Top Tourist Attractions in Alberta
Alberta covers 6.6 per cent of Canada's total area, and is its fourth largest province. The longest distance north-south is an impressive 1206 km (750 mi.) at longitude 114° west, while the maximum east-west is 660 km (410 mi.) at latitude 55° north.
The longitudinal and latitudinal borders are parallel, except in the Rocky Mountains where it follows the line of the watershed. Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta together form what are known as the Prairie States of Canada, over 70 per cent of the total area being taken up by the Alberta Plain, a high-lying prairie mainly between 900 and 1000 m (2950 and 3300 ft) above sea-level. 570 million years ago this entire region formed part of a giant inland lake. 70 million years ago the folding of the Rockies began to take place in the west (see British Columbia) and on the main ridge, Mount Columbia at 3747 m (12,300 ft) being the highest mountain in Alberta. The prairies now consist largely of material released and deposited during the period of the structural deformation of the Rockies, with rich black and brown soil predominating, ideal for agriculture. Alberta can be divided into three sections: South Alberta, covering the southern third of the province and with a slightly hilly prairie landscape, the "rolling prairies"; the "parklands" of Central Alberta, with their wide valleys and mountain-chains, numerous rivers and lakes, and criss-crossed with forests; and Northern Alberta, covering almost a half of the whole, characterised by large areas of coniferous forest divided up by the Peace and Athabasca Rivers. Less than three percent of the total area is taken up by lakes and waterways, a relatively small amount compared to nearly nineteen per cent in Manitoba. The largest areas of water are Little Slave Lake (1150 sq. km (444 sq. mi.)) and Peace River (1916 km (1190 mi.)).As the Rocky Mountains follow the meridian and consequently the western edge of the mountain ridge is protected from rain, Alberta by and large enjoys a continental climate. Where the mountains afford protection from wind and rain the average annual precipitation is only 400-500 mm (16-20 in). The lack of an east-west mountain barrier results in an interchange of Arctic and tropical air masses. This means that in winter dry polar air pushes far into southern Alberta, while in summer tropical air masses can result in heavy falls of rain. On the prairies this results in hot summers with frequent thunder storms and winters with little snow but low temperatures. Even as late as April the average minimum in Alberta is below freezing point, and there are signs of impending winter in October. As an example, Lethbridge in the south of the province enjoys an average maximum temperature in July of 26°C (79°F) and over ten hours sunshine each day. A unique feature of Alberta is the "chinook", a warm dry wind coming from the Rocky Mountains, which frequently brings about an early thaw in the south.The dominant natural vegetation in the north of Alberta is coniferous forest, which becomes tundra especially in the higher regions bordering the Northwest Territories. In the north conifers such as spruce and larch predominate, while towards the south deciduous trees including beech, birch and maple come more into their own. In the south-east flourishes a form of natural grassland, so that the "short grass prairie" of the north becomes the "long grass prairie" of the south.There is evidence of human settlement in Alberta going back more than 11,000 years. Cypress Hills, protected from the ravages of the Ice Age, were inhabited by aboriginals for over 7000 years. Present-day Alberta was entrusted to the Hudson's Bay Company after it was founded in 1670, with trade being mainly in furs. In 1754 Anthony Henday was the first white man to explore as far as the Rocky Mountains. Between 1792 and 1801 Peter Fidler pushed far south into Alberta and discovered rich coal deposits by the Red Deer River. In the south missionaries founded schools and churches and made the first contacts with the Indians. Trading posts - such as that at Peter Pond Lake on the Athabasa River - began to be set up in 1778, and Fort Edmonton was built as a fur-trading centre in 1795. In the Oregon Border Treaty of 1846 it was laid down that the 49th parallel should be the southern border with the United States. In 1870 the area between Manitoba and the Rockies came under the administrative aegis of the Northwest Territories. In 1880 Father Albert Lacomte helped to negotiate a treaty with the Blackfoot Indians, with whose assistance the Canadian Pacific Railway was able to undertake the construction of the Trans-Canada Railroad, which was completed in 1886. In that same year John "Kootenia" Brown was the first to discover oil, and sold it as lubricating oil for one dollar a gallon. The gold-rush started in 1890 and