Bosworth Creek, Norman Wells

Here we have a beautifully hand-tinted photograph of Bosworth Creek, which runs through the town of Norman Wells, the oil capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories. In 1960, a weir was built across the creek so that a pond formed and was used by the oil refinery there to generate steam for providing the works with electricity. The creek also provided the town with a drinking water supply until 1991. It empties into the Mackenzie River.

The explorer Alexander Mackenzie, as early as the late 1700s, reported Dene people using oil found in the vicinity of what is now Norman Wells to waterproof their canoes. The area is very remote, though, so it wasn’t until the 1920s that Imperial Oil drilled and struck oil. This photograph of the free-running creek is probably from these early days of commercial activity; it is unlikely to be any earlier, since the place name of Norman Wells appears on the back of the photograph.

Norman Wells was not connected to the outside world by road until the Americans built the Alaska Highway in 1942 for defensive reasons at the height of WWII. A spur to that famous highway connected the oil centre to communities in the neighbouring Yukon Territory, the Canol Road – a challenging drive even in its prime.

Hand-tinted photograph of Bosworth Creek, Norman Wells, NWT, ca. 1920s, 9″ x 12″ in original frame but rematted with acid free materials: $75.00

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