About Alberta


ALBERTA AT A GLANCE

Here are some fast facts and bragging rights, as well as a look into the history of the province.
 
  • Five UNESCO World Heritage Sites:  Banff & Jasper National Parks, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Wood Buffalo National Park, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump
  • World’s two largest Dark Sky Preserves:
    • Wood Buffalo National Park (larger than Switzerland)   
    • Jasper National Park
  • One of the world’s first international peace parks: Waterton-Glacier, shared with Montana
  • North America’s largest indoor shopping and entertainment complex: West Edmonton Mall
  • The richest source of dinosaur bones on the planet: the Canadian Badlands
  • Over 300 golf courses with some of the top rated in North America
  • Home of the Calgary Stampede – “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”
Refer to this Interactive Map of Alberta for more information on regions, climate and the geography of Alberta. 
 

PEOPLE & GEOGRAPHY

  • Over 3.5 million people call Alberta home (has doubled since 1970).
  • Covers 661,185 sq km (255,303 sq mi). Slightly larger than France. Fourth largest province in Canada.
  • Longitude and Latitude:  between 45°N to 65°N and 105°E to 125°E.
  • Altitude ranges from 170 m (558 ft) above sea level in the northeast to 3,747 m (12,293 ft) above sea level in the Rocky Mountains to the west
  • The only place in North America where boreal forest, prairies and mountain ecosystems converge. 

WEATHER & CLIMATE

  • Temperature in all of Canada is expressed in degrees Celsius
  • Average summer temperatures:  16°C to 25°C (61°F to 77°F)
  • In the coldest months, January and February, daytime temperatures range from -5 to -15°C (23°F to 5°F). They can drop as low as -30° to -40°C (-22°F to -40°F)
  • Highest number of sunny days annually Canada (312).
  • Ranked #1 for having the most comfortable weather overall.
  • Average annual precipitation across the province is 510 mm (20 in) per year.
 

HISTORY

Alberta’s history is rooted in a diverse background of places, people and cultures. 

First Nations settled in Alberta approximately 8,000 years ago. The Blackfoot, Blood, and Peigan tribes roamed the Great Plains, sustaining themselves by hunting the buffalo. The Woodland Cree and Chipewyan tribes inhabited the woodland areas of central Alberta hunting caribou, deer and moose, and fishing in lakes and rivers. Archaeological and sacred sites around Alberta today reflect the life and culture of these indigenous peoples. Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump in the southwest is one of the best preserved of its kind in North America.

In the 1700s the first European fur traders arrived, setting up numerous trading posts. Over the next 100 years, traders continued to arrive and thrive on Europe’s thirst for fur. First Nations lifestyles became focused on gathering, transporting and trading furs. In the 1800s, fur trading in the Northwest, including the area that is now Alberta, was controlled by the Hudson’s Bay Company who tried to keep settlers out of the area but allowed missionaries to move in. The company’s most famous map maker, David Thompson mapped on foot over 3.9 million sq km (1.5 million sq mi) of North America over the course of his lifetime, and is hailed as the greatest land geographer who ever lived.

In 1870, the Hudson’s Bay Company turned control of the whole Northwest over to the newly formed Dominion of Canada and in 1872, the region was opened to settlement. To support its claim to the Northwest and to keep law and order in the region, the Canadian government formed the North-West Mounted Police in 1873 (now known as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police). The Mounties established their first post in Alberta in 1874 at Fort Macleod.

Coal was discovered in the late 1700s and became a major exporting industry with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883. Industrialists and labourers by the hundreds rushed west to find their fortunes. The population of non-native settlers in Alberta grew from 1,000 to 17,500 in ten years.

Some of the most successful early settlers were the ranchers, who found Alberta’s foothills to be ideal livestock country. Many of Alberta’s ranching pioneers were from the United Kingdom, but the cowboys– such as the infamous John Ware who brought the first cattle to Alberta – were American.

In 1905, Alberta was granted official provincial status. The province is named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848-1939), the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Consort. Princess Louise was wife of Marquess of Lorne, Governor General of Canada from 1878-1883.

While most of the early settlers came from Canada’s east, the United Kingdom or the United States, campaigning in the early 1900s in Europe speeded upthe rate of settlement bringing large numbers of immigrants of German, Ukrainian and Romanian decent, giving Alberta the diverse population it has today.

Agriculture has historically been a core industry in Alberta, with wheat the dominant crop. The discovery of large deposits of oil and natural gas in the late 1800s and early 1900s changed Alberta’s economy forever and the energy sector continues to be a major economic driver. The growth of industries such as architecture, engineering, construction, and life sciences contribute to one of the strongest economies in the country.

Alberta is now a vibrant, energetic province with a highly educated, entrepreneurial population and an excellent quality of life. The province has played host to many world-class events, international sporting competitions (Olympics and World Cups) and a plethora of eclectic festivals. 
 
 

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