Interested in some really cool, insightful, and interesting Alberta facts?
Last year, I wrote an article about more than 200 interesting facts about Canada and it instantly became a hit. It turns out that I’m not the only one interested in the cool and fun facts about this massive country. But why stop there!
Having lived in Alberta for 36 years, I’ve learned a lot about this province. But when it comes to cool Alberta facts, I know about as much as the average Albertan and Canadian – next to nothing. So I wanted to search far and wide to find out some of the coolest, weirdest, most unusual interesting facts about Alberta. Some of them I knew just by growing up here. Some I learned by travelling so much around the province. Others came from books, websites, and the wide web of Google. It’s mind-boggling how deep the rabbit hole can go when it comes to Alberta facts.
There are a lot of interesting, strange, and super cool Alberta facts out there. I found so many that I actually struggled with how to lay them out to be read easily. In the end, I think I found a way, separating them into various categories, including general history, parks and wildlife, cities, small towns, natural disasters, and more.
I hope you enjoy learning about Alberta and please feel free to leave a comment, whether it’s about something I missed or something you know that I don’t. I also want to make a note that facts can change over time. For example, West Edmonton Mall used to the world’s largest mall but is now only North America’s largest mall. That may change again. If something is outdated, please let me know in the comments or by sending us an email.
But enough chit-chat, let’s get into it!
What is Alberta?
Alberta is a fertile slice of land that is made up of the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains of North America, the Canadian Badlands, and an immense amount of Boreal Forest. The southern portion of its surface consists primarily of plains that are almost entirely treeless. We refer to this as the prairies. As you work your way west towards the Rocky Mountains, you’ll also find the stunning foothills. In the middle south and to the east are the badlands, which is home to a TON of dinosaur fossils. Then, to the North, where I was born, is a seemingly endless amount of thick forest leading all the way to the Northwest Territories.
Although Alberta is often considered a prairie province, it’s probably one of the most varied provinces in Canada. The only thing we lack is the ocean and an immense amount of lakes.
It’s Official, Alberta!
Alberta’s Official Flower: Prickly Wild Rose
Alberta’s Official Rock: Petrified Wood
Alberta’s Official Bird: Great Horned Owl
Alberta’s Official Animal: Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
Alberta’s Official Tree: Lodgepole Pine
Alberta’s Official Fish: Bull Trout
Historic Alberta Facts
- Alberta became a province of Canada in 1905. Before that, it was a part of the North West Territories.
- However, the area now known as Alberta has been inhabited by various Native American (First Nations) groups for at least 10,000 years.
- European explorers first appeared in the 1750s as the fur trade expanded across western North America.
- As of April 2020, the population of Alberta was estimated to be about 4.3 million people. It is the 4th most populous province in Canada after Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia.
- Alberta is one of only two landlocked provinces in Canada. The other province is Saskatchewan. Alberta lies to the east of British Columbia, west of Saskatchewan, south of the Northwest Territories, and north of Montana, USA.
- Alberta is the 6th largest of all the provinces and territories in Canada in terms of total area with 661,848 square kilometres (255,541 square miles). The top 5 are Nunavut, Quebec, Northwest Territories, Ontario, and British Columbia.
- The Alberta flag was adopted on June 1, 1968. The shield represents the natural resources and beauty of the varied Alberta landscape: the Rocky Mountains and their foothills, the grass prairies, and the cultivated wheat fields. St George’s Cross is an allusion to the arms of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which once controlled what is now Alberta.
Fun Alberta Facts about Cities and Towns
- Vulcan, a small town between Calgary and Lethbridge, is famous with Star Trek enthusiasts. Why? Because they truly took their name to heart and built a 31-foot Enterprise replica next to the spaceship-shaped visitors centre. Even the plaque is written in three languages: English, Vulcan, and Klingon!
- Sylvan Lake, a small town and popular lakeside retreat, is also home to an inland lighthouse. It was built to commemorate its 75th birthday in 1988 but was rebuilt in 2015.
- Wolverine, the comic book mutant, is from Alberta. According to Marvel history, Wolverine was born in Cold Lake, Alberta in the 1880s. I wonder if any of them had ever been to Cold Lake…
- The town of St. Paul features a UFO landing pad, just in case Aliens need to stop for fuel on their way to distant galaxies (Okay, we made that part up). But they do have a UFO landing page and a UFO tourist information centre where you’ll find “actual” photographs of UFOs, crop circles, and cattle mutilations.
