The Trail Blazers and the Cavalcades: Proving the Need for the David Thompson Highway

Creator(s): Rocky Mountain House Museum

The David Thompson Highway was named after the fur trader, surveyor and map maker. A Ford dealer named Ernie Ross and a group of Rocky Mountain businessmen, later known as the Trail Blazers, set out to prove to the Alberta Minister of Highways that their request to build a highway west of Rocky Mountain House on to the Banff-Jasper route was reasonable.

David Thompson, the great surveyor and map maker, was an inspiration to Ernie Ross and his Trail Blazers. He had left the Rocky Mountain House trading post in 1807 on his way to find a route to the Pacific Ocean for the NorthWest Company of fur traders. Traversing the territory west from the post by canoe and on horseback, David Thompson had succeeded in marking the quickest way for travel into what is now British Columbia.

A series of overland trips began in 1928, and the Trail Blazers went farther west on each successive trek, until they reached their goal on the Banff-Jasper highway in 1940 after pushing west for 10 days. It involved cutting down trees by hand, fording creeks, and winching vehicles up steep rocky slopes. The Trail Blazers succeeded, and they were committed to pushing the development of the envisioned David Thompson Highway.

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