Head down any secondary highway in southern Alberta and chances are you'll run into a ghost town.

While the province is best known today for it's booming energy industry, there was a time when much of western Canada relied on Alberta coal, not crude.

Coal was abundant in eastern parts of the province, as well as in the Canadian Rockies near Banff, and several small towns were founded in the early 1900s to accommodate mine workers, ranchers, homesteaders, and their families who decided to live their lives around the mines.

Dozens of mines were built across the province. But as railroads replaced steam coal locomotives with diesel, many mines were forced to close due to declining profits. As well, the discovery of Alberta's rich oil supply during the 1940s changed the way western Canadians heated their homes, shifting the reliance away from coal.

As a result, towns who relied on Alberta's mining industry emptied out. Residents closed up shops, schools and hospitals, leaving just the buildings themselves behind. Trains were no longer needed to shuttle coal and passengers, and their services were suspended to many areas.

Check out some of the ghost town that dot the Alberta prairie and mountain regions, and a bit of the history behind them, in our gallery below.

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  • Anthracite, Alberta

    Anthracite was a coal mining community, northeast of the town of Banff, that was operational from 1886 to 1904. It was one of many towns that was built in response to the development of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Home to approximately 300 people — most workers from the United States — Anthracite consisted of one general store, one hardware store, one hotel, one pool hall, one restaurant and a barber shop. Heavy water inflow in the underground meant the mine had to be closed due to flooding. A plaque where the town used to stand is the sole reminder of a town that once existed. <a href="http://www.ghosttownpix.com/alberta/anthra.html" target="_blank">Source</a>.

  • Alexo, Alberta

    Alexo was built as a coal mining town, the Alexo mine operated from 1920 to 1955. Alexo was home to a hotel, a cookhouse, a bunkhouse, a store, and 30 cottages. A declining market for steam coal forced the mine's closure in 1995 and the town was dismantled. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexo,_Alberta" target="_blank">Source</a>.

  • Bankhead, Alberta

    A small coal mining town that existed near Banff in the early twentieth century, Bankhead came to be after the Anthracite mine closed down. Bankhead mine began supplying coal for the locomotives of the Canadian Pacific Railway, but closed after complaints of poor coal quality and constant labour strikes.

  • Bankhead, Alberta

    The town included school facilities, a hotel, pool hall, about 100 residential homes, a restaurant, stores, several saloons, a boarding house for single men and a church. In 1926, many of the town's buildings were moved to nearby Banff and Canmore, but remains of the town are still visible at the original site. <a href="http://www.ghosttownpix.com/alberta/bankhead.html" target="_blank">Source</a>.

  • Cadomin, Alberta

    Cadomin's name is an acronym for 'Canadian Dominion Mining', and the town thrived from the 1920s to the 1950s, with approximately 1,800 residents during its most prosperous times. The Cadomin Coal Company began operations in 1917, but closed in 1952 due to declining markets as the railroads replaced steam locomotives with diesel.

  • Cadomin, Alberta

    According to the 2011 Statistics Canada census, Cadomin had a population of 36 living in 22 of its 96 total dwellings. Its place along the foothills of the mountains makes it a popular spot for horseback riding, ATVing and dirt biking. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadomin,_Alberta" target="_blank">Source</a>.

  • Dorothy, Alberta

    The tiny town of Dorothy never grew beyond 100 residents, but was a popular cultural hub for the miners and families living in the Drumheller Valley in the early 20th century. It was home to three grain elevators, three stores, a butcher shop, pool room, telephone office, restaurant and a machine agency. A school served the community until 1960 and later a dance hall was built on as an addition. <a href="http://www.ghosttownpix.com/alberta/dorothy.html" target="_blank">Source</a>.

  • Dorothy, Alberta

    Dorothy is home to two former churches, a United Church that was in service between 1932 and 1961, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church[3] that was in service between 1944 and 1967. <a href="http://www.ghosttownpix.com/alberta/dorothy.html" target="_blank">Source</a>.

