River, 587 km, rises in Bow Lake, fed by glacial meltwater from
the Bow Glacier (Wapta Icefield) in the Waputik Mountains in Banff
National Park, Alberta. It flows south and east from the Rockies
townsite and Calgary
to join the Oldman
River, forming 2 main tributaries of the South Saskatchewan
River in Alberta. It drains an area of 26 200 km2,
encompassing a wide variety of physiographic and vegetational
regions, from alpine ice fields and tundra, through dense conifer
forest and aspen parkland, to semiarid shortgrass prairie. Its
name may derive from a Cree word referring to the good bow-making
wood along its banks.
Several dams have
been built in its middle and lower reaches for hydroelectric power
(325 MW developed), flood control and irrigation. Calgary, the
Eastern and Western Irrigation Districts and the Bow River
Development are important beneficiaries.
earliest indications of human settlement in the Calgary area, dating
back some 12 000 years, consist of spearpoints found in ploughed
fields east of the city. This period coincided with the end of the
Age when glaciers from the Canadian Shield receded from the
valley of the Bow River. The successive cycle of nomadic hunting
peoples over the next 10 000 years included at least 3 dominant
cultures. The last, some 2000 years ago, brought the Blackfoot
from the eastern woodlands.
Among later arrivals
were the Sarcee,
who came from the north in the 1700s, and still later the Stony
from the Manitoba area. Archaeological evidence of prehistoric
peoples is confined mainly to campsites and Bison
kills. Fireplaces, storage pits and tipi rings date back over 4000
years. Sites depicting religious customs also exist in the form of
fieldstone medicine wheels, cairns and effigies, while a pictograph
panel can be seen on the Big Rock near Okotoks,
south of Calgary.
The westward movement
of the Fur
Trade brought the first Europeans to the area in the late 18th
century. David Thompson,
then of the North West Company, wintered near Calgary (1787), and
of the same company skirted the Calgary region (1792). In the late
1860s bison hunters from the US appeared in increasing numbers,
joined by illicit-whisky traders who erected a network of fortified
posts in southern Alberta from which they sold vile alcoholic
concoctions to the native people in return for bison robes. One such
post was located in the Calgary area near the present-day Glenmore
The whisky traders'
activities in part led to the formation of the North
West Mounted Police by the federal government (1873). Their second
post was established at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers
in 1875, and was named Fort
Calgary in 1876. (The word Calgary, of Gaelic origin, means
The railway reached
Fort Calgary in 1883 and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR)
subsequently laid out its Calgary town site west of the Elbow and
south of the Bow rivers. Calgary was incorporated in 1884 as the
first town in what is now the province of Alberta, receiving city
status in 1893.
city of Calgary appears as a blue patch centered on the Bow River.
The physiography around the city is visible, with the prairie
farms (reddish areas) and rangeland of the foothills (green). The
snow-capped mountains show as bright blue areas (courtesy Canada
Centre for Remote Sensing).
economic growth was closely associated with the development of the
livestock industry, and with the city's focal position as the
chief transportation centre in Alberta. Before 1906 the open range
cattle industry was dominant and Calgary effected its influence
commercially, industrially and socially. The city's first
millionaire, Pat Burns,
built up the largest integrated meat business in Canada. The
cattle industry, especially following the crippling winter of
1906-07, contributed a volatile element to Calgary's urban
development, despite the boosters who continually referred to the
city as a thriving cattle town.
The opening of
southern Alberta to cash crop farming in the early 1900s brought
rapid growth in Calgary, which increased its population by over
1000% from 1901 to 1911. Rails stretching in all directions
solidified the city's position as the prime distributing centre
for south-central and southern Alberta. After 1912 Calgary's
development slowed along with that of rural Alberta, appreciably
so after the end of the immigration boom and the onset of WWI.
A third and most
crucial element in Calgary's economic development has been the oil
and natural gas industries. Beginning with the first strike in
1914 at Turner
Valley, a few kilometres southwest of Calgary, local
entrepreneurs such as W.S. Herron, A.W. Dingman and R.A. Brown
continually promoted Calgary's future as a major oil centre.
Alberta's first oil refinery opened in Calgary (1923). Subsequent
important discoveries at Turner Valley (1924, 1936) established
Calgary's pre-eminence in Canada's oil and natural gas industries.
When the lid was eventually lifted off western Canada's vast oil
reserves at Leduc
in 1947, Calgary stood ready to reap the rewards.
subsequent phenomenal growth from an urban expression of southern
Alberta to a metropolis of international status is a direct
offshoot of its diversifying economy and its increasingly
cosmopolitan population base. Another aspect of Calgary's
development has been a continuation of a long-standing and intense
rivalry with Edmonton.
The 2 Alberta cities have competed keenly at every level, and have
produced one of Canada's most identifiable urban rivalries.
Bow River valley forms the main topographical feature of the city.
