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Okotoks
Town
Town of Okotoks
A view of Okotoks; overlooking downtown and facing south.
A view of Okotoks; overlooking downtown and facing south.
Official logo of Okotoks
Logo
Motto: Historic Past, Sustainable Future
Country  Canada
Province  Alberta
Region Calgary Region
Census division 6
Municipal district M.D. of Foothills No. 31
Incorporated  
 • Village October 25, 1899
 • Town June 1, 1904
Area (2016)
 • Land 19.63 km2 (7.58 sq mi)
Elevation 1,051 m (3,448 ft)
Population (2016)
 • Total 28,881
 • Density 1,471/km2 (3,810/sq mi)
 • Municipal census (2015) 28,016
Time zone MST (UTC−7)
 • Summer (DST) MDT (UTC−6)
Postal code span T1S
Area code(s) -1+403, -1+587
Highways Highway 2A
Highway 7
Highway 549
Waterway Sheep River

Okotoks (/ˈkətks/, originally /ˈɒkətɒks/) is a town in the Province of Alberta, Canada. It is situated on the Sheep River, approximately 18 km (11 mi) south of the City of Calgary. The town is a member of the Calgary Regional Partnership, a cooperative of municipalities within the Calgary Region. Okotoks has emerged as a bedroom community of Calgary. According to the 2016 Census, the town has a population of 28,881, making it the largest town in Alberta.

History

Bigrock
Big Rock glacial erratic

The town's name is derived from "ohkotok", the Blackfoot First Nation word for "rock". The name may refer to Big Rock, the largest glacial erratic in the Foothills Erratics Train, situated about 7 km (4.3 mi) west of the town.

Before European settlement, journeying First Nations used the rock as a marker to find the river crossing situated at Okotoks. The tribes were nomadic and often followed large buffalo herds for their sustenance. David Thompson explored the area as early as 1800. Soon trading posts sprang up, including one established in 1874 at the Sheep River crossing on the current Okotoks townsite. This crossing was on a trade route called the Macleod Trail, which led from Fort Benton, Montana to Calgary.

In 1879, the area saw the killing of the last buffalo. Government leasing of land for one cent per acre ($2.47/km²) began in 1880. This created a major change in the region. The first settlers arrived in 1882.

A community grew up around a sawmill that was established in 1891, and it would grow in size. The last stagecoach stopped in Okotoks in 1891 when rail service between Calgary and Fort Macleod replaced horse-drawn travel. By 1897 the community name had changed three times: from Sheep Creek to Dewdney to Okotoks, assigned by the Canadian Pacific Railway. The rail line is still a main line south to the U.S. border, but the last of the passenger service (Dayliner unit) ended in 1971.

In 2007, the energy efficient Drake Landing Solar Community was established in Okotoks.

Flooding

Okotoks has experienced three major flooding events, in 1995, 2005 and 2013. The 2005 event, which affected much of southern Alberta, flooded virtually all lands adjacent to the Sheep River, including the central business district, were at least briefly flooded, with the most serious damage being inflicted to riverside pathways, parks and campgrounds. Okotoks was also affected by the 2013 Alberta floods.

Heritage conservation

Numerous old buildings have been restored, and one house was even resituated blocks away to avoid destruction by the widening of the highway through the townsite.

Geography

Water conservation

Although the Sheep River runs through Okotoks year round, artesian wells near the river supply the town with its water. In September 1998, Okotoks became one of the first communities in Canada to recognize its environmental limits to growth were restricted by the carrying capacity of the local watershed. In concern for the supply of water, the town announced a unique and controversial suggestion of capping its population at 25,000 residents. In an interview on The Current, Mayor Bill McAlpine stated that this objective may be politically difficult due to the surrounding region.

