Ponoka sits in the beautiful Battle River valley, 100 kilometres south of Edmonton on Highway 2, and is home to almost 8,000 residents. David Thompson, the famous explorer, crossed the Battle River near Ponoka in 1800. The fur trade in the area was run by the Hudson’s Bay Company. During the Riel Rebellion of 1885, the RCMP fortified the Company store as a precaution. Traffic between the growing towns of Calgary and Edmonton around 1880 created the Calgary – Edmonton Trail leading through Ponoka. It was a five day journey in those days. In 1891, the railway arrived, adding grain elevators to make Ponoka an agricultural service center for the area (today, sadly, the grain elevators are all gone).
Ponoka is home to the second largest Alberta rodeo after the Calgary Stampede
Annual events include the Ponoka Stampede (end June).
Fort Ostell Museum
54 Ave at 54 St (beside Centennial Park just off Highway 2A)
This heritage museum includes artifacts ranging from the pioneer days through to World War II. The museum is open from May to September 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekend. Free admission.
The Alberta Hospital
46th St S, Ponoka, AB T4J 1R8
Alberta’s first and on of the largest sanitariums is on the southern edge of town. On of Al Capone’s henchman was reportedly held for treatment here. The institution has grown into an advanced psychiatric care facility and visitors may stroll through the beautifully landscaped grounds. Vistors can trace the institution’s expansion from the original hospital building, now a historic site.
Ponoka’s downtown exhibits a wide range of styles, from quaint false-fronted buildings to more recent storefronts of the fifties and sixties. Ponoka is currently revitalizing and preserving its historic downtown under the Alberta Main Street Program.