- The town of Mundare has a 42′ tall statue of a sausage coil.
- The city of Lloydminster is shared by Alberta and Saskatchewan. Lloydminster straddles the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan, and instead of fighting over the territory, the provinces agreed to just share it. We like to cooperate over here. In fact, Wolverine’s hometown of Cold Lake also kind of shares the lake with Saskatchewan.
- Alberta’s last train robbery took place in the Crowsnest Pass in 1920.
- In 1914, the purest oil discovery in Canada occurred in Turner Valley (southwest of Calgary) where the oil was so pure it could be pumped straight out of the ground and into the car! This is also what spurred the oil industry in Alberta.
- In 1915, the Brooks aqueduct was built as part of a bigger plan to build an irrigation system with numerous water storage lakes and over 2,140 kilometres of canals at a huge relative cost of $40 million. It still stands today!
- Another big thing happened near Brooks in 1955 with the founding of Dinosaur Provincial Park, the world’s richest site of dinosaur bones.
Alberta Facts about Parks and Wildlife
- Alberta has 27,525 sq km (10,627 sq mi) of protected land in over 500 sites including 75 provincial parks. Our five national parks encompass an additional 63,000 sq km (24,000 sq mi) and three of those parks are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- There are 587 species of wildlife, many of which are endangered or protected, that migrate through or make their home in the province. Alberta also has its “Big 7”, which includes elk, moose, bighorn sheep, grizzly bear, bison, cougar and wolf.
- Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park and was established in 1885. Located in the Rocky Mountains, just over an hour from Calgary to Banff, this national park encompasses 6,641 square kilometres (2,564 square miles) of mountainous terrain, as well as dense forest, alpine lakes, glaciers, and more.
- Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, spanning 11,000 square kilometres (4,200 square miles). The park includes the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, as well as hot springs, lakes, waterfalls and mountains. Jasper was named after Jasper Hawes, who operated a trading post in the region for the North West Company.
- Mount Columbia is the highest point in Alberta, standing tall at 3,747 meters (12,294 feet) above sea level.
- Lake Louise is one of the most visited and photographed lakes in the entire world. It’s popular because of its beautiful turquoise coloured water that reflects the surrounding mountains and Victoria Glacier on the far shore. It’s also home to the world-renowned Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Its original name was Emerald Lake but was later changed to Lake Louise after Princess Caroline Alberta Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria and wife of Canada’s Governor-General.
- Alberta is also home to one of the most scenic road trips in the world. The Icefields Parkway runs from Lake Louise to Jasper and is one of the most beautiful road trips in Canada. This 230-kilometre stretch of highway leads past towering mountains, lakes, glaciers, and waterfalls, with all kinds of natural attractions along the way.
- Perhaps the most famous natural attractions along the Icefields Parkway is the Athabasca Glacier, which is part of the Columbia Icefield. This 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in Canada—and the most-visited glacier in North America. If properly equipped, one could walk onto the glacier or opt for the popular ride aboard the Ice Explorer All-Terrain Bus.
- Love dinosaurs? An almost perfectly preserved dinosaur was found in a Canadian oil sands mine in 2011. The 2,500-pound fossil was unveiled to the public in 2017 and is currently on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta.
- The world’s longest beaver dam is in Wood Buffalo National Park and measures 850 metres (2,790 feet) long. The enormity of the dam wasn’t noticed until someone spotted it on Google Earth in 2007, but apparently several generations of beavers have worked on the dam since 1975. The dam beat the previous record set by one in Three Forks, Montana, which was 652 metres (or 2,140 feet) long. Canadians beavers are busy!
- Despite Alberta being one of the smaller provinces in Canada, it’s actually home to the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Alberta, including Waterton International Peace Park, Dinosaur OPrivincaal Park, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Wood Buffalo National Park, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, and the newly anointed Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. Let’s dig further into these UNESCO sites:
- Waterton Glacier International Peace Park: This park is unique because it is located in two countries: Waterton Park is in Alberta, Canada, while Glacier Park is in the USA.
- Dinosaur Provincial Park: This is the #1 place on Earth for dinosaur enthusiasts. Located in the beautiful Alberta badlands just two hours from Calgary, more than 150 fossilized skeletons have been discovered in the area.
- Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump: This incredible UNESCO site is a great place to go for those interested in indigenous culture and history. This is one of the main areas where Native Americans drove buffalo over the edge of the bluff to their death so that they had enough food to feed the whole community as well as skins and bones for clothes, tipis, and more. How they managed such an operation is incredible.
- Wood Buffalo National Park: Located in the northeast of the province, this national park is the largest in Canada and one of the largest in the world. It’s also shared with the Northwest Territories.
- Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks: These parks are comprised of Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, which are in Alberta, as well as a few others that are located in British Columbia. It is easily one of the most scenic areas on the planet.
Fun Facts about Calgary, Alberta
- Calgary, which is Alberta’s biggest city, is known for its Chinooks. These warm, damp winds come from the Rocky Mountains and cause somewhat of a “blanket” over Calgary, increasing temperatures by up to 15°C! The clouds literally look like a blanket covering the city and it’s quite incredible to see temperatures swing so greatly in the winters. Some people love it but some people also get headaches due to the change in pressure as well.
- Another thing Calgary is known for is its 18 kilometres of Indoor Walkways! These make up a network known as the “Plus 15” and consist of 60+ suspended, heated, and enclosed bridges that span much of the downtown core, connecting more than 100 buildings together and allowing Calgarians to explore downtown without going outside!
- Calgary is also home to the world’s largest rodeo, which is also known as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. The Calgary Stampede started in 1912 and continues to this day, taking place over 10 days in July.
- The Calgary Stampede is known for a lot of things, but one of them is the free pancake breakfasts, which are served to more than 200,000 people. Perhaps more impressive is that it’s all done by volunteers.
- It’s not all chuckwagons and rodeos though. In 1913, the Calgary Symphony Orchestra was founded.
- Calgary invented the Caeser! Tasked with creating a signature drink to celebrate the opening of a new Italian restaurant, bartender Walter Chell invented the Caesar at Calgary’s Westin hotel in 1969. He remembered going to Italy where spaghetti would be served with tomato sauce and clams, so he decided to mash some clams up and mix them with tomato juice. Now they’re served with all kinds of garnishes, including mini burgers and shrimp!
- Ginger beef was also invented in Calgary, Alberta. Take that, China!
- Calgary was home to the Olympic Winter Games in 1988!
- In 2019, the New York Times named the new Calgary Library as one of the top 52 things to see.
- Calgary’s Fish Creek Provincial Park is the second-largest urban park in Canada.
- Calgary is kind. A homeless woman in Calgary once found and returned a purse that had more than $10,000 in it. In 2012, the woman saw a vehicle drive off, leaving a purse behind — and when she looked inside the bag, she found $10,400. She didn’t think twice about surrendering the purse to Calgary police, money and all. “It never crossed my mind to keep the money,” she said. We certainly hope she was given a nice reward.
- Calgary also has a unique way of honouring people. Instead of a key to the city, honourees in Calgary get a white cowboy hat and have to say the most stereotypically Albertan pledge ever. Wearing the Smithbilt hat and raising their right hand, they must say – “I, [insert name], havin’ visited the only genuine Western city in Canada, namely Calgary, and havin’ been duly treated to exceptional amounts of heart-warmin’, hand-shakin’, tongue-loosenin’, back-slappin’, neighbour-lovin’ Western spirit, do solemnly promise to spread this here brand of hospitality to all folks and critters who cross my trail hereafter. On the count of three, we will all raise our hats and give a loud ‘Yahoo!'” That’s when the attendees shout along with them.
Fun Facts about Edmonton, Alberta
- Since 1906, Edmonton has been the Capital City of Alberta, as it is the ‘geographical centre of Alberta’.
- Also in 1906, Canada’s first wildlife sanctuary was established east of Edmonton, at Elk Island, which is now a national park.
- Just two years later in 1908, Alberta’s first University, the University of Alberta, was established in Edmonton.
- Edmonton is also nicknamed “Festival City” due to the sheer amount of festivals held each year and their proud support of arts and culture.
- Boston Pizza was actually founded in Edmonton. The first Boston Pizza was opened by Greek immigrant Gus Agioritis in Edmonton, and it was called the Boston Pizza and Spaghetti House. Why it wasn’t called the Edmonton pizza house is perhaps something we’ll never know.
- Edmonton’s beautiful River Valley is the longest stretch of connected urban parkland in North America! In fact, it is 22 times larger than New York City’s Central Park!
