Waterways, Alberta

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Location of Waterways, Alberta

Waterways is a locality within the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo [1] in northern Alberta, Canada. It is now a neighbourhood within the Fort McMurray urban service area along the west bank of the Clearwater River, south of the river's confluence with the Athabasca River. [2]

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Specialized municipality in Alberta, Canada

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is a specialized municipality located in northeastern Alberta. Formed as a result of the amalgamation of the City of Fort McMurray and Improvement District No. 143 on April 1, 1995, it is the second largest municipality in Alberta by area. It is home to vast oil sand deposits, also known as the Athabasca oil sands, helping to make the region one of the fastest growing industrial areas in Canada.

Northern Alberta Place

Northern Alberta is a region located in the Canadian province of Alberta.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Its southern border with the United States, stretching some 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world's longest bi-national land border. Canada's capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.



In 1921, Waterways became a major shipping hub when the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway reached the town, making it the northernmost point on the North American railroad grid. [3] Cargo for destinations farther north was shipped to Waterways and then transferred to barges, after which fleets of tugboats took them to destinations in the Mackenzie River watershed. [3] [4] [5]

Mackenzie River largest river system in Canada

The Mackenzie River is the longest river system in Canada, and has the second largest drainage basin of any North American river after the Mississippi River. The Mackenzie River flows through a vast, thinly populated region of forest and tundra entirely within the Northwest Territories in Canada, although its many tributaries reach into five other Canadian provinces and territories. The river's main stem is 1,738 kilometres (1,080 mi) long, flowing north-northwest from Great Slave Lake into the Arctic Ocean, where it forms a large delta at its mouth. Its extensive watershed drains about 20 percent of Canada. It is the largest river flowing into the Arctic from North America, and including its tributaries has a total length of 4,241 kilometres (2,635 mi), making it the thirteenth longest river system in the world.

In 1930, Dr. Karl A. Clark shipped a plant designed to separate bitumen from the Athabasca oil sands to Waterways and set it up nearby across the Clearwater River. [6] Since that time, the rail line to Waterways has played an important role in transporting heavy equipment and supplies needed for the development of the oil sands and the accompanying growth of the surrounding communities. [7]

Karl Clark (chemist) Canadian chemist

Karl Adolf Clark was a chemist and oil sand researcher. He is best known for perfecting a process that uses hot water and reagents to separate bitumen from oil sands.

Athabasca oil sands

The Athabasca oil sands, also known as the Athabasca tar sands, are large deposits of bitumen or extremely heavy crude oil, located in northeastern Alberta, Canada – roughly centred on the boomtown of Fort McMurray. These oil sands, hosted primarily in the McMurray Formation, consist of a mixture of crude bitumen, silica sand, clay minerals, and water. The Athabasca deposit is the largest known reservoir of crude bitumen in the world and the largest of three major oil sands deposits in Alberta, along with the nearby Peace River and Cold Lake deposits. The oil sands have long been referred to as tar sands; however, conservative groups dispute this name due to its negative environmental associations.

In 1933, Waterways gave its name to the Waterways Formation, a sequence of limestones and calcareous shales that outcrops along the Clearwater and Athabasca Rivers near the town. [8]

Limestone Sedimentary rocks made of calcium carbonate

Limestone is a carbonate sedimentary rock that is often composed of the skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral, foraminifera, and molluscs. Its major materials are the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). A closely related rock is dolomite, which contains a high percentage of the mineral dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2. In old USGS publications, dolomite was referred to as magnesian limestone, a term now reserved for magnesium-deficient dolomites or magnesium-rich limestones.

Calcite carbonate mineral

Calcite is a carbonate mineral and the most stable polymorph of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). The Mohs scale of mineral hardness, based on scratch hardness comparison, defines value 3 as "calcite".

Shale A fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock

Shale is a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock, composed of mud that is a mix of flakes of clay minerals and tiny fragments of other minerals, especially quartz and calcite. Shale is characterized by breaks along thin laminae or parallel layering or bedding less than one centimeter in thickness, called fissility. It is the most common sedimentary rock.

Waterways in 1939 Tugs moored at Waterways, Alberta -a.jpg
Waterways in 1939

In 1937, a salt plant was built at Waterways to recover rock salt from the subsurface by solution mining and evaporation. The salt was part of the Prairie Evaporite Formation, which was about 200 feet (60 m) thick and lay at a depth of about 700 feet (210 m) at that location. The plant operated until 1950, producing 228,000 tons (206,838 tonnes) of salt. [9]

Halite mineral form of sodium chloride

Halite, commonly known as rock salt, is a type of salt, the mineral (natural) form of sodium chloride (NaCl). Halite forms isometric crystals. The mineral is typically colorless or white, but may also be light blue, dark blue, purple, pink, red, orange, yellow or gray depending on inclusion of other materials, impurities, and structural or isotopic abnormalities in the crystals. It commonly occurs with other evaporite deposit minerals such as several of the sulfates, halides, and borates. The name halite is derived from the Ancient Greek word for salt, ἅλς (háls).

In situ leach

In-situ leaching (ISL), also called in-situ recovery (ISR) or solution mining, is a mining process used to recover minerals such as copper and uranium through boreholes drilled into a deposit, in situ. In situ leach works by artificially dissolving minerals occurring naturally in a solid state. For recovery of material occurring naturally in solution, see: Brine mining.

The Prairie Evaporite Formation, also known as the Prairie Formation, is a geologic formation of Middle Devonian (Givetian) age that consists primarily of halite and other evaporite minerals. It is present beneath the plains of northern and eastern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba in Canada, and it extends into northwestern North Dakota and northeastern Montana in the United States.

In 1964, shipping from Waterways to the Mackenzie River region ceased after Hay River, on Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories, became the northern terminus of the rail grid. [3] Local shipping from Waterways continued, however, and the rail line to Waterways eventually became part of the Northern Alberta Railway, the Canadian National Railway, and then the Athabasca Northern Railway. [7]

Hay River, Northwest Territories Town in Northwest Territories, Canada

Hay River, known as "the Hub of the North," is a town in the Northwest Territories, Canada, located on the south shore of Great Slave Lake, at the mouth of the Hay River. The town is separated into two sections, a new town 60°48′45″N115°47′20″W and an old town 60°51′13″N115°44′19″W with the Hay River/Merlyn Carter Airport between them. The town is in the South Slave Region, and along with Fort Smith is one of the two regional centres.

Great Slave Lake Large lake in the Northwest Territories of Canada

The Great Slave Lake is the second-largest lake in the Northwest Territories of Canada, the deepest lake in North America at 614 metres, and the tenth-largest lake in the world. It is 469 km (291 mi) long and 20 to 203 km wide. It covers an area of 27,200 km2 (10,502 sq mi) in the southern part of the territory. Its given volume ranges from 1,070 km3 (260 cu mi) to 1,580 km3 (380 cu mi) and up to 2,088 km3 (501 cu mi) making it the 10th or 12th largest.

Northwest Territories Territory of Canada

The Northwest Territories is a federal territory of Canada. At a land area of approximately 1,144,000 km2 (442,000 sq mi) and a 2016 census population of 41,786, it is the second-largest and the most populous of the three territories in Northern Canada. Its estimated population as of 2018 is 44,445. Yellowknife became the territorial capital in 1967, following recommendations by the Carrothers Commission.

During the 2016 Fort McMurray Wildfire, Waterways was critically damaged. According to fire damage reports on May 4, 90% of homes in Waterways had already been lost to the wildfire. [10]


The population of the Waterways neighbourhood in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo's 2006 municipal census was 750. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

Athabasca River river in Canada

The Athabasca River originates from the Columbia Glacier of the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. The impressive and scenic Athabasca Falls is located upstream about 30 km (19 mi) from the Jasper townsite.

Fort McMurray Urban service area in Alberta, Canada

Fort McMurray is a population centre, technically classified as an urban service area, in the Regional Municipality (RM) of Wood Buffalo in Alberta, Canada. It is located in northeast Alberta, in the middle of the Athabasca oil sands, surrounded by boreal forest. It has played a significant role in the development of the national petroleum industry. A severe wildfire in May 2016 led to the evacuation of its residents and caused widespread damage.

Fort Chipewyan Hamlet in Alberta, Canada

Fort Chipewyan, commonly referred to as Fort Chip, is a hamlet in northern Alberta, Canada, within the Regional Municipality (RM) of Wood Buffalo. It is located on the western tip of Lake Athabasca, adjacent to Wood Buffalo National Park, approximately 223 kilometres (139 mi) north of Fort McMurray.

Slave River river in Alberta and Northwest Territories

The Slave River is a Canadian river that flows from the confluence of the Rivière des Rochers and Peace River in northeastern Alberta and empties into Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. The river's name is thought to derive from the name for the Slavey group of the Dene First Nations, Deh Gah Got'ine, in the Athabaskan language. The Chipewyan had displaced other native people from this region.

Clearwater River (Saskatchewan) river in Saskatchewan, Canada

The Clearwater River is located in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. It rises in the northern forest region of northwestern Saskatchewan and joins the Athabasca River in northeastern Alberta. It was part of an important trade route during the fur trade era and has been designated as a Canadian Heritage River.

Northern Alberta Railways

Northern Alberta Railways was a Canadian railway which served northern Alberta and northeastern British Columbia. Jointly owned by both Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway, NAR existed as a separate company from 1929 until 1981.

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo is a provincial electoral district in Alberta, Canada. The district is one of current districts 87 mandated to return a single member to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta using the first past the post method of voting.

