November 28, 2012 6:53 am

Alberta celebrates its cowboy past every July with a ten-day rodeo and fair held in the city of Calgary. The Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, as it’s called, is the biggest annual event in Alberta. Cowboys demonstrate their skills in steer-wrestling, bronco-riding, and calf-roping contests at the daily rodeo. Chuck wagons race each evening.
Facts About Alberta
3,470,000 people
Rank among provinces and territories in population
Major cities
Calgary, Edmonton
256,000 square miles
662,000 square kilometers
Rank among provinces and territories in area
Entry into federation
September 1, 1905
Provincial bird
Great Horned Owl
Provincial flower
Wild Rose
Alberta is the westernmost of ’s three Prairie Provinces. The other two are Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Much of the land is flat prairie, where wheat grows and cattle graze. But the land is varied.
In Alberta, you’ll find golden wheat fields, rolling plains, forested foothills, and snow-covered mountains. The Rocky Mountains rise along the southwestern border. Their rugged crags and towering peaks provide magnificent scenery.
Beef cattle graze in the rolling grasslands east of Alberta’s Rockies. Farther north, much of the province’s wheat and other grains are grown in the foothills and sloping plains.
In the far northeastern part of Alberta, you’ll find forests dotted with lakes and swamps. Wood Buffalo National Park—the largest national park in Canada—is a popular attraction here. The park was originally founded to protect the region’s free-roaming bison herds. Now it is also a breeding ground for North America’s endangered whooping crane.
Alberta has the most land devoted to national parks of any Canadian province. Several of these parks are in the Rockies. Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park. It was founded in 1885. Two years before, railroad workers had found hot mineral springs while laying railroad tracks in the mountains. These springs became part of the park.
Both Banff and Jasper National Park have spectacular mountain scenery, glaciers, and beautiful lakes. Lake Louise is in Banff. Its turquoise-blue waters mirror the forested slopes and snowcapped peaks nearby. The parks are popular with skiers in the winter and with hikers and nature-lovers in summer.
Waterton Lakes National Park is in the foothills of the Rockies. It lies next to Glacier National Park in the neighboring state of Montana in the United States.
In the 1750s, British fur traders began arriving in what is now Alberta. The traders exchanged European goods with native peoples for buffalo robes, dried meat, horses, and furs. Beaver pelts were especially popular for men’s hats in Europe.
The fur trade led to exploration of a vast region of western Canada known as the Northwest Territories. In 1905, two provinces were carved out of the southern part of the territories. They were Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Alberta became a province of Canada on September 1, 1905. The province was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, a daughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria and wife of a governor-general of Canada. As a result, Alberta is known as the Princess Province. Lake Louise in Banff National Park also was named after the governor-general’s wife.
Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and its second largest city. It started as a fur-trading post. In the 1890s, prospectors arrived. They were heading north to the Yukon, where gold had been discovered. Some stayed on.
Edmonton’s population grew again in the 1950s, after oil was discovered near the city. Today, Alberta produces most of Canada’s oil and natural gas.
Edmonton is the site of the world’s largest shopping mall. The West Edmonton Mall has an amusement park and more than 800 stores and restaurants. It covers more than 120 acres (50 hectares).
Calgary is Alberta’s largest city. It is located in a valley near the foothills of the Rockies. Most of Alberta south of Calgary was once open range where cattle grazed. But the land was fenced in by the early 1900s, after farmers settled in the region. The annual Calgary Stampede recalls the city’s cattle-ranching days.
Today, Calgary is an important business and transportation center for Alberta. The city is located near Alberta’s oil fields, and many oil companies have headquarters in Calgary.
The North-West Mounted Police were established in Alberta in 1873 to bring law and order to Canada’s “Wild West.” They built a network of forts in Alberta and Saskatchewan for policing the prairies.
The Mounties, as they are popularly called, have become one of the best-known symbols of Canada. They wear bright red jackets, flat-brimmed hats, and ride on horseback. Today, they are formally known as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Alberta’s summers are hot and dry, except in the Rocky Mountains region where it is cooler. The winters are very cold throughout the province. Albertans appreciate the warm winds that sometimes blow in from the Rocky Mountains during winter and early spring.
The warm winds are called chinooks. On cold days when the sky is gray, Albertans often look for the Chinook Arch over the mountains. This curved patch of blue sky tells them that the warm winds are coming.
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