  • Luscar, Alberta

    The original underground mine at Luscar opened in 1921, and by 1922 the town consisted of approximately 30 homes, a small hospital housed in a cottage, a school, a general store and other small shops. The mine closed in 1056 and nothing of the town remains today. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luscar,_Alberta" target="_blank">Source</a>.

  • Maybutt, Alberta

    Maybutt can only be described as a planned town that failed to launch. Big plans were made for the town when the Canadian Pacific Railroad announced there would be a third line added to the town, running from Fort Macleod to Helena, Montana. However, plans never got past the planning stage, and despite the town's many amenities — it had livery stables, a Union Bank of Canada branch, a two-storey boarding house, two general stores, a dry business, a lumber yard, three grain elevators, a flour mill, a Presbyterian and late United Church — the town's population began to dwindle. The Dust Bowl era of the 1930s sealed the town's fate and most residents moved elsewhere, hoping to find greener pastures. Maybutt's population today is under 20 people. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maybutt,_Alberta" target="_blank">Source</a>.

  • Mercoal, Alberta

    Mercoal's name was an acronym for the McLeod River Hard Coal Company. The Mercoal mine finally closed on July 17, 1959. A few summer home exist where the town once stood. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercoal,_Alberta" target="_blank">Source</a>.

  • Mercoal, Alberta

    At its peak in the late 1940s and early 1950s, this town had over 800 residents.

  • Mountain Park, Alberta

    Production of steam coal for railroad use by the Mountain Park Coal Co. Ltd. began in 1912 or 1914 but a flood, rising debt and decline in coal markets forced the mine to close in 1950. At its height, the town was home to approximately 1,500 residents. Today, little remains of the community except a restored cemetery. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Park,_Alberta" target="_blank">Source</a>.

  • Nemiscam, Alberta

    During the community's prosperous years in the early 1960s Nemiscam had a community hall, four grain elevators, a school, and a service station. However, by the mid 1960s the population dwindled to just 17 people. In the 1990s, Nemiscam's grain elevators were demolished, leaving the community a ghost town with six abandoned buildings remaining. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemiscam,_Alberta" target="_blank">Source</a>.

  • Nordegg, Alberta

    A small camp was established at the future townsite in 1911, after the discovery of coal, and by 1942 the Nordegg mine was one of the top-producing coal mines in Alberta. As railroads replaced steam locomotives with diesel, coal markets declined and the Nordegg mine was closed in 1955, despite not being exhausted of its coal supply.

  • Nordegg, Alberta

    In 1993, Nordegg was declared a Provincial Historic Resource, and a National Historic Site of Canada in 2002. The original townsite remains open to the public.

  • Nordegg, Alberta

    In its heyday, Nordegg's maximum population was approximately 2,500. However, when the mine closed, most moved away. Today, only a few hundred people remain. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordegg,_Alberta" target="_blank">Source</a>.

  • Orion, Alberta

    In its prime, Orion was a community centered around plentiful crop yield and a strong farming community. Founded in 1916, two years later the town boasted a population of 150 and its main street featured three general stores, a hotel, bank, blacksmith, and cafe.

  • Orion, Alberta

    Drought and dust storms signaled the end for Orion, however, and to this day all that remains are abandoned shops and homes. <a href="http://www.ghosttownpix.com/alberta/orion.html" target="_blank">Source</a>.

  • Skiff, Alberta

    Another victim to advances in agricultural technology, the hamlet of Skiff remains mostly abandoned to this day. Once home to several grain elevators, only one remains, situated alongside the abandoned rail line, which features several old cars.

  • Skiff, Alberta

  • Skiff, Alberta

  • Check out other beautiful and spooky abandoned treasures across Canada.

  • Uranium City

    One of the more famous ghost towns in Saskatchewan is Uranium City. It was close to achieving city status and then collapsed upon the closure of the Eldorado Mine and the mass exodus of its population. Today, <a href="http://arts.nationalpost.com/2012/03/22/uranium-city-is-small-town-canada-taken-to-the-extreme/" target="_blank">roughly 70 people inhabit the town in order to keep it alive</a>. Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cityofstrangers/" target="_blank">cityofstrangers</a>

  • White Otter Castle

    White Otter Castle near Atikokan, Ont. is a three-storey castle by Jimmy McOuat. An eccentric hermit, he built the castle between 1903 and 1915 as a dowry for a woman he wanted to marry. In 1918, McOuat drowned while fishing and is buried next to the castle. The property remains abandoned.

