photo: Wayne Stadler

The Tough-as-Nails Burmis Tree

By AMA Staff

When we talk about Albertans’ indomitable spirit, the rugged Rockies are an easy metaphor. But a gnarled, bare pine might be even more apt. Standing sentinel on a rocky berm alongside the Crowsnest Highway, the Burmis Tree is said to have lived for more than 700 years before dropping its last needle in the 1970s. During that time it bore witness to the arduous settlement of the west, including turn-of-the-century mining towns like Hillcrest and Frank.

Today it’s a symbol of resilience in the face of hardship, memorializing mining explosions, the notorious Frank Slide and the economic decline during which thriving communities became ghost towns. The tree itself has suffered its own tragedies: It was blown over in 1998 and, in 2004, vandals cut off one of its limbs. But thanks to the efforts of local residents (plus a few metal rods and brackets), the pine endures—and has become one of southern Alberta’s most photographed natural historic landmarks.

AMA members save 10% on admission to the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre