Community Description

The town of Athabasca (2006 population 2,575) is located in northern Alberta, Canada. It lies 145 kilometres (90 mi) north of Edmonton on Highway 2, on the banks of the Athabasca River. It is the centre of Athabasca County. Until 1913 it was known as Athabasca Landing.

Unlike so many other towns in Alberta, Athabasca predates the railway. It was the terminus of the Edmonton to Athabasca Landing trail. Athabasca lies on a southern protrusion of the Athabasca River. During the fur trade era, when rivers were the principal means of transportation, the Athabasca–Edmonton trail connected two different drainage basins. The Athabasca River flows north and is part of the Mackenzie River watershed, which leads to the Arctic Ocean. Edmonton lies across a height-of-land on the North Saskatchewan River in the Nelson River drainage basin, which empties into Hudson Bay. Edmonton was in Rupert’s Land, Athabasca was not. The trail allowed goods to be portaged back and forth between river systems. Once agricultural settlement occurred the trail served a similar purpose. Eventually road and rail links would trace the same path.

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