Calgary (/ˈkælɡəri/ (listen) KAL-gər-ee) is a city in the western Canadian province of Alberta. As of 2021, the city had a population of 1,306,784 and a metropolitan population of
1,481,806, making it the third-largest city and fifth-largest metropolitan area in Canada.
Calgary is situated at the confluence of the Bow River and the Elbow River in the south of the province, in the transitional area between the Rocky Mountain Foothills and the Canadian Prairies, about 80 km (50 mi) east of the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies, roughly 299 km (186 mi) south of the provincial capital of Edmonton and approximately 240 km (150 mi) north of the Canada–United States border. The city anchors the south end of the Statistics Canada-defined urban area, the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor.
Calgary's economy includes activity in the energy, financial services, film and television, transportation and logistics, technology, manufacturing, aerospace, health and wellness, retail, and tourism sectors. The Calgary Metropolitan Region is home to Canada's second-highest number of corporate head offices among the country's 800 largest corporations. In 2015 Calgary had the highest number of millionaires per capita of any major Canadian city. In 1988, it became the first Canadian city to host the Winter Olympic Games.
Calgary was named after Calgary on the Isle of Mull, Scotland, United Kingdom. In turn, the name originates from a compound of kald and gart, similar Old Norse words, meaning "cold" and "garden", likely used when named by the Vikings who inhabited the Inner Hebrides. Alternatively, the name might be Gaelic Cala ghearraidh, meaning "beach of the meadow (pasture)", or Gaelic for either "clear running water" or "bay farm".
The Indigenous peoples of Southern Alberta refer to the Calgary area as "elbow", in reference to the sharp bend made by the Bow River and the Elbow River. In some cases, the area was named after the reeds that grew along the riverbanks, reeds which had been used to fashion bows. In the Blackfoot language (Siksiká) the area is known as Mohkínstsis akápiyoyis, meaning "elbow many houses", reflecting its strong settler presence. The shorter form of the Blackfoot name, Mohkínsstsisi, simply meaning "elbow", is the popular Indigenous term for the Calgary area. In the Nakoda or Stoney language, the area is known as Wîchîspa Oyade or Wenchi Ispase, both meaning "elbow". In the Cree language, the area is known as otôskwanihk (ᐅᑑᐢᑿᓂᕽ) meaning "at the elbow" or otôskwunee meaning "elbow". In the Tsuutʼina language (Sarcee), the area is known as Guts’ists’i (older orthography, Kootsisáw) meaning "elbow". In Kutenai language, the city is referred to as ʔaknuqtapȼik’. In the Slavey language, the area is known as Klincho-tinay-indihay meaning "many horse town", referring to the Calgary Stampede and the city's settler heritage.
There have been several attempts to revive the Indigenous names of Calgary. In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, local post-secondary institutions adopted "official acknowledgements" of Indigenous territory using the Blackfoot name of the city, Mohkínstsis. In 2017, the Stoney Nakoda sent an application to the Government of Alberta, to rename Calgary as Wichispa Oyade meaning "elbow town"; however, this was challenged by the Piikani Blackfoot.
The Calgary area was inhabited by pre-Clovis people whose presence has been traced back at least 11,000 years. The area has been inhabited by the multiple First Nations, the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy; Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), îyârhe Nakoda, the Tsuutʼina peoples and Métis Nation, Region 3. As Mayor Naheed Nenshi (A'paistootsiipsii; Iitiya) describes, "There have always been people here. In Biblical times there were people here. For generations beyond number, people have come here to this land, drawn here by the water. They come here to hunt and fish; to trade; to live; to love; to have great victories; to taste bitter disappointment; but above all to engage in that very human act of building community."
In 1787, David Thompson, a 17 year old cartographer with the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) spent the winter with a band of Peigan encamped along the Bow River. He was also a fur trader and surveyor and the first recorded European to visit the area. John Glenn was the first documented European settler in the Calgary area, in 1873. In Spring 1875, Fathers Lacombe, Remus, and Scollen built a small log cabin on the banks of the Elbow River.In the fall of 1875, the site became a post of the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) (now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or RCMP). The NWMP detachment was assigned to protect the western plains from US whisky traders, and to protect the fur trade, and Inspector Éphrem-A. Brisebois led fifty Mounties as part of "F Troop" north from Fort Macleod to establish the site The I. G. Baker Company of Fort Benton, Montana was contracted to construct a suitable Fort, and after its completion, the Baker company built a log store next to the Fort. The NWMP Fort remained officially nameless until construction was complete, although it had been referred to as "The Mouth" by people at Fort Macleod. At Christmas dinner NWMP Inspector Éphrem-A. Brisebois christened the unnamed Fort "Fort Brisebois", a decision which caught the ire of his superiors Colonel James Macleod and Major Acheson Irvine. Major Irvine cancelled the order by Brisebois and wrote Hewitt Bernard, the then Deputy Minister of Justice in Ottawa, describing the situation and suggesting the name "Calgary" put forward by Colonel Macleod. Edward Blake, at the time Minister of Justice, agreed with the name and in the spring of1876 Fort Calgary was officially established.
