high side considering that in Alberta, it is 6.2% and 5.3% in Canada as a whole. The 2006 census also showed that 8.2% of population in the Town of Peace River were of retirement age of 65 and over compared with 10.7% in Alberta and 13.7% in Canada.

72.0% of the residents of the Town of Peace River identified themselves as Christians while 26.5% had no religious affiliation in the 2001 Census. Muslims and Sikhs made 0.4% while the remaining 0.7% was other religions outside the main ones listed. In the Christian population, 50.3% were Protestant while 44.4% were Catholic. Orthodox made up 1.2% of the Christians while smaller denominations made the rest.

Because of the traditional and historical significance of the area, and the proximity to various First Nation settlements communities, there is a strong Aboriginal cultural presence in the Town of Peace River. There is also a relatively higher Aboriginal population in the town at 14.2% compared with the province's 5.80% and 3.75% in the nation according to the 2006 Canadian Census. The Peace River Aboriginal Inter-agency Committee has been organizing the Peace River Pow Wow since the mid nineties. The Pow Wow is an event that celebrates the Aboriginal culture and traditional practices. Unlike most Pow Wows that are occur exclusively on First Nations territories, the Peace River Pow Wow is hosted at the Peace River Agricultural Fair Grounds in mid June.

In the 2006 Canadian Census, 6.50% of the residents of the Town of Peace River were native speakers of French only, higher than the 1.90% in the province and 3.95% in the Canadian population outside the province of Quebec. The town borders French Canadian communities to the south and the east. St. Isidore, a French Canadian community 15 kilometres to the east of the Town of Peace River hosts the St. Isidore Winter Carnival in mid February. The carnival is molded after the Quebec Winter Carnaval Festival.

Arts and culture

Festivals and events

Some annual festivals and events in the Peace River area include the following:

  • St. Isidore Carnival in February
  • Alberta Pond Hockey tournament in February
  • African Heritage Month events in February
  • Peace River Film Festival in March
  • Aboriginal Gathering & Pow Wow in June
  • Paddle the Peace on Father's Day
  • Peace River Heritage Run in June
  • Peace River Gold Cup jet boat racing in July
  • Peace Fest in July
  • Tri-River Triathlon in August
  • Annual Peace River Gay Pride

Libraries

As a member of The Regional Automated Consortium (TRAC), the Peace River Public Library provides patrons with access to over 2.9 million holdings throughout Alberta. In addition to books, videos, books on tape or CD, music CDs, several daily newspapers and reference material and information about Peace River, the Peace River Public Library carries some old environmental reports from area industries as well as a demonstration CANFLEX fuel bundle in the nuclear display from the time when Energy Alberta first proposed building a nuclear plant in the region.

Having grown out of space and aging, the Peace River Public Library is in the process of being upgraded and upsized. The preliminary design layout is located on the Town of Peace River's website. The new library building will include a cultural centre and an art gallery.

Alberta Law Society Libraries has a local library located at the Peace River Courthouse. There is also a toy library located at the Belle Centre.

Other libraries in the area include Nampa Municipal Library in Nampa, the Grimshaw Municipal Library in Grimshaw and Manning Municipal Library in Manning.

Film and theatre

There are two theatre companies in the area: the Peace Players based at Athabasca Hall in Peace River and the Lac Cardinal Regional Performing Arts Society who perform at Elk's Hall in nearby Grimshaw. The Peace Players has several productions every season from September to June, including a musical theatre, a children’s production theatre, an evening of One Acts and dinner & theatre. The Lac Cardinal Regional Performing Arts Society also runs adult productions as well a children’s production. The two companies work together sometimes in productions, especially the larger ones.

The Peace River Film Festival is in its second year and runs for two days in March at Athabasca Hall. Cinema 72 which is part of the Magic Lantern Theatres, national chain is a 2 auditorium theatre showing mostly commercial films. It is currently undergoing expansion to be become a 4 auditorium theatre with the intent of running independent films several times a year in one of the auditoriums. Cinema Politica has a local chapter in Peace River and offers free/by-donation documentaries twice a month at the Ground Level Youth Centre in Peace River with the aim of initiating discussions and the exchange of ideas surrounding social, environmental, economic and cultural issues.

Music and visual arts

Peace River is home to a growing number of musicians including No Limitz and Jeff McCann, both of whom have performed all over Alberta and Canada. No Limitz plays host to Peace Region Music Industry Conference & Songwriters Workshop held in Peace River at the Belle Centre in early May. Also No Limitz's Sherry Crawford and Dana Blayone have organized a free Summer Concert series at the Riverfront Park in Peace River every last Thursday of the month in summer to feature Peace Region Musicians. The endeavor aims to encourage the growth of music in the area and is sponsored by both the Town of Peace River and Northern Sunrise County. Peace Players also host a number of concert series involving performers from across North America.

Elementary and high school students in the area have the opportunity to discover their musical skills through the North Peace Performing Arts Festival which runs for almost two weeks in March. The festival is usually a step towards provincial and national competitions for students with the incentive to progress to higher levels. It is organized by the North Peace Performing Arts Festival Association whose goal is to assist young performers in their pursuit of excellence Students gain an appreciation and knowledge from formal adjudications and receive encouragement to continue their studies. Local photographer and voice lesson instructor Sharon Krushel also puts on a musical concert every August featuring her students, who are mostly elementary and high school students at the St. James Anglican Cathedral. Most of her students nurture their skills further in music school.

PeaceFest is the Peace River region's biggest concert having grown from a small “We’re Back ’97″ concert organized after the major flood in Peace River in spring of 1997. It occurs in July at the Twelve Foot Davis Ball Park, coinciding with the Peace River Gold Cup jet boat racing and a fair at the Riverfront Park that includes street performers and interactive rides. A free pancake breakfast is provided at the Peace Country Co-op store served by the Peace River area M.L.A. and the town mayor.

Peace River Art Club is a society made up of visual artists who are based in the Peace River area. Of the various businesses in town that display the works of Peace River Art Club members, none is frequented by more art lovers than Java Domain, a café in downtown Peace River. The Peace River Art Club also has exhibitions at the Athabasca Hall art gallery in both stand alone basis and in concert with events at the Riverfront Park, as well as in the Peace River Municipal Library Gallery and the Peace River Museum. The Artistry is a new art club in Peace River with more of a youth focus.

Nightlife

In addition to the various nightclubs and pubs located within the Town of Peace River, blues, folk and jazz concerts, organized by the underground Music Society occur on the last Saturday during the months of September, October, January, February, March, April and May. The underground Music Society, which is a not-for-profit organization was established over eighteen years ago, host most of their performances at the Senior Citizens Drop-in Centre and is run entirely by volunteers.

In order to stem a rising trend in bars and nightclub violence, the Town of Peace River introduced the Drinking Establishments Licensing Bylaw in late 2008. The bylaw included the establishment providing first aid to patrons, cleaning up of the vicinity surrounding establishments and providing adequate outdoor lighting to prevent fights.

Attractions

Museums

  • Peace River Museum, Archives & Mackenzie Centre: Located 99th Street and 103rd Avenue, the museum contains over 10,000 artifacts and contains a fur trade gallery, aboriginal artifacts and the Peace River Gallery which documents the history of settlement in Peace River. The wheelshaft from the famous steamer D.A Thomas is located on the grounds.
  • Lac Cardinal Pioneer Village Museum: Located near the entrance to Queen Elizabeth Provincial Park, this museum represents life in the 1920s and 1940s.
  • Mile 0 Antique Truck Museum: Located in Grimshaw, the Mile Zero Antique Truck Museum displays trucks used in northern cartage in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. The museum specializes in International Trucks, and has many that are fully restored to show room condition. The museum has been nominated for numerous awards.

Other museums in the area include Nampa Museum in Nampa, Musée Girouxville in Girouxville, Brownvale Agricultural Museum in Brownvale and Battle River Pioneer Museum in the Town of Manning.

