Ever wonder what life in Southern Alberta was like in the late 1800s and early 1900s? These were the golden years of coal mining in the region, where hopes, dreams, and exploration dominated the landscape.
The now-ghost town of Lille is a shining example of the ambitions and hardships endured during Alberta’s early mining history. Some of the mining infrastructure in Lille has survived from the early 1900s, making it a fascinating destination for visitors today. But it’s not just the mining relics that make Lille worth a visit—it’s the stories and dreams of the people that once lived there.
If you’re looking to get a little deeper into Lille’s tale, our Lille Historical Tour takes you on an informative and immersive walk as we explore this once-booming coal mining community that is now a monument to the past. Our certified interpreters and knowledgeable guides share stories of the people who lived and worked in Lille and the mining industry that built the town.
You’ll see old mining infrastructure, learn why this thriving town was abandoned, and get to explore the outdoors at its best.
How did Lille become a town?
Jules Justin Fleutot and Charles Remy are the stars of Lille’s story. These two personalities were instrumental in building the thriving community that Lille became. It was the summer of 1898, and these two were on the search for riches and prosperity. In an eventful tale of trial and error, the pair found treasures in the form of coal and, with it, a spark that ignited the hopes and dreams of what would soon become the Town of Lille.
At its peak in the early 1900s, Lille was a lively company-built mining community with a population of around 400 people. It had bustling stores, saloons and hotels, a hospital and school, a butcher’s shop, and was steadily growing in both profit and population thanks to the West Canadian Collieries mining operation.
That came to a crashing halt in 1912. Why? What happened? Lille seemed to have everything going for it, so how did this thriving community go from boom town to ghost town in just a few years?
The Lille Historical Tour has all the answers—join us as we journey back in time to explore the history of Lille, Alta. As you hike to the ruins of the once-thriving coal mining town, our guides share real stories about the real people instrumental to Lille’s development and recreate historical pictures to give you a glimpse into what it looked like back in the heyday.
What can I see and do in the Lille ghost town?
While most of the Lille townsite is gone, there is some fascinating mining infrastructure that remains, including an impressive row of coke ovens imported from Belgium, several mine entrances, the entrance to what served as the old stone powerhouse, and a cemetery where some community members were buried.
Our guides will bring the story of Lille to life around you as we paint a picture of its commercial district when 400 people lived there and it was in its prime. We’ll also explore the not-so-vibrant realities of Lille as we tell you about the dangers of mining, the harsh life of a miner, and the chokehold corporate paternalism had on the town of Lille and its residents.
Along the way, our guides have planned fun activities to immerse you into the story, and even create some mementos you can take away with you.
Where is Lille, Alberta?
Lille is located about six kilometres northeast of Blairmore, Alta. (and about 250 kilometres south of Calgary and 140 kilometres west of Lethbridge, Alta.). The road to the trailhead is just off Highway 3.
If you’re looking for things to do in Southern Alberta, a chance to see the ghost town of Lille is an off-the-beaten path experience that many people don’t even know exists—so if you want to explore something new (and get some exercise), join us for this exciting adventure!
Read more about the Lille Historical Tour and when the next tour is.