  • Bayer’s Lake Mystery Walls

    Bayer’s Lake Mystery Walls in Halifax, Nova Scotia is a mystery that has stumped Nova Scotians for decades. Located near the province's capital, these fortified stonewalls are unknown in origin, abandoned by someone hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years ago. The most logical explanation that’s often used is that it could have been a military installation. Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/klandry/" target="_blank">darbycrashin </a>

  • Fort San

    Fort San, or the Fort Qu Appelle Sanitaruim, is a former sanitorium opened in 1917 to house tuberculosis patients. A self-sustaining village, it had its own power house, gardens, livestock and more. In the 1960’s, the building was used as the Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts then the HMCS Qu'Appelle Cadet Summer Training Centre. In the 90’s,it was re-purposed as the Echo Valley Conference Centre, which was closed down in <a href="http://www.finance.gov.sk.ca/annreport/SaskatchewanPropertyManagementAnnualReport0405.pdf" target="_blank">2004</a>. See more photos <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdPvulWYlVU" target="_blank">here</a>

  • Giant Mine

    Just north of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories was a large gold mine discovered in 1935 by Johnny Baker. It wasn’t until 1944 that the mine’s massive gold deposits were discovered. From 1948 to 2004, the mine produced over 220,000 kgs of gold. In 2005, <a href="http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100027388/1100100027390" target="_blank">Miramar Giant Mine Ltd., the group responsible for maintaining the mine</a>, ditched their duties and the Giant Mine officially became abandoned. Miramar Giant Mine Ltd Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/clinger/" target="_blank">Marke Clinger </a>

  • Val-Jalbert

    Val-Jalbert in Quebec, just 8km northwest of the town of Chambord, Que., was first built in 1901. Its location at the base of Ouiatchouan Falls allowed it to be a successful pulp mill for many years until it was suddenly closed in 1927 and the entire town was abandoned. All the remains are <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/73416633@N00/5825692739/sizes/z/in/photolist-9SNcug-9SSc77-9SPed4-9SNYC2-9SP98P-9SRGWh-9SRymC-9SPqwx-9SS6fC-9SNCdn-9SP336-9SRqSU-9SNTUp-9SRN9h-9SNVhD-9SShLb-9SNrcM-9SR5WL-9SNi78-9SNDGg-9SRctU-9SSuF9-9SS1Yq-9SSnqq-9SNx4R-9SPjdk-9SRkNu-9SRpz9-adf1KQ-9SPo8M-acUVhG-acUSJ9-acSkJX-dhJ7cN-e2Kb48-e2KcnH-e2Kb1H-e2QQ47-cA3E3u-dhJ62U-dhJ6zJ-dhJ76f-acS6r8-acUZqJ-acV6pS-acSgeZ-acV3oJ-acShbt-acV81E-acUXdS-acSaP6/" target="_blank">sixty well-preserved buildings.</a>

  • Ireland's Eye

    What was once a fishing village by Smith Sound, Trinity Bay in Newfoundland from the 1880's to the 1960's is now a ghost town. At its peak, the village's population was at 157. However by the mid 60's, the population fell to 16, all who later fled to nearby counties. There are rumours that the village proved to be a hiding ground for the drug caches of local gangsters during the 80's. For more photos, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR91dMvKmSs&feature=youtu.be&t=4m25s" target="_blank">click here</a>

  • The Canada Malting Complex

    The Canada Malting complex in Montreal, Quebec was built in the early 1900’s and thrived for many years, outputting 250,000 lbs of malt per year. In 1980s, the factory became too small and the site was abandoned. Due to vandalism and weather, the factory now sits in a major state of disrepair, though its silo remain part of the <a href="http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/qc/canallachine/index.aspx" target="_blank">Lachine Canal National Historic Site</a>. Watch the full video <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEWSyx_9_3k" target="_blank">here</a>

  • Aspotogan Hotel

    Construction of the <a href="http://www.aspotoganseaspa.com/Default.aspx" target="_blank">Aspotagan Sea Spa</a> began in 1993 but just a year later, the project ran out of money. Even though it’s been 20 years, no new business opportunities has come up and the space continues to sit half-built, abandoned and unused on the South Shore of Nova Scotia between St.Margaret’s Bay and Mahone Bay.