- Another huge attraction in Edmonton is the West Edmonton Mall, which holds many records for the city of Edmonton. Established in 1981 by the Ghermezian family (of Persian Jewish descent), the mall became the world’s largest all the way up until 2004, taking up 48 city blocks! It still remains North America’s largest mall, which is super impressive considering the small size of Edmonton. The mall features more than 800 stores, a hotel, a theme park, a waterpark, an aquarium, mini-golf courses, a movie theatre, and a full-size NHL skating rink. Some of these attractions have also become world records, which we’ll talk about below.
- The first-ever indoor water park “World Waterpark” was built in West Edmonton Mall in 1985. It’s still North America’s second-largest indoor water park, at over 817,800 sq ft (75,980 m2) in size. We love it!
- Also located within West Edmonton Mall is one of the world’s largest indoor amusement parks, which is also home to the World’s largest triple loop indoor roller coaster – the Mindbender. Trust us, it’s crazy!
- Last but not least is yet another world record thanks to the mall. According to Guinness World Records, the world’s largest parking lot is the one at West Edmonton Mall, which can hold around 20,000 vehicles.
Alberta Facts about Women
- In 1914, Alberta women lead the fight in Canada for the right of women to vote.
- Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan grant Women the right to vote in 1916.
- Also in 1916, Alberta’s Emily Murphy became the first female judge in the entire British Commonwealth.
- Not long after, in 1917, Alberta’s Louise McKinney and Roberta MacAdams became the first women elected to a legislature in the British Empire.
Political Alberta Facts
- In 1934, William Aberhart (the radio preacher), as a result of very difficult times, moves into politics by founding with his friend, Earnest Manning of Edmonton, the Social Credit Party (SCP).
- The SCP promises to give all citizens $25 a month in credit during the depression.
- Aberhart is elected as Premier in 1935, creating Alberta’s first political dynasty. The Social Credit Party remained in power all the way until 1973.
- Peter Lougheed of the Progressive Conservative Party is elected Premier in 1971, establishing Alberta’s second political dynasty. The PCP was voted in all the way until 2015.
- During WW II from 1937 to 1943 During, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat become the locations of the largest prisoner of war camps amongst the Allies.
- Many prisoners return after the war as immigrants.
- In 1947, a massive oil occurs near Leduc, drilled by Vern Hunter of Imperial Oil. Considering he came up “dry” the previous 133 times, this was a lucky find.
- In 1926, after WW I, Canada reaches out to eastern Europeans, especially those of German and Ukrainian descent, and invites them to immigrate to Canada.
- Of the 73,000 people who came to Alberta over the next four years, half were from eastern Europe.
- In the 1940s Britain had a strange plan to create an aircraft carrier made out of ice and created the prototype in Alberta.
- Horribly, in 1928, the Alberta government enacted a Sexual Sterilization Act that forced individuals to be sterilized to “prevent the transmission of undesirable traits to offspring.” In 1972, the board was finally repealed but had already sterilized 2,832 individuals. This is some bad dark history.
- Speaking of dark history, in 1959, the Government of Alberta approved a plan to nuke Fort McMurray. It’s hard to believe anyone would conceive of such a thing, especially after Hiroshima, but thankfully, the bad idea did not get approved.
- In 2004, an Alberta radio station had to apologize for faking a call from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to Alberta Premier Ralph Klein over a hockey bet. They used a computer-generated impersonation of Schwarzenegger to trick the Canadian Politician.
Crazy Alberta Facts about Natural Disasters
- First off, Alberta has had more natural disasters than any other province in Canada.
- In 1914, for example, Alberta was home to the worst mining disaster in Canada, which killed 189 people in the Crowsnest Pass back in June 1914.
- Also in the Crowsnest Pass, Frank was home to Canada’s deadliest landslide, which occurred on April 29th, 1903, when the top of Turtle Mountain slide down and buried the town beneath it. Oddly enough, the Native Americans in the area warned of the “moving mountain” and always refused to camp below it. Today, it’s a historical site with a wonderful interpretive centre and jaw-dropping views.
- A fun and equally sad fact that also came out of the Frank Slide was a mule named Charlie. This mule was buried under the rockslide and actually survived for an entire month by eating the bark off of the timber supports and drinking from pools of water. That’s the fun part. The sad part is that after he was rescued, the mule died due to being overfed oats and brandy from the rescuers.