In 1881 the federal government began to offer leases for cattle ranching in Alberta (up to 400 km2 (100,000 acres) for one cent per acre per year) under the Dominion Lands Act, which became a catalyst for immigration to the settlement. The I. G. Baker Company drove the first herd of cattle to the region in the same year for the Cochrane area by order of Major James Walker.
The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) reached the area in August 1883, and constructed a rail station on the CPR owned Section 15, neighbouring the townsite across the Elbow River to the east located on Section 14. The difficulty in crossing the river and the CPR's efforts to persuade residents resulted in the core of the Calgary townsite moving onto Section 15, with the fate of the old townsite sealed when the post office was anonymously moved across the icy Elbow River during the night. The CPR subdivided Section 15 and began selling lots surrounding the station, $450 for corner lots and $350 for all others; and pioneer Felix McHugh constructed the first private building on the site. Earlier in the decade it was not expected that the railroad would pass near Calgary, instead the preferred route put forward by people concerned with the young nation's defense was passing near Edmonton and through the Yellowhead Pass. However, in 1881 CPR changed the plans preferring the a direct route through the prairies by way of Kicking Horse Pass. Along with the CPR, August 1883 brought Calgary the first edition of the Calgary Herald published on the 31st under the title The Calgary Herald, Mining and Ranche Advocate and General Advertiser by teacher Andrew M. Armour and printer Thomas B. Braden, a weekly newspaper with a subscription price of $1 per year.
Over a century later, the Canadian Pacific Railway headquarters moved to Calgary from Montreal in 1996.
Residents of the now eight year old settlement sought to form a local government of their own. In the first weeks of 1884, James Reilly who was building the Royal Hotel east of the Elbow River circulated 200 handbills announcing a public meeting on January 7, 1884 at the Methodist Church. At the full meeting Reilly advocated for a bridge across the Elbow River and a civic committee to watch over the interests of the public until Calgary could be incorporated. The attendees were enthusiastic about the committee and on the next evening a vote was held to elected the seven members. A total of 24 candidates were nominated which equalled 10 per cent of Calgary's male population. Major James Walker received 88 votes, the most amongst the candidates, the other six members were Dr. Andrew Henderson, George Clift King, Thomas Swan, George Murdoch, J. D. Moulton, and Captain John Stewart. The civic committee met with Edgar Dewdney, who was then the Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories who happened to be in Calgary at the time, to discuss an allowance for a school, an increase from $300 to $1,000 grant for a bridge over the Elbow River, incorporation as a Town, and representation for Calgary in the Legislative Council of the North-West Territories. The committee was successful in getting an additional $200 for the bridge, and eventually a by-election was held on June 28, 1884 where James Davidson Geddes defeated James Kidd Oswald to become the Calgary electoral district representative to 1st Council of the North-West Territories. As for education, Calgary moved quickly, the Citizen's Committee raised $125 on February 6, 1884 and the first school opened for twelve children days later on February 18, led by teacher John William Costello. The private school was not enough for the needs of the town, and following a petition by James Walker the Calgary Protestant Public School District No. 19 was formed by the Legislature on March 2, 1885.
On November 27, 1884 the wait was finally over as Lieutenant Governor Dewdney proclaimed the incorporation of The Town of Calgary. Shortly after on December 3, Calgarians went to the polls to elect their first Mayor and four Councillors. The North-West Municipal Ordinance of 1884 provided voting rights to any male British subject over 21 years of age who owned at minimum $300 of property. The election was held under multiple non-transferable vote where each elector was able to cast a ballot for the mayor and up to four ballots for separate councillors. George Murdoch won the mayoral race in a landslide victory with 202 votes over E. Redpath's 16, while Simon Jackson Hogg, Neville James Lindsay, Joseph Henry Millward, and Simon John Clarke were elected Councillors. The next morning the Council met for the first time at Beaudoin and Clarke's Saloon.
