45 Minutes from Calgary…If you like history and hiking…this is it. The Colonel’s Cabin in Kananaskis is an amazing place. https://hermis.alberta.ca/ARHP/Details.aspx?DeptID=1&ObjectID=4665-0017In this gorgeous mountain park, the last thing you can imagine is an internment camp full of Nazi’s in Canada. In 1939 this former employment camp started stringing barb wire, built guards towers, (used to be 8), and started interning German Canadian sympathizers to the Nazi cause, known as the group; Deutsche Bund fur Kanata. they would get propaganda from Germany via The US, (who had not yet entered the war). This literature was used to gain support and sympathy for Nazi Germany from within Canada, it was rumored to have been authored by Josef Goebbels himself.
Later on at the camp, radical German Communists were added who had more disdain for the Nazi’s then their British guards. It made for a tense environment among the prisoners. During the course of WWII, life at this camp, (that grew to 700 prisoners at one point), had held many high ranking prisoners like spies for Herman Goering that were later traded for the release of two English Lords. In 1941 a group of young Nazi sailors captured in the Pacific Coast were sent here, among them were reported to be Gastapo.
During the war years the Fascist prisoners often started riots, purposely provoking their British guards…in hope someone would get shot and die, then with luck, word would get back to Hitler in Germany so he would know how much they supported him! Another case of history really is…stranger than fiction.
The interpretive hike here at the Barracks is easy and pretty…a little further along from the Barrier turn off of Hwy 40, turn east, (on the other side of the road from Barrier Lake), into the University of Calgary Research Park…huge green sign…hard to miss. Turn there and you will quickly see signs to the Colonel’s Cabin.
The original cabin for the Colonel and one guard tower is all that remains. There are interpretive signs and commemorative plaques honoring those who served, mostly the gorgeous Kananaskis Country is all around you.
The History Loop trail is light and relatively easy and you have the option to hook up to the Forestry Loop that is a fabulous hike to Barrier Lake and back. The trees seem to speak a story about the history of this place, a strange feeling…after all, just about every tree that was cut down to create the trails in the trees were likely cut down by a Nazi!