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Comprising a portion of southwestern Alberta, Canada, the Whitecourt Destination contains a few towns and small urban areas among the green expanses of woodland areas which serve as the predominant component of the region. As such, a wide range of outdoor activities is available in the destination. The town of Whitecourt, the namesake of the destination, is located among several regional and provincial parks, including Carson-Pegasus Provincial Park, Centennial Park, Groat Creek, Hard Luck Canyon, John and Audrey Dahl Heritage Park, Festival Park, and Riverboat Park. A diversity of wildlife can also be observed in these natural areas, as Whitecourt’s vicinity geographically consists of foothills and boreal forests that are home to great blue heron, trumpeter swan, black-throated green, bay-breasted warblers, cape may, northern goshawk, bald eagle, northern pygmy owl, and belted kingfisher. Visitors who intend to view these bird species can do so in many of the previously listed provincial parks. For those who are hoping to engage in warm-weather activities, it is suggested to visit Whitecourt from mid-July to mid-August for moderate temperatures. Despite the comparatively lower temperatures that Whitecourt experiences during the winter season, outdoor activities can be undertaken in Whitecourt year-round, as the town was deemed the “Snowmobile Capital of Alberta.” Aside from weather-permitting attractions, a number of historic sites can also be found in Whitecourt, with one of the most notable being the Forest Interpretive Centre. There, tourists can learn more about the forest industry’s influence on Whitecourt’s development.
The White Court Destination encompasses an area slightly southwest of Alberta’s central region. While towns and urban districts can be found in various locations, natural woodlands are the primary constituent of the destination. The namesake, Whitecourt, is a town situated along the confluence of the Athabasca River and the McLeod River somewhat north of the destination’s central region. Whitecourt is found 177 kilometers away from one of Alberta’s most prominent cities, Edmonton, which is located outside of the Whitecourt Destination to the east. As of 2023, it was estimated that Whitecourt is home to a total population of 11,106 residents. The most recent census in 2016, however, recorded about 10,204 people, indicating an annual growth rate of 1.22%.
With regard to Whitecourt’s economic growth, the three main contributing industries are forestry, oil and gas, and tourism. Concerning the latter, the town has a varying range of activities that can cater to outdoor enthusiasts, tourists who enjoy shopping, and those who take an interest in Whitecourt’s history, among other points of interest. One particular historic site is the Forest Interpretive Centre, where people can learn more about the forest industry and the role it has played in the development of the region. Industry tours are also available to travelers, offering an opportunity for people to learn more about the process of woodwork. Downtown Whitecourt also comprises boutiques, craft stores, clothing stores, and restaurants that people can explore. The downtown area is in fairly close proximity to Friendship Park and Anniversary Square as well, both of which provide picnic tables and benches. The town’s nightlife also tends to pique the interest of tourists, as the Eagle River Casino features poker tables, slot machines, and Timbers Bar & Grill.
As for outdoor activities, the Carson-Pegasus Provincial Park can be found about 20 kilometers north of Whitecourt. This park is characterized by McLeod Lake, which is inhabited by rainbow trout and other species of fish that fishermen can pursue. Other lake recreation, such as canoeing, kayaking, and boating, can also be undertaken at McLeod Lake, as the park has rentals for motor boats, row boats, paddleboats, canoes, and kayaks available for visitors. Other regional parks are established around Whitecourt, which are as follows: Groat Creek, Hard Luck Canyon, Centennial Park, Riverboat Park, and Festival Park, to name a few.
Forested land constitutes a considerable amount of the White Court Destination. In addition to the woodland areas, a few bodies of water compose the region, namely Chip Lake, Isle Lake, Wabamun Lake, Lac Ste. Anne, Iosegun Lake, Raspberry Lake, Smoke Lake, Brazeau Reservoir, and the aforementioned Athabasca River and McLeod River. Wabamun Lake is one of the largest of the previously listed aquatic landforms in the destination. This lake is reportedly “one of the most heavily used lakes in Alberta, Canada.” Encompassing an approximate surface area of 82 square kilometers (32 square miles), Wabamun Lake is relatively known for its inhabitation of northern pike. It has also been said that the lake is “reputedly the best whitefish lake in the Edmonton area.” Aside from fish species, a fair amount of wildlife call the lake home, especially considering that many species utilize the surrounding upland for support, more specifically, porcupines, coyotes, white-tailed deer, and moose. The lake itself generally receives beaver and muskrat as well.
To the south of Whitecourt, the Whitecourt Mountain Natural Area is found. The mountain range is comprised of fairly steep slopes and plateaus, with its highest point reaching 1,200 meters. Multiple headwaters of small tributaries to the McLeod River are located in the site. Particularly notable characteristics of the mountain include stony terraces; white birch, dominated by deciduous stands on upper slopes and plateaus; shrublands and grassy areas; and white spruce pine with balsam poplar. Some consider Whitecourt Mountain Natural Area to be a “good wildlife habitat,” as a diversity of flora and fauna have been observed in the region, such as devil’s club, red elderberry, western meadow rue, and western mountain ash.
Whitecourt falls short of having a humid continental climate; as such, it has been determined that the town is affected by a subarctic climate. According to climate and average weather statistics from Weather Spark, Whitecourt experiences “long, comfortable, and partly cloudy” summers. Generally speaking, temperatures vary between 5°F and 74°F over the course of the year. During the warm season from May to September, temperatures tend to rest around 63°F on average. July often has the warmest temperatures, as the average high reaches 73°F. Concerning the cool season, which lasts from November through February, temperatures below 30°F are typical throughout these months. The coldest month of the year is most commonly January, with average temperatures ranging between 7°F and 22°F. Warm-weather activities are more accessible in Whitecourt from mid-July to mid-August, as these months have fairly moderate climatic conditions.
In 1903, the Grand Trunk Railway was directed to the site that is now known as Whitecourt. At the time, the community mainly consisted of trappers, and it wasn’t until 1919 that the first three sawmills were constructed in the town. Two years later, the Canadian National Railways arrived, which ultimately led to Whitecourt becoming a prominent hub for lumbering. The town’s overall growth began to progress, as discoveries of oil and natural gas were made in the region. In addition to this, the completion of Highway 43 took place in the mid-1950s, facilitating access to the town. By 1959, Whitecourt was first incorporated as a village and later incorporated as a town in 1961. The name “Whitecourt” was given to the town by Walter White—the community’s postmaster—in 1910. It was named as such in honor of former Kansas governor John W. Leedy’s son-in-law.
The previously mentioned Forest Interpretive Center and Heritage Park is one of Whitecourt’s most historically significant sites. Sagitawah, which translates to English as “the place where the river meets,” was what the area was referred to as by the Woodland Cree Nation—the original inhabitants of the area. The Athabasca River and McLeod River were essential for transportation and food provisions in its early history. A notable inhabitation of wildlife was found in the hilly areas that surrounded the rivers and lakes, as well as energy resources that still support Whitecourt in the present day. In 1897, the natural resources of Sagitawah were recognized by the Hudson’s Bay Company which decided to build a trading post near the location of what is currently known as the Whitecourt Golf and Country Club. The construction of this trading post drew a number of prospectors to Whitecourt who were seeking Klondike gold. After several years, two hotels, a restaurant, a bank, a resident doctor, a pool hall, a laundry and shoe repair business, a few general stores, two churches, and a butcher shop were built in Whitecourt following its establishment as a town. Today, Whitecourt’s tourism industry is developing as more recreational activities and urban amenities are being provided for those who visit the town.