  • Riverview Hospital

    The Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, B.C. was first built as an asylum in 1913. Today its West Lawn site is completely abandoned making it so ideally creep that even "the X-Files" filmed an episode here. Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/shoes_on_wires/" target="_blank">Shoes on Wires</a>

  • Alma College

    Alma College in St. Thomas, Ont. was a private school for girls built in 1878. In 1988, the school closed but grounds were still used until 1994 to teach primary school and music. From 1996 and onwards, the college traded hands several times, was gutted, fell into disrepair, was featured in the horror movie, "Silent Hill" until it was consumed by very mysterious fire in 2008. Today all that remains is the front gate and the chapel. Flickr: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/goaskaliceithinkshewillknow/" target="_blank">go ask alice . . .</a>

  • Mirabel Montreal Airport

    Originally named Montreal International Airport when it opened in 1975, Mirabel Airport was the largest airport in the world -- just in time for the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. It was meant to replace current-day Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport however, due to its location, the airport’s use declined and its last commercial flight was in <a href="http://science.howstuffworks.com/engineering/structural/10-construction-projects5.htm" target="_blank">October 2004</a>. Today, the airport is used as a cargo airport and is a race car track. Click <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BsFQAAblL8" target="_blank">here</a> for more photos

  • Canol Heritage Trail

    Canol Heritage Trail in the Northwest Territories is a route that follows along an abandoned World War II pipeline. Stretching 358 km in the Mackenzie Mountains, the trail <a href="http://www.iti.gov.nt.ca/tourismparks/parks/parks/canol_trail_park.shtml" target="_blank">one of the most challenging hikes</a> in North America. On the route, there are relics from wartime construction which make for one-of-a-kind photo ops.

  • Halifax County Rehabilitation Centre

    Halifax County Rehabilitation Centre operated as a municipal and provincial facility from 1941 to 2002. Located in Cole Harbour, it was abandoned for many years, <a href="http://www.uer.ca/locations/show.asp?locid=25848" target="_blank">used as a film set for the show "Trailer Park Boys"</a>and eventually scheduled for demolition. In 2010, <a href="http://metronews.ca/news/halifax/59587/fire-guts-old-rehab-centre/" target="_blank">the centre caught fire</a>, leaving it even more of a shell of its former building. At the end of 2011, the centre was again set for demolition but was set back again due to contaminants. Photo Credit:<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/matturalistic/" target="_blank"> Matturalistic! </a>

  • The Town Of Kitsault

    Kitsault, B.C. has sat empty for nearly 30 years. Built in the 1970’s with the promise of being a thriving mining hub for minerals, it sat closer to the Alaskan border than any town. The town itself included 94 homes, 200 apartments, a hospital, mall, community centre and even a curling rink. Pictured here is the inside of one of the town's grocery stores. When stock prices for molybdenum (a metal used in the construction of steel) fell, the entire community evacuated, making it a ghost town. But this ghost town might have a second chance: in 2004 an entrepreneur bought the town for $5 million in cash. CBC reports that<a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-ghost-town-could-become-major-natural-gas-hub-1.1391052" target="_blank"> the town could be re-purposed as a hub for British Columbia's growing liquid natural gas infrastructure</a>. Click here to see <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVv8RoY_f14" target="_blank">more video and photos </a>

  • Up Next: Abandoned America

  • Abandoned America

    (PICTURED:Undisclosed prison) - These are the hauntingly eerie photos that capture a snapshot of history by documenting abandoned America and the decline of a superpower. Taken by Matthew Christopher, who lives in Philadelphia, the collection of photos show a variety of empty buildings in various states of decay. Some buildings appear untouched, with all of its furnishings absolute pristine, while others depict how nature has reclaimed the buildings and turned them into ruins.

