Although the human history of the valley begins with the Ktunaxa peoples, whose migratory lifestyle brought them through this valley on a regular basis, the first permanent settlement in the Elk Valley did not occur until the start of the 20th century.
Most early Europeans came for the coal mines in Michel, Natal and Middletown, but a few made their way up into the remote area that is now Elkford, and stayed.
One such pioneer was Mathias Baher, who owned much of the land that was destined to become the Elkford townsite. Recognizing the value of a local workforce, the Fording Coal Company purchased 20ha/50ac of land from Baher in 1969, for the sum of $25,000, and proceeded to develop the site with sewer and water lines.
Elkford was incorporated in 1971, prompting the construction of more permanent dwellings and services such as a school, a shopping centre and recreational facilities. Community life flourished as volunteers stepped forward to champion such causes as the Wapiti Ski Hill, which was built with the financial assistance of Fording Coal.
During its short history, the community has had to deal with the impact of the boom and bust cycles of the coal industry. Good times have been followed by hard times on more than one occasion.
In the 21st century, the people of Elkford are looking to raise families here, although with a four days on/four days off shift schedule, many young single workers choose to commute from other towns. This lifestyle choice means that locally earned paycheques are being spent elsewhere – resulting in challenges for some of Elkford's retail businesses.
In the past few years, a number of Elkford homes have been purchased as vacation properties by out-of-province buyers. The wilderness is calling – across provincial boundaries!
Learn more about Elkford's mining history with a tour of the Greenhills and Fording River open pit coal mines. Tours can be organized at the Elkford Visitor Centre.