Centuries of rich history have created a destination that has enticed explorers, fur traders and adventure enthusiasts since the 18th century with offerings of many recreational opportunities including trapping and fishing. In the long-ago days of the fur trade, Fort McMurray was merely a trading-post stop on the journey to Fort Chipewyan, a hub of activity for trappers, missionaries and adventurers of all stripes. Steeped in history, this region is a living testament to the people who live here.
The region is stamped with their time honored traditions, natural and authentic way of life, and love for the land and water. Recent archeological evidence indicated that this area has been occupied by First Nations people for as long as 9, years.
The portage was used for over years. While the fur trade dwindled, Fort McMurray remained the most significant transportation terminus to the Arctic. The trip from Athabasca to Fort McMurray was an adventurous and extremely dangerous one as scows and later paddle steamers had to traverse the Grand Rapids.
The Rail service from Lac La Biche and Waterways was largely built across muskeg, a dangerous surface subject to frequent derailments. Canadian National Railway assumed control of the line in Mixed passenger and freight services came to a halt when Canadian National closed the line in Athabasca Northern Railway Ltd. Has since brought the line back to life in a limited commercial capacity. The new shortline railroad company was established in and services industries in the Fort McMurray area, as well as customers along the line.
This marked the beginning of airmail service and further propelled the town into a dominant position as a gateway to the Arctic. For several years, fishing was a large, profitable business. Salt plant was a viable operation until Steam powered sawmills were replaced by the first diesel sawmill in Aboriginal people had long since known about the bitumen produced by the oil sad and used it to water proof their canoes.
In , Sidney Ells was sent to the area by the Federal Department of Mines to complete maps of the sands and experiment with separation theories. In Karl J. Clark, working closely with Sidney Blair and the University of Alberta, built a pant in Edmonton that employed the hot water method if separating the sand from the oil.
The rest as they say is history. With the rest of the world seeking a secure oil supply, the region has received unprecedented international attention. The history of Fort McMurray is a tribute to the rogues, fortune hunters, idealists and adventurers who helped to open up the Canadian North. Our future, thanks to continuing advances in technology and the oil sand companies pioneering spirit, has never looked brighter.