Lethbridge, Alberta Canada

Discover Lethbridge, Alberta: A Blend of History and Modernity

Lethbridge, Alberta, a city nestled in the heart of Canada, is a vibrant blend of history and modernity. With a population of 101,482 as per the 2019 municipal census, Lethbridge is the fourth city in Alberta to surpass 100,000 residents. The city's location southeast of Calgary on the Oldman River, and its proximity to the Canadian Rocky Mountains, contribute to its warm summers, mild winters, and windy climate.

Lethbridge, Alberta: A Commercial and Educational Hub

Lethbridge serves as the commercial, financial, transportation, and industrial centre of southern Alberta. Its economy, which developed from drift mining for coal in the late 19th century and agriculture in the early 20th century, now sees half of its workforce employed in the health, education, retail, and hospitality sectors. The city is home to the only university in Alberta south of Calgary, and two of the three colleges in southern Alberta have campuses in the city. Cultural venues in Lethbridge include performing art theatres, museums, and sports centres.

The Rich History of Lethbridge, Alberta

Before the 19th century, the Lethbridge area was populated by several First Nations. The Blackfoot referred to the area as Aksaysim ("steep banks"), Mek-kio-towaghs ("painted rock"), Assini-etomochi ("where we slaughtered the Cree") and Sik-ooh-kotok ("coal"). The Sarcee referred to it as Chadish-kashi ("black/rocks"), the Cree as Kuskusukisay-guni ("black/rocks"), and the Nakoda (Stoney) as Ipubin-saba-akabin ("digging coal"). The Kutenai people referred to it as ʔa•kwum.

In 1869, traders John J. Healy and Alfred B. Hamilton started a whiskey trading post at Fort Hamilton, near the future site of Lethbridge. The post's nickname became Fort Whoop-Up. The whiskey trade led to the Cypress Hills Massacre of many native Assiniboine in 1873. The North-West Mounted Police, sent to stop the trade and establish order, arrived at Fort Whoop-Up on October 9, 1874. They managed the post for the next 12 years.

Lethbridge's economy developed from drift mines opened by Nicholas Sheran in 1874 and the North Western Coal and Navigation Company in 1882. North Western's president was William Lethbridge, from whom the city derives its name. By the turn of the century, the mines employed about 150 men and produced 300 tonnes of coal each day. In 1896, local collieries were the largest coal producers in the Northwest Territories, with production peaking during World War I. An internment camp was set up at the Exhibition Building in Lethbridge from September 1914 to November 1916. After the war, increasing oil and natural gas production gradually replaced coal production, and the last mine in Lethbridge closed in 1957.

The first rail line in Lethbridge was opened on August 28, 1885, by the Alberta Railway and Coal Company, which bought the North Western Coal and Navigation Company five years later. The rail industry's dependence on coal and the Canadian Pacific Railway's efforts to settle southern Alberta with immigrants boosted Lethbridge's economy. After the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) moved the divisional point of its Crowsnest Line from Fort Macleod to Lethbridge in 1905, the city became the regional centre for Southern Alberta. In the mid-1980s, the CPR moved its rail yards in downtown Lethbridge to nearby Kipp, and Lethbridge ceased being a rail hub.

Between 1907 and 1913, a development boom occurred in Lethbridge, making it the main marketing, distribution and service centre in southern Alberta. Such municipal projects as a water treatment plant, a power plant, a streetcar system, and exhibition buildings—as well as a construction boom and rising real estate prices—transformed the mining town into a significant city. Between World War I and World War II, however, the city experienced an economic slump. Development slowed, drought drove farmers from their farms, and coal mining rapidly declined from its peak. After World War II, irrigation of farmland near Lethbridge led to growth in the city's population and economy. Lethbridge College (previously Lethbridge Community College) opened in April 1957 and the University of Lethbridge in 1967.

The Geography of Lethbridge, Alberta

The city of Lethbridge is located at 49.7° north latitude and 112.833° west longitude and covers an area of 127.19 square kilometres (49.11 sq mi). It is divided by the Oldman River; its valley has been turned into one of the largest urban park systems in North America at 16 square kilometres (4,000 acres) of protected land. Lethbridge is Alberta's third-largest city by population and area after Calgary and Edmonton. It is located near the Canadian Rockies, 210 kilometres (130 mi) southeast of Calgary.

