Métis Crossing Smoky Lake is an amazing place to learn about indigenous culture. It is located in Alberta, about an hour and a half away from the capital city of Edmonton.
In this post, we will share our experience at the Métis Crossing Cultural complex, and hopefully, we can inspire you to pay a visit, and immerse yourself in this unique place!
Metis Crossing Smoky Lake Indigenous Tourism Alberta
As we progress through the post, we want to humbly share that our knowledge of indigenous cultures in Canada is very limited. We moved to Canada in 2009 and made every attempt to understand and appreciate cultures and communities that were unknown to us, back home in India.
Thankfully, our careers have exposed us to people of all backgrounds. And we have led teams where our team members were indigenous peoples, and we have been also groomed and trained by excellent leaders who were from the First Nations community.
Visiting these cultural centres just amplifies deep respect and understanding of indigenous people.
So now, let’s begin with a virtual tour of Metis Crossing, and some historical facts as we read/researched online!
What is the Metis Crossing, and who owns it?
Metis Crossing is a unique cultural centre in Alberta, that showcases the history of the Métis community. This complex is also one of the first major centre of its kind.
The Métis Crossing site is owned by the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA), with support from Canative Housing Corporation and the Belcourt Brosseau Foundation.
Who are the Métis?
The Métis are a group of Indigenous peoples, who are found in various Canadian provinces including Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories.
They have mixed Indigenous and European (primarily French) ancestry, which makes them very unique and distinct from other indigenous peoples in Canada. Historically, their existence traces back to the mid-18th century from the fur trade era.
Alberta is the only Canadian province with a recognized Métis Nation land base, and hence this cultural centre is a must-visit if you wish to learn more about the community!
Where is Metis Crossing located?
Metis Crossing is located in Smoky Lake County, in Alberta.
The exact address is 17339 Victoria Trail, Smoky Lake, AB T0A 3C0.
The best way to get to Metis Crossing is by car. The nearest airport is Edmonton International Airport, and from here it is just a 1.50 hour drive away (one way). You can also get there by bus, and it costs $40 CAD.
Entry tickets, and operating hours of Métis Crossing Smoky Lake
For adult individuals, it is $15 CAD per entry. You can pay for it online, or at the centre.
We recommend checking their official website for current ticket prices and operating hours. Here is their website.
There are ample parking spaces for your vehicle during your visit.
Things to do in Metis Crossing Alberta Indigeous Tourism
Métis Crossing is a beautifully designed educational complex. The entire place is so welcoming – it felt like home. You can learn about Métis history through self-guided tours or workshops!
The location of the complex by the North Saskatchewan River makes it an amazing immersive experience.
After parking your vehicle, you will make your way to the Metis Crossing entrance. What I loved about this is that there was tea with a welcoming note that you are home, and close to the land – and this makes it a perfect place to learn about their culture and history.
If you have not paid for tickets online, you can pay for them at this gate.
Once in, you can browse through informative displays that share the history of the Alberta Métis culture and community, and how things have progressed over the years.
There are photos, dates, and stories.
Educational events and workshops
The main complex is also where educational workshops are held. You can book conferences as well, by filling out a form online.
Group tours are organized and led by expert local guides, and they are great to learn about Metis heritage. They leave every 30 minutes with an interpreter who shares stories and takes you from one site to another.
Throughout the tour, you will visit different “sites” where volunteers and interpreters in period costumes narrate historical stories and experiences.
The Cultural Gathering Centre was designed by Métis Architect Tiffany Shaw-Collinge which oozes tranquility, with modern amenities in mind. The entire place is very airy and spacious to rest your mind, or go curious and ask questions!
You can contact them here for any inquiries regarding group tours and conferences booking.
Try bannock at the Cafe
Located at the main complex is a cute cafe that serves traditional food, and picnic baskets to enjoy while you are at the Metis Crossing.
Traditionally, the Métis were hunters, but they gathered wild berries and edible wild plants. When you are at the complex, try a bannock (as we did). A bannock is a type of bread – a combination of Scottish bread and Indian fry bread which is made in an oven.
You can eat it with jam or butter.
At the cafe, you can also order a warm or cold beverage, or grab a picnic basket (with berries, bannock, salad, and more).
There are ample places to eat at the cafe, or right outside – with nature views surrounding you!
There are washrooms located in the main hall for guests to use.
View of the North Saskatchewan River
Right outside the main complex is the uninterrupted view of the North Saskatchewan River, and a place for hosting events.
Take a moment to enjoy the lovely scenery and greenery around you!
The 512-acres of land with river lots, educational areas are also a great place to unwind and relax from the hustle-bustle of city life.
Red barn and history
Located near the riverside is a cute red barn, which is home to 2 levels of historical exhibits. Inside the barn, you can learn about the Big Five, the Battle of Seven Oaks, and see/feel remnants of the early years.
The Crossing is definitely engaging in this respect and invites you to understand the past through an exploration of Métis cultural experiences.
Outdoor exhibits and gardens
As you wander the cultural complex you will find outdoor exhibits like tipis, carts, gardens, etc.
1800 Homestead and other homes
Located at the site is also an 1800 homestead. This historical home is decorated with all things from that period, and costumed interpreters share stories and historical facts.
They are available to answer any questions that you may have. Take the time to browse through the exhibits, and ‘see’ how life was when railways were introduced, and how people lived, ate, and slept in those times.
Camping at the Metis Crossing
One of the coolest things to do at the Metis Crossing complex is to book a campsite overnight. They are one of the affordable sites in and around Edmonton Alberta.
Nestled by the North Saskatchewan River the campsites can be booked online. You can choose from tent sites (starts at $20 CAD), comfort camping (starts at $100 CAD), and also reserve RV sites (starts at $30 CAD).
The camping site is beautiful with the river, and tons of greenery and flowers surrounding you (also a great date night idea!).
Find out more about camping services at the Metis Crossing here
Lodging at the Metis Crossing
Not into camping, but planning to travel and stay overnight? You can also book accommodation at the Metis Crossing lodge. You can find more information and news about its opening here
Quick tips for traveling to Smoky Lake and Métis cultural interpretive complex
As we mentioned before, Smoky Lake makes for a great day trip from Edmonton. Along with learning about Métis settlers and exploring the site, you can also visit the little town of Smoky Lake.
When you visit the complex, ensure you pack the following,
- Carry your road trip essentials, from snacks, water, first aid box, masks, sanitizers, etc.
- Ensure you book campsites prior to your visit (and pack for overnight stay),
- Although you can buy tickets on the spot, we recommend booking early for busy weekends or when children are off school as the complex could be pre-booked (you can always call and ask)
- Do carry bug spray when visiting in the summer months
- Pack a lightweight jacket in the fall and summer months due to rain. It was raining when we visited, but we loved it anyway
- Wear comfortable walking or hiking shoes to tour the entire complex
- When hungry buy food, picnic lunches on-site, or try an ice cream and berry lemonade to cool off!
So that’s a wrap! We hope you found our overview of the Métis cultural interpretive centre useful, and are ready to visit.