The Carlton Trail was the primary land transportation route connecting the various parts of the Canadian Northwest for most of the 19th Century. It stretched from the Red River Colony up to what is today Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan via Fort Ellice. From here the trail ran north and crossed the South Saskatchewan River near Batoche, Saskatchewan until it reached Fort Carlton on the North Saskatchewan River. After this point the trail ran due west along the river to Fort Edmonton at what is now Edmonton, Alberta. The distance in total the trail traveled between Fort Garry (Winnipeg) to Upper Fort des Prairies (Edmonton) was approximately 900 miles (1,500 kilometers). Many smaller trails jutted off from the main trail, such as the Fort à la Corne Trail in the Saskatchewan Valley.
National Historic Site of Canada plaque.
Connecting the west, the trail was of great import during the 19th century as a highway for the inhabitants. Different sections of the trail were known by many different names in different eras, including The Company, Saskatchewan, Fort Ellice Trail, Winnipeg Trail, Edmonton Trail, and Victoria Trail. It is said that if one were to travel the Carlton Trail by Red River Ox Cart it would take about two months.
The main mode of transport along the trail was by Red River Cart. It was an integral route for Métis freighters, and Hudson's Bay Company employees as well as the earliest white settlers. With the coming of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 1880s, and the numerous branch lines that followed the trail assumed less and less importance. By the early 1900s many portions were fenced off, although local sections of the trail remained in use as late as the 1930s.
The use of the trail was designated an Event of National Historic Significance in 1972.