Park and trails

12 foot davis ball park
The 12 Foot Davis Ball Park in the Town of Peace River.
  • Riverfront Park: Located south of Peace River's Downtown, Riverfront Park is equipped with picnic tables, a playground and a boat launch. A section of it designed with an amphitheatre-type topography facing a gazebo for hosting outdoor performances. The parks also features a giant wooden statue of Twelve Foot Davis. The lights hung on the trees at Riverfront Park are lighten up during Christmas period.
  • Peace River Lions Club Park : Located on the west side of the Peace River across the bridge immediately south of Highway 2, Lions Club Park is equipped with campsites, sewage dumping station and trails.
  • 12 Foot Davis Grave Site, Peace River Provincial Recreational Area and Dr. Greene Cairn Site: These sites are accessible from 100 Avenue and are located within the Greene Valley Provincial Park on Grouard Hill overlooking the Smoky, Peace, and Heart Rivers.
  • Normand Boucher Community Aboretum: Located on 70 Avenue block on 98 Avenue, the aboretum holds 140 trees and 42 shrubs, 60 of which are different tree and plant species from across Alberta, Canada and the world. The aboretum also features a gazebo.
  • Pat’s Creek hiking trail: This is a 3 kilometre wilderness interpretive trail above the Pat’s Creek just north of town starting at Highway 2/Highway 744 overpass between Kauffman Hill and George Hill and heading up to the Peace River Agricultural Society Grounds in Northern Sunrise County. It used to be the old Highway 2 route into town. Cross Country Skiing is also popular at this trail during the winter months.

Parks and recreational areas in close proximity to the Town of Peace River include Wilderness Park, Strong Creek Park, Tangent Park in the Peace River Wildland Provincial Park, Lac Cardinal Recreation Area, Queen Elizabeth Provincial Park, Figure Eight Lake Provincial Park and Leddy Lake Recreation Area. Other parks within 100 kilometers of the Town of Peace River include Haig Lake Recreation Area, Joker Lake, Winagami Lake Provincial Park, Sulphur Lake Provincial Recreation Area, Montagneuse Lake Recreation Area and Kimiwan Lake Birdwalk.

There is an extensive multi-use trail system for pedestrians and bicycles throughout the town including the dykes within the river valley that form part of the northern leg of the Trans Canada Trail. The trail runs from Calgary and heads north through Edmonton to the Peace River area through Grouard. Between Grimshaw and the Town of Peace River is the 29 kilometre Friendship Trail.

Recreation facilities

There are facilities and activities for all seasons of the year.

  • Athabasca Hall: Located on 98 Avenue in Peace River, the Athabasca Hall was built in 1938 and is a historical fixture. It features a 244-seat hall and an art gallery and a dance studio in the basement.
  • Golf World on The Peace: Located in south of Downtown adjacent to the mall, this is an 18 Hole wheelchair accessible mini-golf facility.
  • Baytex Energy Centre: Opened in 1978 as the Kinsmen Arena, the facility can hold up to 1,900 people with the ice. The arena is home to several minor, recreational and old-timer hockey leagues. It is located on 73 Avenue.
  • Peace Regional Pool: This pool opened in 1991. The pool has programs for learning to swim for various ages and it is on 98 Street.
  • Water Play Park: Peace River has an outdoor water park for kids located next door to the tennis courts and a playground. It is open during the summer months of July and August.
  • Misery Mountain skiing: Located on the West Hill of Peace River, Misery Mountain offers several runs for every level of skier. With large ski chalet, Misery Mountain offers individual or family equipment rentals of both skis and snowboards, ski pass rates, lessons and snow school.
  • Golf courses in the Peace River area include the 9-hole Creek Golf Course, the 9-hole Heart River Golf Course, the 18-hole Mighty Peace Golf Course, and the 9-hole Peace View Golf Course.

Hunting and fishing

Wildlife in the is Peace River region is very diverse and varied. Big game common in the area include moose, white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk, and attracts hunters from far and wide. There are dozens of outfitting companies in the area that cater to trophy hunters and back country adventure seekers. Migratory ducks and geese are hunted at nearby Lac Cardinal as well as surrounding grain fields. Black bears, coyotes and wolves are also hunted in the area as are grouse, and to small extent beavers and hares.

There is a wide variety of fishing opportunities in the region from the Peace River itself and its tributaries to the numerous lakes in the area, some of which are stocked and naturally aerated to prevent winter kill. The Peace River, especially at the confluence with the Smoky River in the Peace River Wildland Provincial Park has various fish species including Arctic Grayling, Bull Trout, Burbot, Lingcod, Northern Pike, Rainbow Trout and Walleye.

