East Coulee

Why You Should Visit The East Coulee School museum

a top drumheller attraction
The museum makes preserving Alberta’s heritage fun. It is a top Drumheller attraction.
East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction
The fence just outside the museum

This week’s post is about the Museum itself. Last week’s post was about an event that I attended there. The East Coulee Museum is a top attraction in Drumheller, and should be on your list of things to do.

I really hate to start things off all doom and gloom, and I also loathe to mention the Covid-19 pandemic, but I feel I have to. Considering the focus of this post is the East Coulee School Museum (E.C.S.M.), it’s tangential to talk about something else, so I will try and keep it brief.

A Community Worth Supporting

It’s rather hard to focus on travel considering almost the entire world is on lockdown, and even if our governments make a stupid decision to reopen borders and air travel soon, I can’t in good conscience recommend it ATM. I’m writing this post today in the hopes that when things “do” get under control you will have a place to go. Also, last week’s post mentioned that this is part 2, and I made that decision in a time of uncertainty. What is certain is that the E.C.S.M. is struggling, and I imagine it will for the foreseeable future. I know it’s hard to think about a place like this when the world seems like it’s falling apart but we will endure, and we are going to still need places like this when this pandemic is over.

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction
It looks small now, but it was huge for its time.

If you don’t have any spare money, I totally understand, especially with so many out of work, but it if you do: consider donating. If you can only give a small amount: give to the Red Cross or some other immediate worthy cause, however, if you have spare funds, the E.C.S.M. could use the help. Right now the museum is shut down as with all other non-essential services, but it will reopen (hopefully…..); so if you can’t donate, at least visit the place when it does reopen, buy some souvenirs, eat lunch there or even consider paying a bit more than the price of admission to help preserve some of Alberta’s heritage.

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction

About the Community of East Coulee

It has a bit of a convoluted history. Let me explain: it was a Hamlet, and the locals still consider it a separate municipality; however, because it has no infrastructure of it’s own (anymore), Drumheller incorporated it in order to keep the roads maintained in 1998 to provide essential services like fire and police. That is why there is a large unpopulated area between the main part of Drumheller and East Coulee. I suppose you could consider old E.C. a new suburb of the former city of Drumheller because the population of it all isn’t big enough to be considered a city (anymore)? Wowsers!

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction
Is it not pretty, even if it is mostly deserted?

Anyhow, E.C. used to be a thriving coal town of nearly 4000 people at its peak, but now has around 150. The coal culture is evidenced by Canada’s only still standing wooden coal tipple. It’s an amazing sight BTW, and I talk about it in my post about what to do after visiting The Royal Tyrrell Museum HERE. Not only does a community of 150 have Atlas Coal Mine in their backyard, they also have the Hoodoos, which I also talk about in the aforementioned post, and they have the E.C.S.M. What more could you ask for?

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction

A Brief History of E.C.S.M.

Opening in1930, the school was unique with a huge 4 rooms! I know, I know, it doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but in 1930 it was. Then it was the one of the largest schools in Alberta. In those times, one room schools were the norm, so to have each grade have its own teacher was revolutionary (at least in the Americas). It then only took 4 years to double in size and capacity, reaching the size you see it today.

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction

The school’s skyrocketing success was short lived, and as fast as it grew, it fell almost as quickly. By the 50’s, coal was out of favour, which was bad since the entire economy was coal based (hmmmm… sound familiar with today’s oil?). As the jobs dwindled, so did the population, and by the 70’s the school closed. It wasn’t until the 80’s when revitalization efforts revived the school and re-opened it as a museum in 1985.

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction

The Community Hall

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction
Disclaimer: The brunches are “not” at the same place every weekend. If you are nice enough to a local they might just tell you when and where they are.

If you have designated weekend to visit the area, and you really want to have a sense of community, I highly recommend going to a brunch. It costs only 10 bucks and you get an amazing all you can eat breakfast with communal tables, so you can strike up a conversation with someone if you aren’t too shy. Everyone in town practically knows everyone else (almost). Even an introvert like me can talk to someone and strike up an interesting conversation. The best part about it is that you are supporting the community, so it’s win win.

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction
Disclaimer: The brunches are “not” at the same place every weekend. If you are nice enough to a local they might just tell you when and where they are.
East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction
Fancy Shmancy? No
Good? Oh yeah!

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction

How to get There

The (former) hamlet of East Coulee is located approx. 20 minutes from the town of Drumheller, 1 hour and 40 minutes from Calgary, and a little over 3 hours from Edmonton. As I have stated before, I know you all can use Google, I just want to give a quick visual reference. In the screen captures below, it shows times, but those vary by traffic, how slow or fast you drive, if you need gas, etc.