Lethbridge is split into three geographical areas: north, south and west. The Oldman River separates West Lethbridge from the other two, while Crowsnest Trail and the Canadian Pacific Kansas City rail line separate North and South Lethbridge. The newest and largest of the three areas, West Lethbridge (pop. 40,898) is home to the University of Lethbridge—which opened at that site in 1971. Although several farms existed on what is now the Westside, the first housing development was not completed until 1974 and Whoop-Up Drive access opened only in 1975. Much of the city's recent growth has been on the west side, and it has the youngest median age of the three. The north side (pop. 28,172) was originally populated by workers from local coal mines. It has the oldest population of the three areas, is home to multiple industrial parks and includes the former Hamlet of Hardieville, which was annexed by Lethbridge in 1978. South Lethbridge (pop. 32,412) is the commercial heart of the city; it contains the downtown core, the bulk of retail and hospitality establishments, and the Lethbridge College.

The Climate of Lethbridge, Alberta

Lethbridge has a semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSk) with an average maximum temperature of 12.8 °C (55.0 °F) and an average minimum temperature of −1.1 °C (30.0 °F). With precipitation averaging 380.2 mm (14.97 in), and 264 dry days on average, Lethbridge is the eleventh driest city in Canada. Mean relative humidity hovers between 69 and 78% in the morning throughout the year, but afternoon mean relative humidity is more uneven, ranging from 38% in August to 58% in January. On average, Lethbridge has 116 days with wind speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) or higher, ranking it as the second city in Canada for such weather.

Its high elevation of 929 m (3,048 ft) and close proximity to the Rocky Mountains provides Lethbridge with cooler summers than other locations in the Canadian Prairies. These factors protect the city from strong northwest and southwest winds and contribute to frequent chinook winds during the winter. Lethbridge winters have the highest temperatures in the prairies, reducing the severity and duration of winter cold periods and resulting in fewer days with snow cover. The average daytime temperature peaks by the end of July/beginning of August, when it reaches 26.4 °C (79.5 °F). The city's temperature reaches a maximum high of 35.0 °C (95.0 °F) or greater on average once or twice a year. The highest temperature ever recorded in Lethbridge was 40.5 °C (104.9 °F) on August 10, 2018. The lowest temperature ever recorded was −42.8 °C (−45.0 °F) on January 7, 1909, December 18, 1924, January 3, 1950, and December 29, 1968.

The Demographics of Lethbridge, Alberta

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, the City of Lethbridge had a population of 98,406 living in 40,225 of its 42,862 total private dwellings, a change of 6.1% from its 2016 population of 92,729. With a land area of 121.12 km2 (46.76 sq mi), it had a population density of 812.5/km2 (2,104.3/sq mi) in 2021. At the census metropolitan area (CMA) level in the 2021 census, the Lethbridge CMA had a population of 123,847 living in 48,647 of its 51,735 total private dwellings, a change of 5.5% from its 2016 population of 117,394. With a land area of 2,958.96 km2 (1,142.46 sq mi), it had a population density of 41.9/km2 (108.4/sq mi) in 2021.

The population of the City of Lethbridge according to its 2019 municipal census is 101,482, a change of 1.7% from its 2018 municipal census population of 99,769. With the 2019 municipal census results, the City of Lethbridge became the fourth city in Alberta to surpass 100,000 people.

In the 2016 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, the City of Lethbridge had a population of 92,729 living in 37,575 of its 39,867 total private dwellings, a change of 11% from its 2011 population of 83,517. With a land area of 122.09 km2 (47.14 sq mi), it had a population density of 759.5/km2 (1,967.1/sq mi) in 2016. The same census reported that the metropolitan area of Lethbridge was 117,394 in 2016, up from 105,999 in 2011. Subsequent data from Statistics Canada showed that the 2020 metropolitan population was 128,851, an increase of 1.5% over the previous year.

Language and Ethnicity in Lethbridge, Alberta

According to the 2021 census, 83.9% of residents spoke English as a first language. Other common mother tongues were Spanish (1.6%), Tagalog (1.4%), Nepali (1.0%), German (0.9%), French (0.8%), Chinese Languages (0.7%), Arabic (0.7%) and Dutch (0.6%). 1.7% of residents claimed both English and a non-official language as their first language.

Lethbridge had 12.9% visible minorities and 7.1% Aboriginal in 2016. The city is also the home of the largest Bhutanese community in Canada.

