Encyclopedia > Alberta

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(In Detail[?]) (In Detail[?])
Motto: Fortis et Liber (Strong and free)
Largest city

 - Total
 - % fresh water
3rd largest
(2nd lgst terr.)

661 848 kmē
 - Total (2001)
 - Density
Ranked 4th
3 064 249
Admittance into Confederation
 - Date
 - Order

Time zone UTC -7
Postal information (http://www.canadapost.ca)
Postal abbreviation
Postal code prefix
ISO 3166-2CA-AB

 Seats in the House
 Seats in the Senate

PremierRalph Klein (P.C.)
Lieutenant-GovernorLois Hole[?]
Government of Alberta (http://www.gov.ab.ca)

Alberta is one of Canada's provinces. Its capital is the city of Edmonton. Other cities and towns include Banff[?], Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge[?] and Medicine Hat[?]. See also: List of communities in Alberta.

As of 2001, the population of the province is 3,064,249. The Premier of the province is Ralph Klein. See also List of Alberta Premiers

Alberta is named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (d. 1939), the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria.

Table of contents


Alberta is in western Canada. Area 661,190 sq.km (260,000 sq. m.) It is bounded to the south. by the United States boundary line, 49 deg. Eastwards at 110 degrees west it borders the province of Saskatchewan. At 60 degrees north its separated from the Yukon and North-West Territories. To the west by the line of peaks of the Rocky Mountains range, which runs northwesterly, and divides it from British Columbia.


Alberta is a fertile province, as the eastern and southern portions its surface consists chiefly of plains that are almost entirely treeless. As the slopes of the Rocky Mountains to the west are reached more trees are found, until in the foot-hills of the mountains bodies of forest timber occur. Trees also become more numerous in the northward part of the province, until in the region north of the North Saskatchewan river[?] forests are again met with. From the southern boundary line for two and a half degrees north the prairie is dry, but of good soil, which grows excellent crops when irrigated. North of this region the surface of the province is of most fertile soil, the ordinary rainfall sufficing for agriculture. Alberta also has large oil reserves, espiecially in the Alberta tar sands[?] in the north of the province.

The appearance of the prairie section of the province is that of undulating meadows, with rounded sloping ridges covered with shorter grasses, which serve for the support of large herds of beef cattle[?]. The wooded portions of the terrain are dotted with clumps and belts of trees of moderate size, giving them a parklike appearance. In winter it is continuously very cold, but this is occasionally reduced by warm winds from the west, known as the Chinook.


Within a hundred miles of the mountains there is constantly in view, in clear weather, a line of snowy peaks along the western horizon. This continues for hundreds of miles north-westward. The Rocky Mountains are ascended by a gradual approach from the east, but are exceedingly abrupt on their transalpine slope in British Columbia. The peaks of these mountains are majestic, many of them reaching a height of more than two miles above the sea. Among the more notable of these are:

Historically travel through these mountains was difficult, and alpine passes became very important. The most noted of the Alberta passes are:

  1. The Crow's Nest Pass[?], near the southern boundary line, through which a branch of the Canadian Pacific railway runs.
  2. The Kicking Horse Pass[?], through which the main line of the Canadian Pacific railway was built; 80 miles (128km) from the eastern end of this pass is the Rocky Mountains Park, with the famous watering-place of Banff as its centre.
  3. The Yellow Head Pass[?], running west from the northern branch of the Saskatchewan river; this pass was discovered by Capt. Pallise (1858), was crossed by Lord Milton and Dr W. B. Cheadle (1861), and by Sandford Fleming (1871-1872) in the Ocean to Ocean expedition;
  4. Peace River Pass[?]. By this pass Alexander Mackenzie made his voyage.


With the exception of the southern section, the province of Alberta may be said to be well watered. Rising from numerous valleys on the Alberta declivity of the Rocky Mountains between the international boundary line and 52 degrees north are streams which unite to form the Belly river[?], and farther north the Bow river[?]. Running eastward these two rivers unite about 112 degrees west;, and flow on under the name of the South Saskatchewan river[?]. North of 52 degrees north many small streams unite to form the Red Deer river[?], which flowing south-eastward joins the South Saskatchewan near 110 degrees west Between 52 degrees and 53 degrees north rises the great river, the North Saskatchewan[?]. It receives a southern tributary, the Battle river[?], which joins it about 108 degrees west. Pursuing their courses eastward the North and South Saskatchewan rivers unite in the Saskatchewan (Cree, rapid-flowing river), which finds its way to [[Lake Winnipeg]], and thence by way of Nelson[?] river to Hudson's Bay. It is one of the mightiest rivers of the continent.

At Mount Athabasca[?], there is an unusual occurrence where the water flows either to the Pacific ocean on the western slope, the Arctic ocean on the north, and the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean on the south.