Tours and adventures

Shaftesbury Ferry
The Shaftesbury Ferry on the Peace River.
  • Peace Island Tours - tour of the river on a 32’ covered cabin cruiser departing from the Town of Peace River Riverfront Park on a 37-mile (60 km) journey downstream to Peace Island.
  • Northbase Outdoor Ranch – an array of outdoor events for all ages: kid’s camps, AEF certification courses, riding lessons in 5 different disciplines, day camps, horseback trail rides, as well as rental of canoe for the day or week to drift along the Peace River.
  • Peace Valley Guest Ranch: includes a pleasure cruise of the Peace River on a river boat and a horse trail ride.
  • Sandy Ridge Ranch & Stable
  • Shaftesbury Ferry: The public can ride across the river on a working ferry, which is accessed at approximately 25 kilometre south of the Town of Peace River along Highway 740 (Shaftesbury Trail). The ferry operates during daylight hours (7 a.m. to 11 p.m.) and there is no charge to cross the river on it.

Sports and recreation

The Peace River area has competitive sports in various disciplines including hockey, baseball, Tae Kwon Do, curling, soccer and boxing. Peace River Stampeders play in the North Peace Hockey League while Peace River Navigators play in Northwest Junior Hockey League. The Peace River Minor Hockey Association also provides hockey programs for the area's youth. The area has minor and senior leagues in baseball, fastball and slow pitch. There are numerous curling bonspiels held in the region during winter, including Oilmen’s Bonspiels, Truckers & Operators Bonspiels, Women’s Bonspiels, as well as a number of tournaments for a wide range of ages and skill levels. Combative sports of Tae Kwon Do and boxing are available on both competitive and recreation basis. North Peace Tae Kwon Do and Shamrock Boxing Club participate and host regional and provincial tournaments. The various golf courses in the Peace River area usually host numerous golf tournaments throughout summer and early fall.

Club League Sport Venue Established Championships
North Peace Navigators NWJHL Ice Hockey Baytex Energy Centre 2000 3

The higher profile competitive sports in area include the Alberta Pond Hockey Championships at Lac Cardinal for qualification to participate in World Pond Hockey Championships in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick and jet boat racing as part of the Whitewater Marathon Jetboat Racing circuit competing for Peace River Gold Cup. Alberta Triathlon Association sanctioned Tri-River Triathlon in Peace River is also competitive although recreational entrants participate too.

The Peace River’s schools have done well in provincial swimming, volleyball, basketball, badminton and track and field competitions. Recently high school football has emerged as the area of strength. Peace River High School's Peace River Pioneers football team made it to the 2009 and 2010 Alberta Schools' Athletic Association (ASAA) Provincial Finals game where they lost to Brooks Buffalos, and the Cardston Cougars. The team has won four Mighty Peace Football League (MPFL) Peace Bowls (in 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2010), and one MPFL Athabasca Bowl Championship. The team currently holds the league record for consecutive regular season wins at 26 (ongoing). In the team's nine-year existence they have had six undefeated regular seasons.

The area is also filled with recreational leagues for a wide range of skills and ages. Most games or matches are held in the evenings and weekends, and include sports such as tennis, soccer, squash, volleyball, softball, curling, basketball, and ice hockey. Most are local but except ice hockey, which is both local and regional.

The Peace Country Fish & Game Association (PCFGA) owns and manages a 500-metre rifle range, with backstops at 400 metre, 300 metre, 200 metre, 150 metre and 100 metre as well a shotgun range with 2 clay pigeon shooting launchers and a small arms/pistol range. The gun range has a clubhouse that was built during the 2004 Alberta Winter Games in Peace River. PCFGA hosts a variety of both competitive and recreational events throughout summer including International Defensive Pistol Association and Black Powder Cartridge Rifle Silhouette.

Summer recreational activities include boating, tubing, hiking, biking, roller blading, quading and photography. In the winter, tobogganing on the valley hills, snowmobiling, and both downhill and cross-country skiing are favourite activities at Misery Mountain, and nearby trails and parks. There is drop-in basketball at the Al Boomer Rec Centre in winter and at Peace High School in summer. At the end of the ski season, Misery Mountain plays host to Slush Cup. Here, skiers and boarders try to make their way across an icy quickly melting hill side pond.

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