Law and order remained top of mind in the frontier town, in early 1884 Jack Campbell was appointed as a constable for the community, and in early 1885 the Town Council passed By-law Eleven creating the position of Chief Constable and assigning relevant duties, a precursor to the Calgary Police Service. The first Chief Constable John (Jack) S. Ingram, who had previously served as the first police chief in Winnipeg, was empowered to arrest drunken and disorderly people, stop all fast riding in town, attend all fires and council meetings. Calgary Town Council was eager to employ constables versus contracting the NWMP for town duty as the police force was seen as a money-making proposition. Constables received half of the fines from liquor cases, meaning Chief Constable Ingram could easily pay his $60 per month salary and the expense of a town jail.
Turmoil in 1885 and 1886 and "The Sandstone City"
For the Town of Calgary, 1884 turned out to be a success; however, two dark years lay ahead for the fledgling community. The turmoil started in late 1885, when Councillor Clarke was arrested for threatening a plain-clothes Mountie who entered his saloon to conduct a late-night search. When the officer failed to produce a search warrant, Clarke chased him off the premises; however, the Mountie returned with reinforcements and arrested Clarke. Clarke found himself before Stipendiary Magistrate Jeremiah Travis, a proponent of the temperance movement who was appalled by the open traffic of liquor, gambling and prostitution in Calgary despite prohibition in the Northwest Territories. Travis' view was accurate as the Royal Commission of Liquor Traffic of 1892 found liquor was sold openly, both day and night during prohibition. Travis associated Clarke with the troubles he saw in Calgary and found him guilty, and sentenced Clarke to six months with hard labour. Murdoch and the other members of Council were shocked and a public meeting was held at Boynton's Hall in which a decision was made to send a delegation to Ottawa to seek an overruling of Travis' judgement by the Department of Justice. The community quickly raised $500 and Murdoch and a group of residents headed east. The punishment of Clarke did not escape Hugh Cayley the editor of the Calgary Herald and Clerk of the District Court. Cayley published articles critical of Travis and his judgment, in which Travis responded by calling Cayley to court, dismissing him from his position as Clerk, ordering Cayley to apologized and pay a $100 fine. Cayley refused to pay the fine, which Travis increased to $500, and on January 5, the day after the election, Cayley was imprisoned by Travis.
Murdoch returned to Calgary on December 27, 1885, only a week before the upcoming election to find the Town in disarray. Shortly before the 1886 election, G. E. Marsh brought a charge of corruption against Murdoch and council over irregularities in the voters' list. Travis found Murdoch and the councillors guilty, disqualifying them from running in the 1886 election, barring them from municipal office for two years, and fining Murdoch $100, and the councillors $20. This was despite the fact Murdoch was visiting Eastern Canada while the alleged tampering was occurring. Travis' disqualification did not dissuade Calgary voters and Murdoch defeated his opponent James Reilly by a significant margin in early January to be re-elected as Mayor. Travis accepted a petition from Reilly to unseat Murdoch and two of the elected Councillors, and declare Reilly the Mayor of Calgary. Both Murdoch and Reilly claimed to be the lawful Mayor of the growingly disorganized Town of Calgary, both holding council meetings and attempting to govern. Word of the issues in Calgary reached the Minister of Justice John Sparrow David Thompson in Ottawa who ordered Justice Thomas Wardlaw Taylor of Winnipeg to conduct an Inquiry into the "Case of Jeremiah Travis". The federal government acted before receiving Taylor's report, Jeremiah Travis was suspended and the government waited for his official tenure to expire, after which he was pensioned off. Justice Taylor's report which was released in June 1887 found Travis had exceeded his authority and erred in his judgements.
The Territorial Council called for a new municipal election to be held in Calgary on November 3, 1886. George Clift King defeated his opponent John Lineham for the office of Mayor of Calgary.Calgary would only have a couple days peace following the November election before the Calgary Fire of 1886 destroyed much of the community's downtown. Part of the slow response to the fire can be attributed to the absence of functioning local government during 1886. As neither George Murdoch or James Reilly was capable of effectively governing the town, the newly ordered chemical engine for the recently organized Calgary Fire Department (Calgary Hook, Ladder and Bucket Corps) was held in the CPR's storage yard due to lack of payment. Members of the Calgary Fire Department broke into the CPR storage yard on the day of the fire to retrieve the engine. In total, fourteen buildings were destroyed with losses estimated at $103,200, although no one was killed or injured.
The new Town Council sprung into action, drafting a bylaw requiring all large downtown buildings were to be built with sandstone, which was readily available nearby in the form of Paskapoo sandstone. Following the fire several quarries were opened around the city by prominent local businessmen including Thomas Edworthy, Wesley Fletcher Orr, J. G. McCallum, and William Oliver. Prominent buildings built with Sandstone following the fire include Knox Presbyterian Church (1887), Imperial Bank Building (1887), Calgary City Hall (1911), and Calgary Courthouse No. 2 (1914).