In the northern part of the province, between 53 degrees and 54 degrees north, all the waters of Alberta flow toward the Arctic Sea. Starting at Mount Athabasca, the river Athabasca runs north and empties into Lake Athabasca[?] near 58 degrees north. North of 56 degrees north flows through and from the Rocky Mountains as the Peace river[?]. After descending north-eastward to within a few miles of Lake Athabasca, it is met by a stream emerging from that lake. The united river carrying down the waters of the Athabasca slope is called the Slave river[?], which, passing through Great Slave Lake[?], emerges as the great Mackenzie river[?], which falls into the Arctic Sea. Alberta thus gives rise to the two great rivers, the Saskatchewan and the Mackenzie.

While a number of fresh-water, or in some cases brackish, lakes each less than 256 square kilometers (100 square miles) in extent are situated in Alberta, two of more considerable size are found. These are Lake Athabasca, 7898 square km (3085 square miles) in extent, of which a part is in the province of Saskatchewan, and the other Lesser Slave Lake[?] some 1536 square km (600 square miles) in area.


As Alberta extends for 1200km (750 miles) from north to south, it is natural that the climate should vary considerably between parallels of 40 and 60 degrees north and also between 110 and 120 degrees west. It is also further influenced by the different altitudes above the sea of the several parts of the province. Dividing the province into three equal parts of 250 m. each from north to south, these may be called (A) the south, (B) the centre, (C) the north. The following data may be considered:--

ClimatePlacesAbove the SeaMean Winter Temp
(A) Moderate and changeableMedicine Hat, lat. 50 deg. N.2171 ft. 651m14.3 deg. F. -9.8 deg. C
Calgary, lat. 51 deg.3432 ft. 1049m15.4 deg. F. -9.2 C.
Banff, lat. 51 1/2 deg.4515 ft. 1355m15.9 deg. F. -8.9 C.
(B) SteadyEdmonton, lat. 53 1/2 deg.2210 ft. 663m10.3 deg. F. -12.0 C.
(C) SevereFort Chipewyan, lat. 59 deg. N.600 ft. 180m7.2 deg. F -13.8 C

Climate (A) allows, in what is a great ranching district, cattle to run at large through the whole winter. Through the mountain passes come at times dry winds from the Pacific coast, which lick up the snow in a few hours. These winds are known as Chinook winds. While elevating the temperature they bring more moisture into the air and produce a change not entirely desirable.

Climate (B) is the steady winter climate of Edmonton district. This while averaging a lower temperature than (A) is not so subject to change; it retains the snow for sleighing, which is a boon to the farmer. This climate is much less influenced by the Pacific winds than (A).

Climate (C), that of Fort Chipewyan, having a mean winter temperature of 22.6 deg. lower than Calgary, is a decidedly sub-arctic climate. It is the region in winter of constant ice and snow, but its lower altitude gives it a summer climate with a mean temperature of only 1.6 deg. less than Calgary, and 1.8 deg. less than Edmonton.


The three climatic regions of Alberta have naturally a varying fauna. The south and central region was the land of the bison, its grasses affording a great pasture ground for tens of thousands of "buffaloes." They were destroyed by whites and Indians in 1870-1882 on the approach of the Canadian Pacific[?] railway. Grizzly, black[?] and cinnamon bears[?] are, found in the mountains and wooded districts. The coyote or small wolf, here and there the grey wolf[?], the fox and the mountain lion (panther) occur. The moose and red deer[?] are found in the wooded regions, and the jumping deer[?] and antelope on the prairies. Wild sheep and goats live in the Rocky Mountains. The lynx, wolverine, porcupine, skunk, hare, squirrel and mouse are met. The gopher is a resident of the dry plains. District (C) is the fur-trader's paradise. The buffalo is replaced by the mountain buffaloes, of which a few survive. The musk ox[?] comes in thousands every year to the great northern lakes, while the mink, marten[?], beaver, otter, ermine and muskrat[?] are sought by the fur-trader. Fort Chipewyan[?] was long known in Hudson's Bay Company history as the great depot of the Mackenzie river district. Northern Alberta and the region farther north is the nesting-ground of the migratory birds. Here vast numbers of ducks, geese, swans and pelicans resort every year. Cranes, partridges and varieties of singing birds abound. The eagle, hawk, owl and crow are plentiful. Mosquitoes and flies are everywhere, and the wasp and wild bee also. In the rivers and lakes pike, pickerel, white fish and sturgeon supply food for the natives, and the brook trout is found in the small mountain streams. The turtle and frog also appear.


In central and northern Alberta the opening spring brings in the prairie anemone, the avens and other early flowers. The advancing summer introduces many flowers of the sunflower family, until in August the plains are one blaze of yellow and purple. The southern part of Alberta is covered by a short grass, very nutritive, but drying up in the middle of summer until the whole prairie is brown and unattractive. The trees in the wooded sections of the province are seen in clumps and belts on the hill sides. These are largely deciduous. On the north side of the Saskatchewan river forests prevail for scores and even hundreds of miles. They contain the poplar Or aspen (Populus tremuloides), balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera), and paper or canoe birch (Fetula papyrifera.) The Coniferae are found northward and in the mountain valleys. Some of these are: Jack pine (Pinus Banksiana), Rocky Mountain pine (Pinus flexilis), black pine (Pinus Murrayana), white spruce (Picea alba), black spruce (Picea nigra), Engelman's spruce (Picea Engelmanni), mountain balsam (Abies subalpina), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga Douglasii), mountain larch (Larix Lyallis.)


