It’s that time of year again. It feels like spring, even though there’s still a couple of weeks before the official first day of spring. Here in the frozen north people look forward eagerly to the river break up. There will be cars lined up along the side of the road as people watch and listen for that first crack of ice. It symbolizes the official end of winter and buoys hope that warmer days are coming. There are five rivers that flow through the city. The two biggest are the Athabasca and the Clearwater rivers.
The city is the oldest European settlement in the province of Alberta, dating from 1788. Prior to that the Beaver people and the Chipewyan Nation made this area their home. They were followed by the Mikisew Cree, Metis, the Dene, Fort McKay First Nation, among others.
Although the Region of Wood Buffalo is mainly known these days for the oil sands, it was a thriving economical area with fishing, logging, fur trading and salt production long before oil was extracted from the oil sands. The area has known many ups and downs including the wild fires that swept through in 2016 and the once-in-a-century flooding of 2020, right on the heels of the sweeping pandemic.
Like the rivers that flow through the region the people here continue to go with the ebb and flow of the times, watching always for change and better times ahead.