Fort Livingstone National Historic Site of Canada

Pelly, Saskatchewan
View of Fort Livingstone, showing its setting high on a hill surrounded by woods, 2005. © Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency.View of the HSMBC plaque and cairn. © Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency
Address : Highway 661, Pelly, Saskatchewan

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1923-05-25
  • 1874 to 1875 (Construction)
  • 1874 to 1884 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • First Session of the North-West Council (1877)  (Event)
  • David Laird, Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories  (Person)
  • North West Mounted Police  (Organization)
  • Department of Public Works  (Architect)
Other Name(s):
  • Fort Livingstone  (Designation Name)
  • Swan River Barracks  (Other Name)
Research Report Number: 1962-065, 1963-030; 1964-018
DFRP Number: 14010 00


Existing plaque:  Pelly, Saskatchewan

The original headquarters and first post built specifically for the North-West Mounted Police, Fort Livingstone (generally known as the Swan River Barracks) was erected in 1874, but not fully occupied until the following spring. It provided facilities for 185 men and their mounts and included a residence for a stipendiary magistrate. The headquarters of the Force were moved to Fort Macleod in 1876, but Fort Livingstone continued as a post until 1878 when it became a substation to Shoal Lake. It was destroyed by a prairie fire in 1884. *Note: This designation has been identified for review. A review can be triggered for one of the following reasons - outdated language or terminology, absence of a significant layer of history, factual errors, controversial beliefs and behaviour, or significant new knowledge.

Description of Historic Place

Fort Livingstone National Historic Site of Canada is an archaeological site that once housed the first North West Mounted Police barracks in the west. Located on an upland peninsula above the east bank of Snake Creek near its junction with the Swan River, it is approximately 16 kilometres north of the town of Pelly, Saskatchewan. The designation refers to the site and its archaeological remains.

Heritage Value

Fort Livingstone was designated a National Historic Site of Canada because: it was the first capital of the Northwest Territories, 1876-1877; it was the original headquarters and first post built specifically for the North-West Mounted Police.

The heritage value of Fort Livingstone lies in its historical associations with the Government of Canada and the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) as illustrated by the setting of the fort and the remnants it contains describing life during NWMP occupation. Fort Livingstone was built in 1874-75 by the Department of Public Works, and was originally known as Swan River Barracks. In 1884, shortly after the territorial capital was removed in 1876, the fort was destroyed by prairie fire. The fort once housed 185 men and contained sufficient buildings to accommodate them in a remote location. The fort included Married Men’s Quarters, Men’s Quarters, Officers’ Quarters, a hospital and three unidentified buildings or structures of which remnants remain.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1973; Commemorative Integrity Statement.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include: the setting of the fort, high on a granite hill beside Snake Creek surrounded by woods; viewscapes to the Swan River and its northernmost crossing point, to historic trails, along the Snake Creek and Swan River valleys; the natural vegetation of the area, particularly its grass, and groves of aspen and hawthorn; the evidence of the early telegraph passages; the footprint and profile of remnants of the fort and its outbuildings, largely the foundation and cellar remains; the evidence of the construction, materials, functional use and siting of the buildings; the evidence, mostly below ground, of life at the post, including those artefacts excavated from the site and stored by Parks Canada and the Pelly Museum.