Calgary is located at the transition zone between the Canadian Rockies foothills and the Canadian Prairies. The city lies within the foothills of the Parkland Natural Region and the Grasslands Natural Region. Downtown Calgary is about 1,042.4 m (3,420 ft) above sea level, and the airport is 1,076 m (3,531 ft). In 2011, the city covered a land area of 825.29 km2 (318.65 sq mi). Calgary is in southern Alberta and is near subarctic climates and also near mountains.
Two rivers run through the city and two creeks. The Bow River is the larger and it flows from the west to the south. The Elbow River flows northwards from the south until it converges with the Bow River at the historic site of Fort Calgary near downtown. Nose Creek flows into Calgary from the northwest then south to join the Bow River several kilometres east of the Elbow-Bow confluence. Fish Creek flows into Calgary from the southwest and converges with the Bow River near McKenzie Towne.
The City of Calgary, 848 km2 (327 sq mi) in size, consists of an inner city surrounded by suburban communities of various density. The city is immediately surrounded by two municipal districts – Foothills County to the south and Rocky View County to the north, west and east. Proximate urban communities beyond the city within the Calgary Metropolitan Region include: the City of Airdrie to the north; the City of Chestermere, the Town of Strathmore and the Hamlet of Langdon to the east; the towns of Okotoks and High River to the south; and the Town of Cochrane to the northwest. Numerous rural subdivisions are located within the Elbow Valley, Springbank and Bearspaw areas to the west and northwest. The Tsuu T'ina Nation Indian Reserve No. 145 borders Calgary to the southwest.
Calgary experiences a semi-monsoonal humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dwb) within eastern parts of the city and a subarctic climate (Köppen climate classification Dwc) within western parts of the city due to an increase in elevation. The city has warm summers and freezing, dry (but like all of Alberta extremely variable) winters. It falls into the NRC Plant Hardiness Zone 4a. According to Environment Canada, average daily temperatures in Calgary range from 16.5 °C (61.7 °F) in July to −7.1 °C (19.2 °F) in January. Ice skating on the frozen stream in Bowness Park. Winters in Calgary are cold and dry, with temperatures dropping below −20 °C (−4 °F). Winters are cold and the air temperature can drop to or below −20 °C (−4 °F) on average of 22 days of the year and −30 °C (−22 °F) on average of 3.7 days of the year, but are frequently broken up by warm, dry chinook winds that blow into Alberta over the mountains. These winds can raise the winter temperature by 20 °C (36 °F), and as much as 30 °C (54 °F) in just a few hours, and may last several days. As well, Calgary's proximity to the Rocky Mountains affects winter temperatures with a mixture of lows and highs, and tends to result in a mild winter for a city in the Prairie Provinces. Temperatures are also affected by the wind chill factor; Calgary's average wind speed is 14.2 km/h (8.8 mph), one of the highest in Canadian cities.
In summer, daytime temperatures range from 10 to 25 °C (50 to 77 °F) and exceed 30 °C (86 °F) an average of 5.1 days in June, July, and August, and occasionally as late as September or as early as May, and in winter drop below or at −30 °C (−22 °F) 3.7 days of the year. As a consequence of Calgary's high elevation and aridity, summer evenings tend to cool off, with monthly average low temperatures below 10 °C (50 °F) throughout the summer months.
Calgary has the most sunny days year round of Canada's 100 largest cities, with slightly over 332 days of sun; it has on average 2,396 hours of sunshine annually, with an average relative humidity of 55% in the winter and 45% in the summer (15:00 MST).
Calgary International Airport in the northeastern section of the city receives an average of 418.8 mm (16.49 in) of precipitation annually, with 326.4 mm (12.85 in) of that occurring in the form of rain, and 128.8 cm (50.7 in) as snow. The most rainfall occurs in June and the most snowfall in March. Calgary has also recorded snow every month of the year. It last snowed in July on July 15, 1999.
Thunderstorms can be frequent and sometimes severe with most of them occurring in the summer months. Calgary lies within Alberta's Hailstorm Alley and is prone to damaging hailstorms every few years. A hailstorm that struck Calgary on September 7, 1991, was one of the most destructive natural disasters in Canadian history, with over $400 million in damage. Being west of the dry line on most occasions, tornadoes are rare in the region.
The highest temperature ever recorded in Calgary was 36.7 °C (98.1 °F) on August 10, 2018. The lowest temperature ever recorded was −45.0 °C (−49.0 °F) on February 4, 1893.