Edmonton became the chief meeting-place of the gold-diggers. The Province of Alberta was founded in 1905 and joined the Confederation of Canadian States on September 1st of that year. The province was named after the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the wife of the Governor General of Canada from 1878-83.During the period of the great drought between 1931 and 1934 there were signs of widespread erosion leading to increased farm failures and death of livestock. In 1962 the TransCanada Highway was built through Alberta, guaranteeing a quicker link between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. In 1968 a start was made on exploiting the Athabasca Tar Sands near Fort McMurray.About ¾ of Alberta's population live in the towns and cities, concentrated on four large conurbations, especially Calgary and Edmonton. From 1869 onwards most of Alberta's settlers were white, a trend which was fostered still further by the Law of Pioneer Settlement passed in 1875. The development of the province was further assisted by the building of the railroad network by the Canadian Pacific Railway after 1885. The largest groups of native inhabitants are to be found at Athabasca in the North and Algonkin in the south-east; both are prairie Indians who used to make a living mainly from hunting bison. Today such Indians live on the edge of society, mainly outside the larger towns. An insight into the Indian way of life can be gleaned from a visit to the Indian Collection at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.Alberta offers ideal leisure facilities throughout the year. As regards winter sports, there are well-equipped skiing areas available from November to May, with plenty of ski-runs in the south-west of the province. A lot of ice-hockey is also played in Alberta. In summer 59 provincial parks and five national parks are open - especially Jasper National Park, covering 10,878 sq. km (4200 sq. mi.), and Banff National Park, 6642 sq. km (2565 sq. mi.). Leisure pursuits range from trekking along well-maintained paths to water-sports and riding. Outside the parks there are ideal opportunities for hunting, especially in the north. As well as shooting water-fowl the hunting of large wild animals, including bear and elk, could well prove an attractive proposition. Those who prefer more leisurely pursuits may like to indulge in a little fishing.The cities of Edmonton and Calgary have some unique attractions for visitors. Every July since 1912 the "Stampede" has been held in Calgary, a sort of world championship in rodeo skills. The city's attractions have increased even further since the Winter Olympics were held here in 1988. Edmonton can boast, by way of example, the West Edmonton Mall, one of the world's largest shopping and leisure complex, where it is quite possible to spend hours or even days without becoming bored. However, tourists from Europe will no doubt wish to concentrate on the natural beauties to be found in the south-western corner of the province, and perhaps not concern themselves with Alberta's other attractions. The Tourist Offices to be found everywhere in Alberta will be more than happy to provide up-to-date information on all manner of sights and facilities.
Banff National Park includes some of the most spectacular scenery in the Rocky Mountains. Sightseeing, hiking, and camping draw huge numbers of tourists in summer. Skiers take to the hills in winter.
Located on the Canada and USA border, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is an area of high mountains and spectacular scenery. Waterton Lakes is the main tourist base in the area.
Mountains, glaciers, lakes, and waterfalls make up the stunning scenery of Jasper National Park. In the heart of the park is the little tourist town of Jasper.
It was the whisky-smuggling trade which led to the founding of the town of Fort MacLeod by the Crowsnest Highway in southern Alberta. In the 1870s American smugglers traded extensively with the prairie Indians, especially with the Blackfoot, bartering cheap whisky for buffalo hides.In 1874, after their famous march through wild country, the Northwest Mounted Police set up their new headquarters here with the aim of putting an end to this illegal trade and restoring peace and order to this frontier region. The "Old West" is remembered in various historical buildings in the town center.
The Fort Museum of the North West Mounted Police (Fort Museum)
Built in 1957 the Fort Macleod Museum sets out to portray the Northwest Mounted Police fort built in 1874 and southern Alberta's first outpost; this is achieved by means of some original buildings, exhibitions about the police, the lifestyle and history of the Blackfoot Indians and pioneers, and the story behind the fortifications.In July and August, Museums Musical Riders, wearing the 1878 scarlet uniforms ride through the streets four times a day.