Alberta Highway 63 highway in Alberta

Alberta Provincial Highway No. 63, commonly referred to as Highway 63, is a 434-kilometre (270 mi) highway in northern Alberta, Canada that connects the Athabasca oil sands and Fort McMurray to Edmonton via Highway 28. It begins as a two-lane road near the hamlet of Radway where it splits from Highway 28, running north through aspen parkland and farmland of north central Alberta. North of Boyle, it curves east to pass through the hamlet of Grassland and becomes divided west of Atmore where it again turns north, this time through heavy boreal forest and muskeg, particularly beyond Wandering River. Traffic levels significantly increase as Highway 63 bends through Fort McMurray, crossing the Athabasca River before connecting the city to the Syncrude and Suncor Energy plants further north. It ends approximately 16 km (10 mi) beyond a second crossing of the Athabasca River northeast of Fort McKay.

Fort McKay Hamlet in Alberta, Canada

Fort McKay or Fort MacKay is a community in northeast Alberta, Canada that is located at the confluence of the Athabasca and MacKay rivers. It is approximately 54 km (34 mi) north of Fort McMurray via Highway 63 and Fort McKay Road. The community has an elevation of 260 m (850 ft).

Fort McKay First Nation Indian Band in Alberta, Canada

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Anzac, Alberta Hamlet in Alberta, Canada

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Steamboats of the Peace River

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Conklin, Alberta Hamlet in Alberta, Canada

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Alberta Provincial Highway No. 686, also known as Highway 686, is an east–west highway in northern Alberta, Canada. It has two sections; the main section is a gravel highway that spans approximately 90 kilometres (56 mi) from Highway 88 near Red Earth Creek to Trout Lake, and a two-kilometre-long (1.2 mi) developing freeway section in Fort McMurray which connects Highway 63 with the new neighbourhood of Parsons Creek known as Parsons Access Road.

Christina Lake is an elongate lake in northern Alberta, Canada, located near Highway 881 east of Conklin, between Lac La Biche and Fort McMurray. Christina Lake and the Christina River are named to honour Christine Gordon, originally from Scotland, who was the first white woman to live permanently in the Fort McMurray area.

Draper, Alberta community in Alberta, Canada

Draper is an unincorporated community in northern Alberta, Canada within the Regional Municipality (R.M.) of Wood Buffalo. It is located approximately 12 km (7.5 mi) southeast of Fort McMurray on the southern bank of the Clearwater River. The community consists mainly of acreages.

2016 Fort McMurray wildfire wildfire in Alberta, Canada

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Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche is a future provincial electoral district in Alberta, Canada. The district will be one of 87 districts mandated to return a single member (MLA) to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta using the first past the post method of voting. It will be contested for the first time in the 2019 Alberta election.


  1. "Standard Geographical Classification (SGC) 2006 – Economic Regions (4816037 - Wood Buffalo, geographical codes and localities, 2006)". Statistics Canada. 2010-03-05. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
  2. 1 2 "Envision Wood Buffalo: Towards 250K – Fort McMurray" (PDF). Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. May 2004. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
  3. 1 2 3 "Atlas of Alberta Railways: The Alberta and Great Waterways Railway". University of Alberta. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  4. "Fort McMurray tourism". Archived from the original on 2012-11-29. Rail reached Lynton in 1919 and pushed through to "Old Waterways" (now called Draper) in 1921. 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 1980. Mixed passenger and freight services came to a halt when Canadian National closed the line in 1989. 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 2000 and services industries in the Fort McMurray area, as well as customers along the line.
  5. "Radium King en route: Eldorado Subsidiary's Ship Leave for West by Train". Montreal Gazette. 1937-04-15. p. 20. Retrieved 2012-05-31. Both ships were built for the Northern Transportation Company, a subsidiary of Eldorado Gold Mines, Limited, and will ply the Mackenzie and Athabaska rivers, 1,600 miles north of Edmonton.
  6. "Karl A. Clark - University of Alberta Archives". archives.library.ualberta.ca. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  7. 1 2 Bourgonje, T. and Diercks, S.A., 2011. "Rehabilitation of Canadian National Railway tracks servicing oil sands in northern Alberta; the Athabasca Northern Railway." (PDF). Arema. Retrieved 24 October 2017.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. Glass, D.J. (editor) 1997. Lexicon of Canadian Stratigraphy, vol. 4, Western Canada including eastern British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba. Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists, Calgary, 1423 p. on CD-ROM. ISBN   0-920230-23-7.
  9. Hamilton, W.N. 1971. Salt in east-central Alberta. Alberta Research Council, Bulletin 29, p. 34.
  10. "Fort McMurray Wildfire Updates". Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. May 4, 2016. Retrieved May 4, 2016.

Coordinates: 56°42′00″N111°20′24″W / 56.700°N 111.340°W / 56.700; -111.340 (Waterways)