Climate

Climate data for Okotoks (1981−2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.5
(58.1)
23.0
(73.4)
25.0
(77)
25.5
(77.9)
31.5
(88.7)
32.5
(90.5)
34.5
(94.1)
34.0
(93.2)
33.5
(92.3)
27.5
(81.5)
23.0
(73.4)
18.0
(64.4)
34.5
(94.1)
Average high °C (°F) -2.3
(27.9)
1.0
(33.8)
4.9
(40.8)
11.7
(53.1)
16.8
(62.2)
20.2
(68.4)
24.3
(75.7)
23.7
(74.7)
18.9
(66)
11.5
(52.7)
3.4
(38.1)
-0.5
(31.1)
11.1
(52)
Daily mean °C (°F) -8.1
(17.4)
-5.0
(23)
-1.4
(29.5)
5.0
(41)
9.8
(49.6)
13.7
(56.7)
17.0
(62.6)
16.2
(61.2)
11.5
(52.7)
5.0
(41)
-2.3
(27.9)
-6.3
(20.7)
4.6
(40.3)
Average low °C (°F) -13.8
(7.2)
-10.9
(12.4)
-7.7
(18.1)
-1.7
(28.9)
2.8
(37)
7.1
(44.8)
9.6
(49.3)
8.6
(47.5)
4.1
(39.4)
-1.6
(29.1)
-8.0
(17.6)
-12.0
(10.4)
-2.0
(28.4)
Record low °C (°F) -39.0
(-38.2)
-36.0
(-32.8)
-32.0
(-25.6)
-20.5
(-4.9)
-8.0
(17.6)
-1.5
(29.3)
2.0
(35.6)
-3.0
(26.6)
-9.0
(15.8)
-26.0
(-14.8)
-32.5
(-26.5)
-39.0
(-38.2)
-39.0
(-38.2)
Precipitation mm (inches) 14.8
(0.583)
17.3
(0.681)
28.6
(1.126)
37.9
(1.492)
70.4
(2.772)
123.6
(4.866)
54.4
(2.142)
61.7
(2.429)
45.8
(1.803)
25.3
(0.996)
21.9
(0.862)
12.9
(0.508)
514.5
(20.256)
Rainfall mm (inches) 0.3
(0.012)
0.1
(0.004)
1.6
(0.063)
16.0
(0.63)
59.1
(2.327)
123.6
(4.866)
54.4
(2.142)
61.3
(2.413)
43.4
(1.709)
10.1
(0.398)
2.3
(0.091)
0.4
(0.016)
372.6
(14.669)
Snowfall cm (inches) 14.5
(5.71)
17.2
(6.77)
26.9
(10.59)
21.9
(8.62)
11.3
(4.45)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.4
(0.16)
2.5
(0.98)
15.2
(5.98)
19.6
(7.72)
12.4
(4.88)
141.9
(55.87)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm) 6.7 6.5 9.2 9.8 12.9 14.5 10.9 10.9 9.0 7.8 6.7 5.8 110.7
Avg. rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 0.2 0.3 1.3 5.7 11.8 14.5 10.9 10.9 8.6 4.4 1.3 0.5 70.4
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm) 6.5 6.5 8.7 6.1 2.8 0.0 0.0 0.2 1.0 4.4 5.9 5.5 47.6
Source: Environment Canada

Neighbourhoods

Demographics

Okotoks2007

In the 2016 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, the Town of Okotoks recorded a population of 28,881 living in 9,667 of its 9,840 total private dwellings, a 17.8% change from its 2011 population of 24,511. With a land area of 19.63 km2 (7.58 sq mi), it had a population density of 1,471.3/km2 (3,811/sq mi) in 2016.

The population of the Town of Okotoks according to its 2015 municipal census is 28,016, a 2.5% change from its 2014 municipal census population of 27,331. At its current population, Okotoks is the largest town in the province and is eligible for city status. According to Alberta's Municipal Government Act, a town is eligible for city status when it reaches 10,000 residents.

In the 2011 Census, the Town of Okotoks had a population of 24,511 living in 8,423 of its 8,704 total dwellings, a 42.9% change from its 2006 adjusted population of 17,150. With a land area of 19.24 km2 (7.43 sq mi), it had a population density of 1,274.0/km2 (3,300/sq mi) in 2011. The 2011 census also indicated that Okotoks was ranked as the municipality with the tenth-highest population growth between 2006 and 2011.

Almost 3% of Okotoks residents identified themselves as aboriginal at the time of the 2006 census. About 93% of residents identified English as their first language while 1.4% identified French and 1.0% identified German as their first language learned. The next most common languages were Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, Korean, and Slovak.

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