- The largest fire in North American history was the 1950 Chinchaga fire in Alberta, which covered 1.4 million hectares (3.5 million acres). The smoke from the fire covered the Eastern seaboard of the USA and was seen as far away as France.
- In 2019, there was a 4.6 magnitude earthquake in Red Deer and these were associated with the process that created the Rocky Mountains.
- In 2016, a massive fire struck Fort.McMurray, which led not only to the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta’s history but also the costliest disaster in Canadian history. More than 88,000 people were forced from their homes, assisted by firefighters, the Canadian Forces, and the RCMP. The fire destroyed 2,400 homes and buildings. The fire spread across approximately 590,000 hectares (1,500,000 acres).
More Fun, Weird, and Cool Alberta Facts
- Albertans must love their alcohol. With less than 24 hours’ notice before the 2014 Olympics Hockey final Canada vs Sweden, Alberta changed the liquor law to allow bars to open at 5 am and serve liquor so people could watch the game at the bar. Maybe we just love hockey so much? Maybe both?
- The British Army keeps a training field for large-scale miliary training in Suffield, Alberta. There’s also a big Canadian base in Wainwright. Both Karla and I have worked at both of them.
- An Alberta judge wrote a 188-page ruling in order to explain and deconstruct the arguments used by the so-called “freemen” or “sovereign citizens” in their attempts to clog the legal system.
- There is a financial institution in Alberta, which was created by the provincial government as a “Screw you” to federal legislation and privately owned banks. It’s called ATB and has been voted as one of the best places to work in the province.
- Trick or Treat! Although Halloween owes much of its existence to the Celts and medieval Europe, the actual phrase “trick or treat” can be traced back to Alberta. First mentioned in 1927 by the Blackie newspaper, it was used to describe the way pranksters were demanding “trick or treat” at various homes on Halloween.
- Alberta has no rats. In fact, it is known as one of the few rat-free zones in the world. The government spends millions of dollars every year to monitor and trap any encroaching rats with sophisticated equipment. It’s even illegal to have a pet rat. In all honesty, I highly doubt we have no rats in the province but whether we do or not, we certainly have less than anyone else.
- Alberta is the only place in the world where you are legally allowed to throw coins at strippers. It’s kinda disgusting.
- In 2014, an aurora enthusiast in Alberta discovered a previously undocumented ribbon of light in the sky similar to the aurora borealis. He named it “Steve” in tribute to the animated film “Over the Hedge,” where woodland creatures name an unknown object “Steve” to make it appear less frightening.
- Last but not least, the Bar U Ranch, a famous historic ranch in southern Alberta, once employed The Sundance Kid as a ranch hand. This was before he teamed up with Butch Cassidy and began robbing banks.
Want more? Well, you’re gonna have to wait because that’s all we have for now. I hope you enjoyed learning about these interesting Alberta facts. If you haven’t already don’t forget to check out our article about 200 fun facts about Canada and subscribe to our newsletter to join 14,000 other people who just can’t get enough of Canada.
Do you know any more fun facts about Alberta? Share what you know, or do a little research and see what other fun quirks this province has.
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Ken Balaz says
The mule named Charlie was actually a horse was it not? I did the tour with my kids and the tour guides told the story as it being a horse and not a mule.
Matthew G. Bailey says
yeah, it’s weird. Some sites say horse and some say mule. I wasn’t sure what to go with…
Dawn Thomas says
Have you checked out the high level bridge in Lethbridge. It is claimed to be the longest and highest trestle bridge in the world.
Matthew G. Bailey says
Oh right! Forgot about that one. Actually, I think we can probably make a section all about Lethbridge!
Edward Cokes says
Great article !
Dominic Willott says
Please refer to Historic Fact 6. Quebec, BC, and Ontario are larger than Alberta. Perhaps you could identify which two other provinces are larger than Alberta? Alternatively, you could identify Alberta as the 4th largest (not the 6th largest) province.
Matthew G. Bailey says
It’s because “provinces” include territories. I’ll clarify that, but yes, in order of largest, it’s Nunavut, Quebec, Northwest Territories, Ontario, BC, and then Alberta.
there are so many places in canada to see..with some beautiful scenery..what would be the number once place to visit
You do not mention anything about the 2013 floods in Calgary,AB that was a huge part of Alberta history as well as the fires of Fort McMurray. They mentioned these floods were the worst in Alberta history.