Arts and Culture in Lethbridge, Alberta

Lethbridge was designated a Cultural Capital of Canada for the 2004–2005 season. The Southern Alberta Ethnic Association (Multicultural Heritage Centre) promotes multiculturalism and ethnic heritage in the community. The city is home to venues and organizations promoting the arts. Founded in 1958, the Allied Arts Council of Lethbridge is the largest organization in the city dedicated to preserving and enhancing the local arts. In the spring of 2007, the Allied Arts Council Facilities Steering Committee initiated the Arts Re:Building Together Campaign, a grass roots campaign initiative to raise awareness and support for improving arts facilities in Lethbridge. The campaign identified three arts buildings: the Yates Memorial Centre, the Bowman Arts Centre, and the Southern Alberta Art Gallery as cornerstone facilities in the community requiring care and attention. On July 14, 2007, the Finance Committee of City Council approved four arts capital projects for inclusion in the city's Ten Year Capital Plan. Under the campaign to 2010, the renovation and expansion of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery was completed, a new Community Arts Centre will be built in downtown Lethbridge, the City of Lethbridge has a Public Art Program, and a committee was formed to research the possibility of a new Performing Arts Centre in Lethbridge.

Lethbridge has a public library and three major museum/galleries. The Southern Alberta Art Gallery is a contemporary gallery; the community arts centre Casa, administered by the Allied Arts Council; and the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery produces contemporary exhibitions including works from its extensive collection of Canadian, American and European art.

The city is also home to the Lethbridge Symphony, which was founded in 1960 and incorporated as a non-profit in 1961. It has produced several spin-off music groups, including the Southern Alberta Chamber Orchestra, and the still-active Lethbridge Musical Theatre, which produces an annual show. Vox Musica, which traces its roots back to 1968, is a community choir previously based at the University of Lethbridge. As a fully independent non-profit society, Vox Musica continues to rehearse and perform at Southminster United Church and around the community. Theatrical productions are presented by the University of Lethbridge's drama department and New West Theatre, which performs at the Genevieve E. Yates Memorial Centre using its two theatres: the 500-seat proscenium Yates Theatre and the 180-seat black box Sterndale Bennett Theatre.

Attractions in Lethbridge, Alberta

The city, which began as a frontier town, has several historical attractions. The Lethbridge Viaduct, commonly known as the High Level Bridge, is the longest and highest steel trestle bridge in North America. It was completed in 1909 on what was then the city's western edge. Indian Battle Park, in the coulees of the Oldman River, commemorates the last battle between the Cree and the Blackfoot First Nations in 1870.

Originally known as Fort Hamilton, Fort Whoop-Up was a centre of illegal activities during the late 19th century. It was first built in 1869 by J.J. Healy and A.B. Hamilton as a whiskey post and was destroyed by fire a year later. A second, sturdier structure later replaced the fort.

As the cultural centre of southern Alberta, Lethbridge has notable cultural attractions. Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in south Lethbridge was opened in 1967 as part of a Canadian centennial celebration attended by Japan's Prince and Princess Takamatsu. The Galt Museum & Archives is the largest museum in the Lethbridge area; the building housing the museum served as the city's main hospital during the late 19th century and early 20th centuries. Several other important attractions are based in Lethbridge, including the Lethbridge Military Museum and the Helen Schuler Nature Centre which educates about the river bottom and coulees.

Several structures such as the historic post office are prominent on the skyline of Lethbridge. Less well-known than the High Level Bridge, the post office is one of the most distinctive buildings in Lethbridge. Built in 1912, the four-storey structure is crowned by a functioning clock tower. Other prominent buildings include office towers; the water tower, which was originally built in 1958 and sold to a private developer who converted it into a restaurant; and the Alberta Terminals grain elevators.

From March 2018 to August 2020, Lethbridge was home to ARCHES, 24-hour supervised drug use site. It was the busiest SCS in North America with 663 visits a day. The Star called it a "new landmark". The SCS featured injection drug and inhalation drug facilities and it was a subject of disagreement by the nearby business community. The site closed at the end of August 2020 after the province removed grant funding following discovery of misappropriation of public funds. A week long survey was held for the 2020 budgeting priorities in Lethbridge. 401 randomly selected people participated in this survey and 43 percent of them identified the presence of ARCHES SCS as the top concern. Only 8% of participants identified the same issue as the top concern in 2018.

Sports and Recreation in Lethbridge, Alberta

Lethbridge has designated 16 percent of the land within city boundaries as parkland, including the 755 hectares (1,870 acres) Oldman River valley parks system. It has facilities for field sports, numerous baseball diamonds, the Spitz Stadium, the Nicholas Sheran Park (a disc golf course), two skateparks, a BMX track, a climbing wall, a dozen tennis courts, and seven pools. It is home to five golf courses, including the award-winning Paradise Canyon Golf Resort, and is within 30 km (19 mi) of