Now heavily forested with spruce, pine, fir, aspen and poplar, one might be surprised to know Bragg Creek was an open meadow and flats when the first settlers arrived around 1885.
Fire stripped the trees from the land making it attractive for settlers like Albert Warren Bragg from Nova Scotia, after whom the area was named. He lived on what is now Saddle & Sirloin ranch in 1894 when A.O. Wheeler surveyed the area, but he, like others, moved on when he discovered early frosts and snowy winters left little food for their livestock.
Other early settlers to the area were the Fullertons, Robinsons, Connop, Burby, Sanders and Elston families.
For those who remained, trade with the Stoney First Nation (also known as the Nakoda First Nation) was an important part of life. Beaded clothing and furs were exchanged often at a trading post located at the current site of the Bragg Creek Trading Post on White Avenue. Oil was discovered in the area around 1913, and drilling took place initially where the picnic tables now stand in Bragg Creek Provincial Park. That well was capped at the beginning of World War I when investment from Britain dried up. Further oil reserves were discovered north of Bragg Creek in the 1920’s at the same time gas was found. Both fuel sources continue to be extracted in the area today.
From the 1920’s onward, the area became increasingly popular as a weekend and retirement destination. In 1933, North America’s first youth hostel was established in Bragg Creek, at the junction of the Elbow River and the creek. Initially a simple tent, a permanent structure was built in 1936 on a nearby site. The building was later moved and burnt down in 1984.