Address: 219 Jerry Pott's Boulevard, Fort Macleod, AB T0L0Z0, Canada
Opening hours: May 4 to Jun 30: 9am-5pm
Jul 1 to Sep 5: 9am-6pm
Sep 6 to Sep 15: 9am-5pm
Jul 1 to Sep 5: 9am-6pm
Sep 6 to Sep 15: 9am-5pm
Entrance fee in CAD: Family $25.00, Adult $8.50, Senior $7.50, Students $6.00, Child $5.00, Child 5 & under FREE
Useful tips: Prices listed are for high season only. Reduced admission for low season.
Some 16 km (10 mi.) west of Highway 2 North, by the unmade-up Highway 785, lies the area known as Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, declared
a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981. A band of rock some 300 m (984 ft) long in the lush, undulating grassland ends in a steep precipice, and for more than 5000 years the prairie Indians in the course of their organized buffalo hunts used to drive the panic-stricken beasts over the precipice to their death. It was not until the Indians obtained horses and firearms from the white man in the 18th c. that they finally gave up this traditional method of hunting.The name "Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump" originates from a hunting accident in the 18th c. A man watching the hunt from below the cliff was killed when the Indians drove some fleeing animals over the precipice on top of him. In 1987 a modern Interpretive Center was established. As well as displaying archaeological finds, the Center gives an insight into the way of life and traditional hunting methods of the region's indigenous Blackfoot Indians and demonstrates how rapidly Indian life changed after contact was made with the white man.In the interesting museum local topography is described, and the life of the prairie Indians and their hunting techniques are explained. Emphasis is also laid on the rapid changes in the lives of the Indians after they came into contact with the white man.
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park offers the highest hills in Saskatchewan as well as an artificial lake, interpretive walking paths, rare wild flowers and animals, a golf course, and camp sites.
Forestry Trunk RoadEastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.Forestry Trunk Road (Highway 940) in Alberta, parts of which are well surfaced, threads its way for some 1000 km (620 mi.) along the eastern slopes of the Rockies in Alberta. It was initially laid to make it easier to fight the forest fires which are a frequent feature of this region. This route, so far known to only few tourists, covers some scenically spectacular parts of the country. There are magnificent views to be had from Plateau Mountain, and many visitors are particularly impressed by the rushing waters of the Oldman River.Kananaskis Provincial Park is also very beautiful.Highway 940 starts in Hinton, 250 km (155 mi.) west of Edmonton. It can also be joined near Nordegg (Highway 11), Ghost Lake (TransCanada Highway 1a), Seebe Highway (the 541 from High River onwards) or Crowsnest Pass.
This northern Alberta town stands at the gateway to the Alaska Highway and its motto is: "Grande Prairie, the Greatest Place to Be". Grande Prairie has much to offer residents and visitors alike. A cosmopolitan city of over 36,000 people, Grande Prairie boasts of all the big city conveniences combined with a variety of outdoor pursuits close by.Two local highlights include the Grande Prairie museum with its 10 building homesteader village, another highlight is Muskoseepie Park which has hiking and bicycling trails, picnic sites, and lots of space to call your own. Visitors interested in local culture and artistry will want to check out the Prairie Gallery and those interested in fossils should take the short trip over to the Kleskun Hills.
When coal-mining flourished and there were 34 mines in the valley, East Coulee was a lively little town with a population of 4000. Today only some 200 still living here. The schoolhouse built in 1930 today houses a School Museum.The return trip to Drumheller can be either along Highway 10 or roads 569 and 56.Continue along Highway 56 to the north initially, and then on Highway 9 eastwards towards Hanna. After some 50 km (30 mi.) the Handhills rise out of the prairie to heights approaching 185 m (607 ft); these are some of the highest points between the Rockies and the east coast.
The actual Hoodoo region, west of East Coulee, is 18 km (11 mi.) further on from the town. Most of these bizarre rock-columns, so typical of the Red Deer River Badlands, are topped with a "bonnet" of hard rock which protects them from erosion.Some of the hoodoos seem to defy gravity or appear top heavy, making for an unusual sight.
