Boom Town: From Fur to Gold and Oil Few first-time visitors to Edmonton are prepared for what they discover when they arrive. From trading post to metropolis within some 200 years, Edmonton continues to surprise visitors by its size, quality of life, sophistication and beautiful river valley location.
Edmonton owes its existence to an abundant and varied supply of natural resources, which prompted each of its three major booms. In 1795 the Hudson's Bay Co. founded Fort Edmonton on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. Traders bartered with Cree and Blackfoot First Nations people for sought-after pelts of otters, beavers, muskrats, minks and foxes. A trading settlement developed and became the main stopover on routes to the north and to the Pacific.
This stopping point became a starting point for gold seekers rushing to the Klondike; they gathered supplies in Edmonton for the harsh trip north. When gold failed to materialize and many prospectors realized they weren't going to get rich, let alone get rich quick, they returned to Edmonton to settle for a slower but surer way of life.
A bust for prospectors was a boom for Edmonton. The city grew to six times its previous size, making it a prime choice for the provincial capital when Alberta was formed in 1905.
In the years that followed, the capital city earned its nickname, “Gateway to the North,” because of its status as a transportation hub and gateway to the regions beyond. In 1915 Edmonton became a major link in the Canadian Pacific Transcontinental Railroad, emerging as an important crossroads stop between east and west as well as north and south.
In February 1947, the Leduc No. 1 Well gushed crude oil 40 kilometres (25 mi.) southwest of Edmonton. Since then more than 2,250 wells within a 40-kilometre radius of Edmonton have coaxed the precious natural resource to the surface. Enormous industrial growth resulted; the city's population quadrupled in the 25 years following the Leduc gusher. Today more than 450,000 barrels of crude oil are refined daily in greater Edmonton.
With nearly 1 million residents in the greater metropolitan area, Edmonton has been careful not to sacrifice the natural resource that makes it livable—its green space. Edmonton's river valley parkland is reputed to be the largest stretch of urban parkland in North America, encompassing 7,340 hectares (18,348 acres), which is about 22 times the size of New York's City's Central Park. The city contains more than 11,000 hectares (27,181 acres) of parkland, playgrounds and green space.
Stretches of parks along the North Saskatchewan River Valley let residents and visitors spend long summer days enjoying such warm-weather activities as golfing, hiking, biking, canoeing and even panning for gold. When the winter chill arrives, the park system provides a playground for cross-country skiing, ice-skating and snowshoeing.
An extensive system of underground and overhead “pedways” in the downtown area makes it possible to travel in climate-controlled comfort regardless of the weather. Those who'd rather play indoors head to West Edmonton Mall, which combines 800-plus retail stores with restaurants and fun places to go like an amusement park, a water park with a giant wave pool, an ice-skating rink and two miniature golf courses. The largest of its kind in North America, this shopping and entertainment center has undergone three major expansions since its 1981 opening and draws an estimated 30.8 million people each year.
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
670 m/2,198 ft.
The federal Goods and Service Tax is 5 percent and applies to most goods, food/beverages and services, including lodgings. Alberta does not have a provincial sales tax but does impose a 3 percent Destination Marketing Fee (DMF) as well as a 4 percent Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT).
Grey Nuns Community Hospital, (780) 735-7000; Misericordia Community Hospital, (780) 735-2000; Royal Alexandra Hospital, (780) 735-4111; University of Alberta Hospital, (780) 407-8822.
9990 Jasper Ave. N.W. West Shaw Building Edmonton, AB T5J 1P7. Phone:(780)401-7696
Edmonton International Airport
Hertz, with offices at the airport and downtown (inside Edmonton House, 10205 100 Ave. N.W.), offers discounts to CAA and AAA members; phone (780) 890-4435 at the airport, (780) 423-3431 downtown, (800) 654-3131 in North America or (800) 654-3001 outside of North America. Contact a travel advisor at your local AAA club office to add rental cars to your travel packages.
The VIA Rail station is at 12360 121 St. N.W.; phone (888) 842-7245.
Red Arrow Express offers luxury motor coach service between Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray and Red Deer; phone (403) 531-0350 or (800) 232-1958.
Taxi companies include Co-Op Taxi Line, (780) 425-2525; Barrel Taxi (780) 489-7777; and Yellow Cab, (780) 462-3456. Taxi rates start at $3.60, plus $0.20 is charged for each additional 135 metres (about 1/12 mile) or a portion thereof. Taxis can be hailed, but phoning is recommended.
Edmonton has both bus and light-rail transit (LRT) service. Edmonton Transit System’s Customer Service Centre, on the second floor of Edmonton Tower at 10111 104 Ave., sells ETS passes and is open Mon.-Fri. 8-4:30; phone 331 within Edmonton or (780) 442-5311. Buses operate Mon.-Fri. 5:20 a.m.-1:30 a.m., Sat.-Sun. 6:30 a.m.-1:30 a.m. On holidays hours may be extended for special events. Light-rail transit operates on a similar schedule; check the website for full schedule. Fare is $3.50; free (ages 0-12). A 1-day pass is $9.75.