Learn About The History Of Red Deer AB

Situated near the midpoint of the Edmonton-Calgary corridor, Red Deer AB has a long and rich history in Canada. It neighbors Red Deer County, a region of rolling hills that boasts about rich production of oil, cattle products, and grain. As of 2016, the area had a population of 100,418 people making it the third most populous city in Alberta.

The Origin of the name "Red Deer"

Red Deer AB was named after the river on which it sits. The natives called the river Waskasoo Seepee- interpreted as "Elk River." However, the British traders translated it to "Red Deer River" as they mistakenly assumed that Elk was the European red deer. Although the settlers named the place "Red Deer," the name of the river is still Waskasoo Seepee.

Early Years

Before European settlement in the late 1800s, Red Deer, AB was a gathering area occupied by aboriginal tribes, which included Plains Cree, Blackfoot, and Stoney. In the early 1900s, the city saw a massive influx of British settlers. With a population of 343 in 1901, Red Deer AB was incorporated as a town.

The Economy

Through its strategic position and fertile fields that allowed profitable mixed farming, the town thrived primarily as a distribution and agricultural center. However, in 1907, the town was chosen as a major divisional spot for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Also, two other rails- the Canadian Northern and Alberta Central- entered the community in 1911. This led to a large land boom in the area. Nevertheless, the outbreak of World War I ended this boom and left the town as a small, quiet, but prairie city.

World War II and the Great Depression

The 1930s great depression was a substantial setback for the city. However, it managed better than many communities in the area did, as severe drought did not hit it. Besides, it was virtually debt-free and was profiting from the ownership of local public utilities.

The outbreak of WWII rejuvenated growth in Red Deer AB. The city was designated as the site of a military training camp (the A-20 camp) that was located where the Memorial Centre, Cormack Armory, and Lindsay Thurber High School currently stand. Furthermore, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan designed two air bases south of the city in Bowden and Penhold.


After World War II, the discovery of significant amounts of oil and natural gas fields allowed the area to enter into a prolonged boom. The petroleum service industry became an increasingly crucial part of its economy. In the late 1950s, Red Deer AB was claimed to be the fastest-growing city in Canada. There was a lull in growth in the 1970s, but with the construction of world-scale petrochemical industries in Joffre and Prentiss, the city underwent another major boom.

Contemporary Red Deer AB

Presently, the city serves as a regional administrative center and commercial hub with major business developments such as Gasoline Alley centered here. It's also Alberta's chief natural gas and oil extraction site, and several related industries have been erected alongside the agricultural ones.

Bottom line

The existence of Red Deer, AB dates back over 100 years. What started as a collection of small homesteads and very few trading posts has now been full-fledged into a thriving and modern city. With a rich history and heritage that run deep in its veins, Red Deer is a must-visit tourist destination.