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction
This is a screen capture not an embedded map
East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction
This is a screen capture not an embedded map
East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction
This is a screen capture not an embedded map

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction

I also stated before, but I will say it again: you can only get to Drumheller by car at the time of writing this. There are no buses, and Uber is prohibitively expensive. If you are flying from out of province to Calgary or Edmonton, you will need to rent a car. No matter which rental company you choose, make sure you take precautions, taking pictures of the vehicle and any flaws, and reading the fine print. The affiliate links I provide make it easier to find a rental company and to book in advance, but neither I nor the apps can guarantee the actions of the car hire companies. Make sure you research before you book, sometimes cheapest isn’t always best. Stay safe.

The following links are affiliate links.

60% off Netflix Premium Discount for 4 Monthes, $25.99!
They know you can’t rent a car ATM so EasyRentCars are giving you a discount on Netflix instead!

Or once things reopen you can rent a car too

The links above are affiliate links

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction

Where to Stay

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction
The Heartwood Inn and Spa
East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction
It wouldn’t be Drumheller without an adorkable dinosaur decoration!

This is not an affiliate link, nor a paid promotion. I was provided the room by the Museum for my volunteer work, so I recommend this place of my own free will. Why? Because the host of the hotel also volunteered at the Gala, provided discounts to the museum, and because it really is a great place to stay. The owner is a gracious host, and since the hotel wasn’t fully booked I got an upgrade. I give credit where credit is due. I didn’t use my “influence” (if I even have any), I paid by volunteering for the Highland Gala. Here is a link for the hotel. Just be aware there are friendly pets on site (if you have allergies)

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction
I used my phones panoramic setting so there is a lot of warping, but the room is nice right?
East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction
This is the “cottage” room

The Gala was long and my feet and legs were sore, so I took full advantage of the spa hot tub in the room and had a 3AM jetted bath! The rooms are beautiful inside, and I toured all of them, since she wasn’t booked. I can say without hesitation I wouldn’t mind staying in any of them.

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction

A Virtual Tour

More of a highlight reel than a virtual tour, but a tour nonetheless. I couldn’t photograph every inch of the museum. I was getting a free tour of the building from the director herself, when the place is closed for the winter, so I wasn’t going to waste her time. Besides, if I did, you wouldn’t need to go yourself, so I have to leave some of it to the imagination.

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction
The front entrance with some antiques and historical artifacts. It is a “museum” after all, it’s not called the East Coulee Abandoned School.

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction

Conclusion

I really hope you found what I had to say useful and interesting. As stated before, I hope you are able to visit once this whole Covid-19 BS is under control. Let us all hope both the museum and the hotel can survive this mess as well. I haven’t heard from the director, but last time we spoke she said that she’s very worried about the museum if the Spring Fling doesn’t go ahead.

I quote: “If we cannot have it, the museum will suffer terribly financially, but we have to make a decision that is best for the public”. (Barbara Steeves, Director of the Museum)

Speaking with the owner of the Heartwood Inn when I stayed there. She was telling me the SpringFest is really good for the local economy, and that winter is especially rough because the lack of tourists; I really hope the Heartwood survives as well.

Please Support Local Business

When all of this isolation is over, please visit Drumheller and the other places I have recommended. It would be a real shame if we lose these things. Major corporations will survive the downturn, it’s the little guys that need help. Please, please help support local businesses. Walmart, Superstore, Safeway etc. and others like it do not need help. They are making massive profits, especially with people panic buying crap they don’t even need. I am not blaming those corporations, all I’m saying is that they don’t need as much help as smaller local businesses.

Once people are no longer terrified to leave their homes, I am confident our communities will help each other. Our next door neighbors will lend a helping hand, just as long as we don’t forget about them!

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction

A Travel Blog During a Global Pandemic?

As for me, I might have to change tactics. After all what can a travel blogger do if he can’t travel? I’m strategizing right now, but I am thinking about doing more cooking videos on regional dishes. For instance, I had a road trip planned to San Francisco, and I was going to go to different places and recreate iconic dishes. One of my ideas was to find classic Ricearoni, but the original dish, not Pepsico’s take on it. Yes it was a real thing before a corporation took it over.

I’m open to any suggestions. You let me know what you want me to make. I will see if I can recreate it. Sort of traveling the world from home via cuisine, since we are all staying home for the foreseeable future. Hopefully I can actually get the ingredients I need…I will worry about the logistics, you just tell me what you want in the comments.

East Coulee School Museum: a top Drumheller attraction

Tagged , , , , , ,

Any comments are greatly appreciated.