Chapter 7. Historic Hamlet on the Elbow
On a crisp January morning we are headed west toward Bragg Creek and beyond to West Bragg, anticipating a vigorous outing on the snowy crosscountry trails. Recreational opportunities for Bragg Creek residents and visitors alike abound here. Cross-country ski trails are everywhere, many voluntarily groomed and maintained by the local Trails Association in the West Bragg area. Golfing, canoeing and kayaking, hiking, snowmobiling, picnicking in nearby Bragg Creek Provincial Park, fishing, tennis, cycling, and so on — all available on their doorstep. The hamlet lies on the Cowboy Trail, a winding drive through the rolling Alberta foothills on Highway 22, featuring unparalleled vistas and many options for recreation related to the area’s rich ranching history. And this scenic part of the watershed has been the setting for numerous television shows and movies: North of 60, Wild America, Storm, and of course, farther up in the watershed, Brokeback Mountain. It is a special place, and is still infused with pioneer spirit.
Bragg Creek, an unincorporated hamlet administered by Rocky View County, has a history that belies its size. Pioneer settlers first came to this area over a century ago in 1894, as Calgary was maturing into a city. Two enterprising teenaged boys, Albert Warren Bragg and his brother John (Jack), arrived from Nova Scotia, having run away from their new stepmother to seek adventure in Canada’s West. The Elbow River watershed, its grassy meadows often cleared of trees by wildfires, seemed an attractive setting for ranching. They applied for a homestead near a small stream in this West Bragg area, and briefly set up housekeeping in what would be the centre of settlement for the next 20 years. When the Dominion of Canada surveyor, A.O. Wheeler, came through the area that same year, he noted their homestead and gave the unpretentious little creek running down from Moose Mountain into the Elbow the name of Bragg Creek to recognize these early settlers. The young Bragg boys, however, found ranching more challenging than anticipated.