Two smaller streams, the Elbow River and Nose Creek, flow through
the city into the Bow, creating a configuration of valleys and
bluffs. The placement of railways has also affected spatial growth
patterns. The main business section is compressed between the Bow
River and the CPR main line.
development has tended to follow the river valleys, originally
along the Elbow, and more recently along the Bow to the northwest
and southeast. Other influencing factors include the University of
Calgary and the International Airport to the north, and the
Glenmore Reservoir, Tsuu T'ina Indian Reserve and Fish Creek
Provincial Park to the south. Manufacturing districts are located
to the east, in the railway suburbs of Ogden, and in zoned areas
along the railways.
began in 1911 when an English town planner, Thomas Mawson, was
commissioned to prepare a comprehensive scheme. His extravagant
proposals (1914) were never implemented. A zoning bylaw was
instituted in 1934 and a city planning department established in
1950. In 1963 the city adopted its first general plan for
controlling future development (revised 1970, 1973). The Alberta
Planning Act (1977) directed Calgary to adopt a more regional
approach to planning.
predominantly Anglo-Saxon population has been steadily falling as
a proportion of the overall (from 28% in 1986 to 23% (British and
Canadian single response) in 1996). In 1996 English was the mother
tongue of 80% in Calgary, down 5% since 1986.
witnessed steady population growth since WWII, showing only minor
decreases in 1983 and 1984 due to the collapse in oil prices.
Since 1983, net migration into the city has exceeded natural
increase on only 2 occasions (1990 and 1996). Although still
relatively young, the city's population is aging. The median age
in 1996 was 33.3 years, up 5.7 years from 1976.
and Labor Force
economy has historically been associated with commerce and
distribution. Its more recent emergence as a world energy and
financial centre is reflected in its second-ranking national
position in the location of head offices, including those of Nova
Transcanada Pipelines, Petro
Canada and Suncor Inc. The work force, therefore, shows a heavy
orientation towards the professional, management and commercial
collar" occupations have traditionally been dominated by the
building, railway and, more recently, oil supply trades.
Manufacturing has diversified from products for the agricultural,
oil and natural gas industries to include products from the food,
clothing, furniture, motion picture making and high-technology
sectors. The high-technology sector employs 32 000 people and
totals over $7 billion in annual revenues. The University Research
Park in northwestern Calgary is the second-largest research centre
Calgary has been one of Canada's
fastest-growing and most prosperous cities. Since the 1980s,
however, it has remained heavily economically dependent on a single,
high-risk industry. It suffered accordingly in the recessions in the
oil industry in the mid and late 1980s and in the early 1990s. Most
of the nation's oil and natural gas producers and two-thirds of coal
companies are headquartered in Calgary.
world-class freight classification yards at Alyth and major repair
facilities at Ogden. Canadian National has container and
intermodal services into its Sarcee yards. Calgary's airport is
one of the largest and busiest in Canada. The city's municipal
transportation system consists of motor buses supplemented by a
Light Rail Transit (LRT) system.
government of the city has been conducted under powers originally
granted by the North-West Territories and later (1905) by the
Government of Alberta, most recently through the Municipal
Government Act (1968). Before 1909 civic business was conducted
almost entirely by council alone. Since then the system of a
council and board of commissioners has been in operation in one
form or another. The mayor and council members (representing the
city's wards) fill 3-year terms. The board of commissioners
consists of the mayor and 5 appointed members.
franchise was reformed to exclude plural voting (1913) and
property restrictions (1915). A preferential system of voting was
initiated in 1916 and continued until 1958. Since the
establishment of a board of public utilities (1916), the
provincial government has wielded an ever-tightening control over
the scope of local government in Calgary.
and recreational facilities have reflected Calgary's recent
growth. Educationally the city is served by the University
of Calgary, Mount Royal Community College, Southern Alberta
Institute of Technology, Bow Valley College and Alberta College of
facilities include the Glenbow
Museum, Fort Calgary Interpretive Centre, Alberta Science
Centre and Heritage Park. The Calgary Centre for Performing Arts
is home to the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and 3 professional
theatre companies: Alberta Theatre Projects, Theatre Calgary and
One Yellow Rabbit. The centre includes the 1800-seat Jack Singer
Concert Hall. Calgary also has a professional opera company, the
Calgary Opera Association. The Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre is
patterned after the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China, and is
located in the city's "Chinatown."
several major cultural attractions and festivals throughout the
year, including the African Festival, Calgary International Jazz
Festival, Canada's Cowboy Festival, International Native Arts
Festival and the Calgary Folk Music Festival. The Esther Honens
Calgary International Piano Competition and Festival attracts
performers from around the world, while the Calgary International
Children's Festival is a cultural journey for the young.
concentration of enclosed spectator and exhibition facilities is
in Stampede Park, the home of the world-famous Calgary
Stampede. Also, the nearby Canadian Airlines Saddledome, built
for the 1988 Winter Olympics,
is home to the Calgary
Flames of the NHL. The city's other professional sports teams
are the Calgary
Stampeders of the CFL and the Calgary Cannons, a Triple A
Olympic Park features world-class ski jumping, bobsled and luge
facilities. The enclosed 400 m Olympic Oval on the University of
Calgary campus is one of the world's best speed-skating venues.
Spruce Meadows is an internationally known equestrian show-jumping
Calgary boasts the
in Canada, which includes a prehistoric park. There are 2 large
urban parks, Fish Creek Provincial Park (1153 ha) and Nose Hill
Park (1128 ha). Another attraction is Devonian Gardens, a 1.25 ha
indoor garden in the heart of the downtown area.
has developed lifestyle amenities consistent with its status as a
winter city. Its Alternative Level Pedestrian System (Plus 15) is
a network of enclosed walkways to most of the downtown buildings.
Over 12 km of walkways and 41 bridges facilitate comfortable
year-round movement for pedestrians and shoppers. The city is also
encircled by almost 350 km of maintained pathways, ski trails and
bikeways that enhance a sense of "the great outdoors,"
and which enable quality recreational activities regardless of
written by Ian A. Campbell
Photos courtesy of the Canadian Encyclopedia