The Colonel’s Cabin (WWII Internment Camp) & Johnson’s Lake

One of my first adventures, since finishing school, was on Saturday, April 22, 2017. My mom and I went to The Colonel’s Cabin in Kananaskis and then out to Johnson Lake for a small hike.

Colonel’s Cabin (“History Loop”):

Our first part was a quick little walk through the ‘History Loop’. It is very short, but fascinating. The whole trail is only 0.3km in total, but on their sign they do recommend spending at least a half an hour that way you have time to read all of the signs. I believe, normally, in the summer there are brochures available to guide you through the site as there are numbered posts throughout, but the place where you would get one from was empty. We are quite early in the spring, so hopefully they will restock them!


Overview of the three trails available to explore.


To get to the historic site is quite simple. It is located at the same spot as the University of Calgary Biogeoscience Station. Coming from Calgary you will take the Trans-Canada Highway and once you reach Highway 40 turn onto there (go towards the Casino) and then follow the highway until you see the big green sign for the U of C Biogeoscience Station and once you turn in there you will be able to find the Colonel’s Cabin Historic Site.


Once you turn at the green sign there is a round-about with this plaque.

A Bit of History: 

The importance of this site is described best on the Canada’s Historic Places site, which states,

“The heritage value of the Colonel’s Cabin lies in its status as one of the few remaining buildings in Alberta associated with the internment of Second World War prisoners of war. It also possesses heritage value for its association with the establishment of the Kananaskis Forest Experimental Station during the Great Depression” (Canada’s Historic Places, n.d.).

For more detailed information I recommend visiting their site.

The Experience: 

The first step on this short track is the actual cabin that the Colonel lived in.


Along with the cabin there was a little descriptor about the man that lived there.


The descriptor states, “Constructed in 1936 by the Department of National Defence, this cabin first served as an employment relief camp office. During World War II the cabin was converted to the commandant’s quarters as this site became first an internment camp and later a prisoner of war camp. Colon Hugh de Norman Watson, used the cabin as his office from 1939 to 1945. In recent years the Colonel’s Cabin has functioned as a forestry office and a visitor centre. On August 4, 1962, it was designated an Alberta Provincial Historic Site.”

The cabin stated it was currently closed, so I am unsure regarding whether or not if you can go in at certain times?

After the cabin was a guard tower.


Note Mount Baldy in the background!


This sign accompanied the guard tower. It states, “As World War II raged in Europe and North Africa, this tower stood near here, but in a setting far different from today’s. At that time, guards with rifles sat in this tower peering down at prisoners of war. Seven main guard towers stood in Camp 130, Kananaskis when it opened in 1939. Some were equipped with search lights and all were fully armed. Along with two auxiliary towers, the seven were manned by the Veterans’ Guard on a 24-hour basis. A low-voltage warning wire and two high barbed wire fences surround the camp prisoners’ compound and scouts regularly patrolled the perimeter. At first, security was considered adequate for the 600 or so young German merchant seamen interned here. But as the war dragged on, captured German fighting forces including high-ranking officer were brought to Camp 130. Escape plots were suspected and tunnelling was discovered. As a precaution against escapes, an eighth main guard tower with a powerful search light was added. A military plan of Camp 130 dated August, 1944 shows the new tower. It was located outside the prisoners’ compound overlooking the camp — about 100m southwest from where you are now standing. When camp 130 closed, the Dominion Forestry Service moved the tower to the top of a nearby mountain ridge where it was used as a fire lookout until 1982. In 1984 Guard Tower #8 was moved here, near the place it stood beside barbed with.

After the guard tower you hike toward the woods and go up hill slightly and loop around. You get to see some different foundations, but because we did not have the pamphlet we had trouble determining the significance.



View of the trail once we hiked up.


View of foundational remains of the Camp.

Here are a few other pictures I took while exploring the History Loop (click on them to make them larger).


Johnson Lake

As I previously mentioned we headed over near Banff to Johnson Lake. Directions to the lake and a description can be found here.

Here are a few pictures from this hike:


Click here for more pictures from Johnson Lake!

Work Cited: 

Canada’s Historic Places. (n.d.). COLONEL’S CABIN. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from


2 thoughts on “The Colonel’s Cabin (WWII Internment Camp) & Johnson’s Lake

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