Ghost Towns of Canada: Rowley, Alberta

The abandoned railway station in Rowley, Alberta.
The abandoned railway station in Rowley, Alberta.

Where is Rowley, Alberta?

Rowley is a ghost town in Alberta, Canada. It is found within Starland County, north of Drumheller.

The History of Rowley

In the 1920s, Rowley boasted a population of 500 people. However, in the mid-1970s, the population started dwindling at an alarming rate. Consequently, the locals decided to revive the town. They started by reviving the activity at an old saloon and naming it “Sam’s Saloon.” The name was borrowed from a respected member of the Rowley community. For the next 25 years following, old homes and businesses were restored. A train town, the trains transported people as well as mail which was delivered to Rowley inhabitants. The first postmaster in the town was George Swallow. Within no time, Rowley became a tourist destination which attracted visitors from Canada and the United States. The peak of Rowley’s fame came in 1988 when the town was used as a background to produce the hit Canadian movie called “Bye Bye Blues.” Other movies that have been shot at Rowley include “Legends of the Fall” and “The Magic of Ordinary Days.” When Rowley was booming there were schools, three stores, a church, hospital, and a community hall. There was a municipal district office which was used by farmers and ranchers for business.

How Did Rowley Become a Ghost Town?

Every week, Rowley would receive about 900 tourists who came to the town by train. The train station was also used to load grain and receive supplies. It would service Rowley from Stettler which was located north of the town. However, in 1999, the train services ended officially, two years after the last train had been seen passing through the town. This greatly hurt the town’s economic growth and development because Rowley depended on it.

The Current State of Rowley

There are currently only eight residents in the town of Rowley. These residents act as guides to visitors who tour the town. The major tourist attractions in the town are the monuments of Rowley’s heritage and identity. The old community hall of the town still exists. Tours of the town are available.


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