Located at the eastern entrance of Crowsnest Pass, the Burmis tree stands tall, rugged and well, dead. Creepy at night, intriguing by day, its unique appearance emanates a certain appeal to all visitors traveling by in the area. Impossible to miss as it stand alone on a low ridge near the highway, the Burmis tree may be dead and leafless but these characteristics simply just add to the beauty of this historical landscape.
The Burmis Tree is said to be the most photographed tree in Canada, perhaps even the world. It has also been the subject of many artistic expressions; paintings, poems and other artsy creative have been known to include the infamous windswept tree. The Burmis tree is a renowned figure in Crowsnest Pass. Aged at approximately 600-750 years old when it died in the 1970's, the tree would no doubt have many tales to tell, if it could only speak, of travelers and wanderers passing through the historic region. Limber trees are known to live an extremely long time, surviving through the harshest conditions in Alberta; it is not surprising to see the Burmis tree being dated to maybe even 750 years.
The little town of Burmis spurted up with the opening of the Davenport Coal Company, a mining business in 1910. By then the Burmis tree was already a 100 years old (so scientists say). Burmis grew with a few businesses, a church, school, pool hall and a NWMP police post. As the mine shut down though in 1914, Burmis slowly declined and never really regained any growth. Only when the Burmis Lumber Company operated from 1933-1956 did the town rejuvenate for a bit but not substantially enough to keep the town alive today. All that remains are a few residential houses and some recreational properties.
Just as the Humpty Dumpty story goes, the Burmis tree has fallen down and been put back in its place several times. The first time occurred in 1998 where the wind toppled the tree over. Instead of leaving the tree just lying on the ground, local community residents fixed the tree back up with rods and brackets to hold it up. It stayed that way until 2004, when some vandals decided to cut off the main branch of the Burmis tree. Once again the local community fixed the historic tree up, this time with glue and a prop pole that remains there to this day. If you were to drive by and examine it though you would never guess that the main branch is actually glued on! An interesting thing to note is that the tree, despite being dead and having lost its needles, was important enough to the locals that the new highway 3 was built around it. The tree has become of historical significance to the once prosperous town of Burmis and a point of interest in Crowsnest Past.
Shutter-bugs beware! This tree is ruggedly beautiful from all angles. Rest assured you will be spending some time here snapping away those photographs!
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