Alberta's industry is mostly oil and beef, with some high-tech and financial institutions.



The government of Alberta is carried on by a provincial government resembling that of the other Canadian provinces. The capital of the province is Edmonton, and here reside the premier, legilature, lieutenant-governor and cabinet. The legislature consists of one house -- the Legislative Assembly -- of ?? members. Government after the Westminster model. The provinces revenue is chiefly derived from grants from the Federal government. Alberta has a system of municipal government similar to that of the other provinces.

Albertans poltics are more right-wing than those of any Canadian province. The provincial government has been from a series of right wing parties for decades, first with social credit and today with the conservatives. The current premier of Alberta is Ralph Klein, who despite problems with alcohol, and frequent statemetns that many would consider bigoted is extermely popular in the province. Alberta is the heartland of the Canadian Alliance Party, the seond largest party in parliament and the furthest right. Both provincial governments and the Alliance reflect Alberta more socially consrvative nature than other provinces. Albertans are more opposed to ideas such as gay marriage, gun control, and abortion than other Canadians. They are also more pro-death penalty and two-tier healthcare[?]. In recent years these opinions, and the xtent to which they differ from central Canada and hte governing Liberals have left many ALbertans allienated and there are occasional mutterings of seperatism from the province.

Albertans are the lowest taxed people in Canada, mostly becasue of the province's considerable oil and gas income. Alberta is the only province without a sales tax. The federal government has attempted on a number of occassions to reditribute Alberta's wealth, most famously with [Pierre Trudeau]]'s National Energy Policy[?] (NEP). This policy was removed by the Mulroney conservatives in 1984, however. Alberta is still one of three provinces that pays transfer payments to the other seven poorer provinces.

See also: List of Alberta Premiers


Alberta is well known for being somewhat lacking culturally. It is the Canadian province with the fewest literary works published per capita. It lacks the strong tradtional musical culture of the Maritimes, and the the experimental scene of British Columbia. Neither of Alberta's cities have world class orchestras. Architecularly the province is also lacking, Calgary is well known for its quasi post-Stalinist buildings and Edmonton is not much better. In 2001 one British journalist nicknamed Edmonton 'Deadmonton' for its lack of culture and night life. None of the province's universities can match those in B.C. or in the East, and Alberta is quite lacking in notable galleries. Very few films and television shows are filmed in Alberta compared to the rest of Canada. Some notable oases in this desert are Banff[?], a Rocky Mountain resort town that is home to the annual Banff television festival[?], and the Museum in Drumheller[?] which has a remarkable collection of dinosaur bones found in the Alberta badlands.


Most Albertans are some for of Protestant Christian, but with a wide variety of other faiths also present, and with many people professing no religion. Alberta has a higher percentage of evangelical Christians than other provinces.

The Mormons of Alberta are in the most southerly part of the province, and are a colony from the Mormon settlements in Utah, United States. On coming to Canada they were given lands by the Dominion of Canada. The organization adopted in Utah among the Mormons is found also in Alberta, but the Canadian Mormons profess to have received a later revelation condemning polygamy.


The present province of Alberta as far north as the height of land (53 deg. N.) was from the time of the incorporation of the Hudson's Bay Company (1670) a part of Rupert's Land. After the discovery of the north-west by the French in 1731 and succeeding years the prairies of the west were occupied by them, and Fort La Jonquiere was established near the present city of Calgary (1752). The North-West Company of Montreal occupied the northern part of Alberta district before the Hudson's Bay Company succeeded in coming from Hudson Bay to take possession of it. The first hold of the Athabasca region was gained by Peter Pond[?], who, on behalf of the North-West Company of Montreal, built Fort Athabasca[?] on river La Biche[?] in 1778. Roderick Mackenzie[?], cousin of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, built Fort Chipewyan[?] on Lake Athabasca[?] in 1788. By way of the North Saskatchewan river Alexander Mackenzie crossed the height of land, and proceeding northward discovered the river which bears his name, and also the Arctic Sea. Afterward going westward from Lake Athabasca and through the Peace river, he reached the Pacific Ocean, being the first white man to cross the North American continent, north of Mexico.

As part of the North-West Territories the district of Alberta was organized in 1875. Additional privileges and a local legislature were added from time to time. At length in 1905 the district of Alberta was enlarged and the present province formed by the Dominion parliament. (G. BR.)

See also

Alberta B.C. Manitoba New Brunswick Nfld.-Lab.
Nova Scotia Ontario P.E.I. Quebec Saskatchewan
N.W.T. Nunavut Yukon

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