13 km (8 mi.) south of Brooks, Kinbrook Island Provincial Park lies on the east bank of Lake Newell, a 65 km (40 mi.) long reservoir formed by the Bassano Dam built in 1909. Bathing can be enjoyed at Newel Lake, and there are colonies of cormorants, white pelicans and Californian seagulls, as well as Canadian geese, to be seen. Lake Newell forms part of an extensive irrigation project which was begun early in this century in south-eastern Alberta.Kinbrook Island Provincial Park is a bit of an oasis in the prairies with plenty of trees and shade, along with a sandy beach.
At the entrance to the township of Hanna a picture of a gray goose underlines the good hunting to be had around here. A reconstructed village, the Hanna Museum and Pioneer Village, illustrates the lives of the 19th c. pioneers. Historic buildings house a variety of old time stores, offices, and other pioneer style buildings.Now turning south on Highway 36 - where some stretches of bad road can be encountered - carry on for about 105 km (65 mi.) and then turn off east to the Dinosaur Provincial Park (about 40 km (25 mi.)).
Red Deer was originally settled on the Red Deer River but when the trains came through, the town took root at its current site. It is located north of Calgary, on route to Edmonton. Although not a tourist destination in itself, there are a number of attractions in the city that may be of interest to visitors passing through. Some of the town's highlights include the Red Deer and District Museum, Heritage Square, and Fort Normandeau.Not far from the town of Red Deer are the Sylvan Lake and Gull Lake, popular with boats and beach goers.
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum
The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is one of Red Deer's highlights. Sports history and heroes of Alberta are featured with over 7,000 artifacts as well as interactive exhibits.The Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame Gallery explores the history of hockey, hockey champions, and inductees. The "Ice and Snow" section discusses the funner aspects of winter.The Main Gallery of teh Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum covers all aspects of hockey. There is also an interactive exhibit with video games for both kids and adults.
Address: 102, 4200 HWY 2, Red Deer, AB T4N1E3, Canada
Opening hours: May 21 to Oct 10: 9am-6pm
Oct 11 to May 20: 10am-5pm
Oct 11 to May 20: 10am-5pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Good Friday - Christian, Easter - Christian
Entrance fee in CAD: Family $12.00, Adult $5.00, Child $3.00, Child 3 & under FREE
Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery, MAG (formerly the The Red Deer & District Museum )
The Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery contains a collection of more than 85,000 objects. Some of the highlights are the clothing and textiles of Western Canada, and the First Nations and Inuit art. In addition to the permanent collections The Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery also features temporary exhibits and special events.Various programs aimed and both adults and youth create a learning environment for those interested in art and history.
Address: 4525-47A Avenue, Red Deer, AB T4N6Z6, Canada
Opening hours: 10am-4:30pm; Closed: Sun
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in CAD: Family $10.00, Adult $5.00, Senior $2.00, Child $2.00
Useful tips: Admission by donation
Victoria Settlement is located just south of Smokey Lake on the North Saskatchewan River. Reverend George McDougall founded a Methodist Mission to the Cree here in 1862 and the Hudson's Bay Company established Fort Victoria in 1864. The Victoria Settlement eventually declined and almost completely disappeared.Discover life in this community during the 1800s at this recreated settlement through exhibits, trails, and a variety of activities. Costumed interpreters help to set the atmosphere and answer questions.
Some 50 km (31 mi.) east of the border, near the town of Coleman, the Crowsnest River plunges down 12 m (40 ft) into a gorge at Lundbreck Falls.Here a horshoe ledge sees two main sets of roaring falls.The area around the falls is the Lundbreck Falls Provincial Recreation Area with camping facilities. This is a very pretty area and makes a good stop for people camping in this portion of Southern Alberta.
Bar U Ranch National Historic Site is a tribute to the evolution of the Canadian ranching industry and the contribution of the industry to the development of Canada. The ranch was one of the first of its kind in Western Canada. Visitors can learn about ranching operations from the 1880s to 1950, open range ranching and Bar U as a multi-ranch cattle operation.
The Devil's Coulee Dinosaur Heritage Museum displays a variety of fossils, including that of a duck-billed dinosaur known as a Hadrosaur. The museum also has artifacts from the history of the development of the region.
Map of Alberta Attractions