  • Abandoned America

    (PICTURED: Cafeteria at undisclosed prison) - These are the hauntingly eerie photos that capture a snapshot of history by documenting abandoned America and the decline of a superpower. Taken by Matthew Christopher, who lives in Philadelphia, the collection of photos show a variety of empty buildings in various states of decay. Some buildings appear untouched, with all of its furnishings absolute pristine, while others depict how nature has reclaimed the buildings and turned them into ruins.

  • Abandoned America

    (PICTURED:Packard Motor car company) - These are the hauntingly eerie photos that capture a snapshot of history by documenting abandoned America and the decline of a superpower. Taken by Matthew Christopher, who lives in Philadelphia, the collection of photos show a variety of empty buildings in various states of decay. Some buildings appear untouched, with all of its furnishings absolute pristine, while others depict how nature has reclaimed the buildings and turned them into ruins.

  • Abandoned America

    (PICTURED:Cell blocks at undisclosed prison) - These are the hauntingly eerie photos that capture a snapshot of history by documenting abandoned America and the decline of a superpower. Taken by Matthew Christopher, who lives in Philadelphia, the collection of photos show a variety of empty buildings in various states of decay. Some buildings appear untouched, with all of its furnishings absolute pristine, while others depict how nature has reclaimed the buildings and turned them into ruins.

  • Abandoned America

    (PICTURED:Undisclosed retirement home) - These are the hauntingly eerie photos that capture a snapshot of history by documenting abandoned America and the decline of a superpower. Taken by Matthew Christopher, who lives in Philadelphia, the collection of photos show a variety of empty buildings in various states of decay. Some buildings appear untouched, with all of its furnishings absolute pristine, while others depict how nature has reclaimed the buildings and turned them into ruins.

  • Abandoned America

    (PICTURED:Undisclosed theatre) - These are the hauntingly eerie photos that capture a snapshot of history by documenting abandoned America and the decline of a superpower. Taken by Matthew Christopher, who lives in Philadelphia, the collection of photos show a variety of empty buildings in various states of decay. Some buildings appear untouched, with all of its furnishings absolute pristine, while others depict how nature has reclaimed the buildings and turned them into ruins.

  • Abandoned America

    (PICTURED:Abandoned hotel) - These are the hauntingly eerie photos that capture a snapshot of history by documenting abandoned America and the decline of a superpower. Taken by Matthew Christopher, who lives in Philadelphia, the collection of photos show a variety of empty buildings in various states of decay. Some buildings appear untouched, with all of its furnishings absolute pristine, while others depict how nature has reclaimed the buildings and turned them into ruins.

  • Abandoned America

    (PICTURED:Trolley graveyard) - These are the hauntingly eerie photos that capture a snapshot of history by documenting abandoned America and the decline of a superpower. Taken by Matthew Christopher, who lives in Philadelphia, the collection of photos show a variety of empty buildings in various states of decay. Some buildings appear untouched, with all of its furnishings absolute pristine, while others depict how nature has reclaimed the buildings and turned them into ruins.

  • Abandoned America

    (PICTURED:Undisclosed church) - These are the hauntingly eerie photos that capture a snapshot of history by documenting abandoned America and the decline of a superpower. Taken by Matthew Christopher, who lives in Philadelphia, the collection of photos show a variety of empty buildings in various states of decay. Some buildings appear untouched, with all of its furnishings absolute pristine, while others depict how nature has reclaimed the buildings and turned them into ruins.

  • Abandoned America

    (PICTURED:Cell blocks, Old Essex county jail, Newark, New Jersey) - These are the hauntingly eerie photos that capture a snapshot of history by documenting abandoned America and the decline of a superpower. Taken by Matthew Christopher, who lives in Philadelphia, the collection of photos show a variety of empty buildings in various states of decay. Some buildings appear untouched, with all of its furnishings absolute pristine, while others depict how nature has reclaimed the buildings and turned them into ruins.

  • Up Next: Abandoned Buildings From Around The World

  • The Last House On Holland Island (Maryland, United States)

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/baldeaglebluff/4640582389/lightbox/" target="_blank">Credit</a>

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