Whisper of the Wild West

The honeymoon suite at the Rosedeer hotel has a private bath, but not a private bathroom. If you want to use the toilet, you have to go across the hall. It’s the price you pay to honeymoon in a ghost town.

Canada’s last wooden tipple

The honeymoon suite at the Rosedeer hotel has a private bath, but not a private bathroom. If you want to use the toilet, you have to go across the hall. It’s the price you pay to honeymoon in a ghost town.

Fortunately, the actual price you pay is only $65 a night.

The Rosedeer Hotel is located in a little place called Wayne, about 16 km and 11 single-lane bridges southeast of Drumheller. Wayne sprung up when the Red Deer Coal Co. built the Rose Deer Mine, in 1912. In its heyday, the town had a population of more than 2,000 people. There were two schools, a hospital, several stores, a hotel and a saloon that miners affectionately dubbed the “Bucket of Blood.”

Wayne was a typical Wild West town. Life was hard for the miners who lived there and many took liberties with the law, especially the prohibition laws that were in place in Alberta from 1915 to1923. To curtail illegal liquor sales, the Alberta Police eventually stationed an officer in the town, but it was difficult for one man to tame a wild place like Wayne.

The Great Depression hit Alberta’s coal mining industry hard and the first mine in the Drumheller area closed down in 1932. By the time the last mine in the area shut its doors in 1957, the population of Wayne had dwindled to fewer than 300 souls.

Today, the hamlet has only 27 permanent residents and the only evidence of the glory days is the Rosedeer Hotel and the aptly-named Last Chance Saloon, which are both still open.

When you walk in the saloon, you’re usually greeted by Fred or Alisa Dayman, who own and operate the hotel and saloon. The business has been in the Dayman family for decades.

The walls of the saloon are decorated with old black and white photos of miners, antiques, numerous knickknacks, and mounted hunting trophies. There isn’t a bare spot on the wall and even the roof is “decorated.”

There’s a badger wearing a New Year’s Eve party hat in the corner, a warthog over the door wearing a Canada flag tuque and a white tail deer that may be a member of the Conservative Party of Alberta judging by the fact that he has several Conservative campaign buttons and a picture of Ralph Klein pinned to his fur.

In the corner of the room is an antique bandbox that was removed from a bus depot in Calgary and still works. According to Fred, the bandbox is one of only two in all of Canada and for a small fee of $2, you can hear it play.

The saloon menu is pretty simple and consists of burgers, fries, a few salads and a couple of homemade desserts.

Draft beer is served in quart sealers that Fred’s mother used to use for canning dill pickles. The food isn’t all that special but the atmosphere is really unique. Sitting in the saloon of a real Wild West ghost town isn’t something you get to do every day.

Even though Wayne is not a huge tourist centre (it is officially listed on the website Ghostowns.com), you shouldn’t let that discourage you from paying a visit. A lazy autumn afternoon spent in the Last Chance Saloon is an experience that really shouldn’t be missed. It’s worth the drive just to sit in a bar with actual bullet holes in the wall in a ghost town that is said to have actual ghosts.

All it would take is one night in the honeymoon suite to find out if there is any truth to the rumours that the hotel is haunted — an easy task if you don’t mind sharing a bathroom.

If you go:

• The Rosedeer Hotel and Last Chance Saloon are located in the tiny hamlet of Wayne — about 16-km southeast of Drumheller.

• The hotel and saloon are open year-round. A typical meal costs about $8 and a quart of draft beer in a quart sealer will cost $7.75 unless you visit on Wednesdays when beer is on special for $5.75 per quart.

• Rooms at the hotel cost $55 per night for a standard room or $65 per night for the honeymoon suite. Camping is available for $15 per night and there is a picnic area onsite. You can make a reservation by phoning 403-823-9189.

• Children are only allowed inside the saloon on Sundays.

Atlas Coal Mine

If you want a real taste of what life was like for thousands of Alberta miners in the early to mid-1900s, consider a visit to Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site of Canada. Located near Drumheller by the community of East Coulee, the site is one of the most complete coal mining museums in Canada.

Between 1911 and 1979, 139 mines operated in the Drumheller Valley making the area one of the top coal producing regions in North America. Although some mines didn’t last long, the Atlas Coal Mine was one of the most successful operations in the valley finally ceasing operations in 1979.

Besides visiting the historical building at the site, you can ride a mine train, climb the last wooden tipple in Canada and don a hardhat and a light and go underground. It’s an experience that takes you back to another era in time.

If you go:

• Atlas Coal Mine is open daily from May 1 to Oct. 13. Fall hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• The T’n’T guided tour is the best way to see the site. Tour participants get to ride a mine train, explore the tipple, and don caps and lamps to go underground in the mine. Those who are claustrophobic or afraid of the dark may find the underground tour slightly challenging. This tour is not recommended for children under the age of six. The tour is offered throughout the day and costs $14 per person or $42 per family. The terrain is steep and it’s important to wear good walking shoes (no flip-flops allowed) and to bring a water bottle on the tour — especially on hot days.

• For more information on Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, visit atlascoalmine.ab.ca

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, T4R 1M9.

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