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Visiting Carway, Alberta: A 'Vanishing' Hamlet With Fine Views of the Rockies and A Gateway to Montana

Updated on April 25, 2019
Provincial flag of Alberta
Provincial flag of Alberta | Source
The Canadian border station at Carway, Alberta, as seen in 1959.
The Canadian border station at Carway, Alberta, as seen in 1959. | Source
US/Canada border: Montana/Alberta. 1/4 mile west of boundary monument 290 and thus 3/4 mile west of Highway US 89 / ALTA 2 Cardston (Carway) Alberta crossing.
US/Canada border: Montana/Alberta. 1/4 mile west of boundary monument 290 and thus 3/4 mile west of Highway US 89 / ALTA 2 Cardston (Carway) Alberta crossing. | Source

A name without a place?

The name of the Cardston County, Alberta hamlet of Carway, on Alberta Highway 2, has an interesting history. A Canadian customs station was opened at a crossing into the neighbouring State of Montana in 1925.

The first officer in charge of the Canadian customs station, William Roberts, started to call the location of his station 'Carway'. This is the reason he gave:

"Originally the road (trail) from Babb, Montana, to Cardston, was called 'Cardston Highway'. I took the 'car' from 'Cardston' and the 'way' from 'highway' and coined the name 'Carway' " (1).

The name 'Carway' stuck.

The hamlet of Carway thus almost began as a name without a discernible place. A small settlement arose on the Albertan side of the border station; and a school functioned here for a while, but it has now disappeared.

Even today, the most significant building in Carway is the Canada Border Services station. If you wish for border services — particularly when arriving in Canada — you will go to this building. (I have supplied a photo of a newly opened border station building dating from 1959.)

I also visited a gift store in Carway. (I will not tell you if I bought anything.)

While some travellers therefore might insist that there is nothing there, at Carway, maybe it would be better to say that Carway spells wide open spaces on the edge of the Prairies in the ancestral lands of the Blackfeet peoples, close to the Rockies — visible on both sides of the Canada-US border — of which very fine views may be obtained there.

In another photo I have supplied, above, Chief Mountain — just over the border into Montana — seen from Carway, may be clearly discerned.

Otherwise, Carway seems increasingly to have become — instead of a place without a name (before border station officer Roberts had his bright idea) — a name without a place...

April 22, 2019


(1) William Roberts, qu. in: Austin A. Mardon and Ernest G Mardon, Larry Erdos ed., Community Place Names in Alberta, Expanded 3rd Edition, Edmonton: Golden Meteorite Press, 2010, p. 67. Although many place names in Canada are derived from the British Isles, the name Carway, Alberta thus has no connection with Carway, Wales, a place in Carmarthenshire, near the town of Llanelli.

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Map location of Carway, Alberta
Map location of Carway, Alberta | Source

Also worth seeing

Cardston, Alberta (distance: 24.7 kilometres) has interesting museums: the Remington Carriage Museum, the Courthouse Museum and the Card Pioneer Home; a building by which the town is dominated is the LDS Temple.

The lakeside hamlet of Waterton, Alberta (distance: 70.4 kilometres, via Cardston) within Waterton Lakes National Park attracts many visitors, including numerous hikers; attractions include the berth for boat trips on Waterton Lake, overlooked by the majestic Prince of Wales Hotel; the Cameron Falls on Evergreen Avenue, and a Heritage Centre at 117 Waterton Avenue.

St Mary, Montana, USA (distance: 30.7 kilometres / 19.1 miles along US Route 89) has a Visitor Center at the entrance to Glacier Park, and outstanding mountain views and of St. Mary Lake.


How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Lethbridge Airport (distance from Lethbridge to Carway, Cardston County: 94.9 kilometers), via Calgary, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available; some visitors may prefer to make the road journey to the Cardston County area directly from Calgary Airport (distance from Calgary to Carway: 273.9 kilometers). Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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