Alberta conjures up images of western living, cowboys, oil, booming markets and a frontier-style mindset that makes Alberta the "Texas of the north". Alberta is one of the richest provinces in Canada, and its GDP is expected to surpass Ontario's within the next ten years.
Alberta is bordered by the Rocky Mountains in the west, the great prairies in the east, the arctic circle in the north and the US state of Montana in the south.
Indeed, it is economic wealth that has put Alberta on the map. From the early days of its founding, Alberta has been the destination of people tired of the woes and life of the east. The first peoples to settle in Alberta were the plains Indians, namely the Blackfoot and the Cree. They developed a nomadic lifestyle as they followed the great plains herds of buffalo, cariboo and deer. It wasn't until 10,000 years later that the first British settlers arrived in the region.
In 1670 Charles II of England granted all the territories of the prairies, including Alberta, to the Hudson Bay Company. The territory became known as "Ruperts Land". In 1773 the first French trappers arrived and soon had established several trading forts, including Bonnyville and Lac La Biche. These fur traders established the North West Fur Company (NWC) and within a few years hired mercenaries for both Hudson Bay Company and NWC were fighting it out for control of the Alberta plains in a series of bloody skirmishes. In 1821 the British forced the two companies to merge in order to end the feud, and Hudson Bay Company absorbed NWC.
In 1875 the Northwest Mounted Police (later the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) established a headquarters on the Bow River. Tertiary industry sprang up around the fort, and the city of Calgary was born. To the north, in the same year, the Hudson Bay Company established a strong central trading fort, Edmonton, which would become the capital of Alberta when the Canadian government created the District of Alberta in 1882.
A population boom in the late 19th Century saw many towns and cities spring up across the district. Agriculture, mining, hunting and the first oil explorations brought settlers from the east in droves, and in 1905 Alberta officially joined Confederation as a Province.
Today Alberta is still a booming economic powerhouse. The contraversial Alberta Oil Sands, to the north of Edmonton, creates almost 70% of Alberta's wealth. Alberta is the single largest oil supplier to both Canada and the USA. So much wealth is generated from Alberta oil that there is no provincial sales tax, and Alberta boasts the highest personal incomes in all of North America (the average household in Alberta earns over $100,000 per year). Wages are so high in Alberta that it has created a real estate spike, making housing almost unaffordable in the large urban centres like Calgary and Edmonton.
Alberta is also home to Alberta Grade A Beef, second only to Texas beef in quality and quantity. The cattle industry in Alberta makes up another large part of the economy, and also helps to keep the cowboy identity alive and strong. Country music is popular in Alberta and several world-famous country musicians have come from the province.
The late 20th Century has seen a booming tourism sector grow in Alberta. The absolutely stunning natural beauty of Alberta, from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the vast plains in the east, draw over 3 million tourists per year. The Calgary Stampede, the world's largest international rodeo, draws more than a million spectators from across North America every summer. Canada's first national park, Banff, was founded in Alberta, covering more than 6,400 square kilometers in the Rocky Mountains.
For jobs, lifestyle, culture, geographic beauty and a taste of the real west, you can't get better than Alberta.
Lake Moraine in Banff National Park
The town of Banff, a tourist-centered town in the heart of Banff National Park.
Cowboys and western living make up a large part of the Alberta identity
The stunning beauty of Alberta, as the Prairies turn into the Rockies.
The city of Calgary, in Alberta's south, is the fifth richest city in North America and the sixth most expensive.
Alberta's capital, Edmonton, is a booming and bustling city of government, academia, research and oil.
The West Edmonton Mall, the world's largest indoor mall/amusement park/water park/botanical gardens
Alberta boasts 2 NHL teams, the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers (Wayne Gretzky's first pro team).
The Calgary Stampede draws more than a million tourists from across North America every summer. This cowboy festival also includes an amusement park, casino, food exposition center and shopping.
The Alberta Oil Sands has drawn international criticism recently due to the environmentally destructive methods of extracting oil from the great sandy reservoirs. Nevertheless, the oil industry in Alberta has been taking steps to re-seed forests and wild grasses in areas where they have prospected.
The Alberta license plate
The beauty of Alberta