Information on Okotoks

About Okotoks

Okotoks (/ˈoʊkətoʊks/, originally /ˈɒkətɒks/) is a town in the Calgary Metropolitan Region of Alberta, Canada. It is on the Sheep River, approximately 18 km (11 mi) south of the Calgary. Okotoks has emerged as a bedroom community of Calgary.[7] According to the 2016 Census, the town has a population of 28,881,[8] making it the largest town in Alberta.


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 were established, including one built in 1874 at the Sheep River crossing in the current town. 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 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, first from Sheep Creek, to Dewdney after Edgar Dewdney the Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories, and later being informed by post office authorities in Ottawa of an older settlement named Dewdney in Lower Mainland, British Columbia, the name Okotoks was chosen by local businessman John Lineham. 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.

Geography & Climate

  • Average hours of sunshine per day: 6.34
  • Chinook average: 25 days
  • Frost free days: 112
  • Mean rainfall per year: 11.8 in (300 mm)
  • Mean snowfall per year: 60 in (153 cm)
  • Mean total precipitation: 16.7 in (424 mm)
  • Number of days with precipitation: 113
  • Distance to Calgary City Centre: 32 km

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. 

Historical Conservation

Residents of the town are proud of their heritage. 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.


The population of the Town of Okotoks according to its 2010 municipal census is 23,201, a 7.0% increase over its 2009 municipal census population of 21,690.

In 2006, Okotoks had a population of 17,145 living in 5,927 dwellings, a 46.7% increase from 2001. The town has a land area of 18.55 km2 (7.2 sq mi) and a population density of 924.4 /km2 (2,394.2/sq mi).

Almost 3% of Okotoks residents identified themselves as aboriginal at the time of the 2006 census.[13] 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.


  • Air Ranch
  • Cimarron
  • Cornerstone
  • Crystal Ridge
  • Drake Landing
  • Sandstone
  • Sheep River
  • Suntree
  • Tower Hill
  • Hunter's Glen
  • Westmount
  • Westridge
  • Woodhaven


Olde Towne Plaza is located downtown.

The sawmill that was established by John Lineham along the Sheep River in 1891 operated for 25 years and was a major part of the local economy. At one time it employed 135 people, producing an average of 30,000 feet (9,000 m) of lumber per day. The growth of the Canadian Pacific Railway created a demand for railway ties and the mill helped meet that demand. Logs were brought down from the west via the Sheep River. The mill has long since disappeared but one building (one of the oldest remaining in the township) still stands. It housed an award-winning (butter) dairy from the 1920s to the 1940s. It currently houses a law office and restaurant.

In 1900, just west of Okotoks, four brick-making plants were opened. Many of the first brick buildings in Okotoks (of which a number still exist) were constructed using locally-made brick. The industry reached its peak in 1912, when twelve million bricks were manufactured. The outbreak of World War I caused the shutdown of “Sandstone” as it was known.

By 1906 the population had hit 1900, a figure that would not be reached again until 1977.

Oil was discovered west of Okotoks in 1913. Okotoks became the supply centre. In its heyday, from 1913 to the 1960s, Okotoks was busy with horses, wagons, and transports hauling all types of equipment to the oil fields, and crude oil back through town to refineries in Calgary.

The Texas Gulf sulphur plant (known as CanOxy) opened in 1959, employing 45 people. It was not unusual to see the bright yellow, three-story high, block-long, block-wide sulphur storage waiting to be melted or ground up and poured into railway cars.

Since 1974, Okotoks has been hosting a collector car auction in late May. It is the longest running collector car auction in Canada.

Okotoks was one of the few communities its size to have its own airport. A number of small air shows were held there over the years. It was the home of an aircraft charter company, flight school, and a helicopter flying school. The site has now evolved into an airpark community called the Okotoks Air Ranch, where the property owners, if they wish, can build homes with attached hangars for their private planes.

The town of Okotoks became a case study for the Microsoft Corporation and earned a page on Microsoft’s website.


Foothills School Division

  • Big Rock Elementary School
  • Cameron Crossing Outreach School
  • Dr. Morris Gibson Elementary School
  • Percy Pegler Elementary School
  • Okotoks Junior High School
  • Foothills Composite High School
  • Alberta High School of Fine Arts
  • Ecole Francophone d'Okotoks
  • Westmount Elementary-Junior High School (Opening Fall 2012)

Christ the Redeemer Catholic School Division

  • Good Shepherd School
  • John Paul II Collegiate
  • Holy Trinity Academy
  • St. Mary's School
  • St. Luke's Outreach Centre
  • St. Paul's Academy

Private Schools

  • Edison Private School
  • Strathcona Tweedsmuir School

Sports & Recreation

In July 2004 Okotoks, 

High River, and the Municipal District of Foothills hosted the Alberta Summer Games. More than 3,200 athletes competed in 17 sports. In the three-day competition, the largest in its 30 year history, 512 medals were handed out.

Sports Teams


  • Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League
  • Okotoks Bisons of the Heritage Junior B Hockey League
  • The Oilers minor hockey team


  • Foothills Eagles Bantam Football Club
  • Foothills Eagles Peewee Football Club
  • Foothills Eagles Atom Football Club
  • Foothills Falcons Bantam Football Club - 2008 Provincial Champions - 2006, 2007, 2008 League Champions.
  • Foothills Falcons Peewee Football Club
  • Foothills Falcons Atom Football Club
  • Foothills Composite High School Falcons Football


  • The Okotoks Dawgs began play in the Western Major Baseball League in 2007.
  • Aquatic Sports - Swimming, etc.
  • Foothills Stingrays Swim Club
  • Okotoks Stingrays Swim Club
  • Okotoks Synchro Sea Queens
  • Dolphins Water Polo
  • Okotoks Masters Swim Club


  • Okotoks Ice - Tier II
  • Okotoks Icemen - Tier III

Golf Courses

  • The D'Arcy Ranch Golf Course
  • The River's Edge Golf Course is an 18-hole, grass-green course on the banks of the Sheep River 5 km east of Okotoks.
  • The Crystal Ridge Golf Club opened on August 8, 2004. The 9-hole, 3125-yard, par 35 track features water and rock work on every hole, with many mature trees, berms, sand traps, and large undulating greens. Each hole features a minimum of five tee boxes.
  • BMX bike track
  • The town has its own BMX bike track maintained by local volunteers.

Indoor recreation facilities

  • Okotoks Recreation Centre
  • Swindell's Swimming Pool
  • Murray Arena
  • Piper Arena
  • Shane Homes Gymnasium
  • Okotoks Curling Rink
  • Centennial Arena

Outdoor recreation facilities

  • Skateboard Park
  • Kinsmen Outdoor Skating Arena
  • Various outdoor ball diamonds, soccer fields and tennis courts
  • Okotoks Spray Park (opened June 4, 2010)


  • Okotoks Lions Sheep River Campground
  • Country Lane RV Park
  • Okotoks Wilderness Campgrounds
  • Riverbend Campground


  • The Sheep River offers some excellent opportunities for fly fishing.
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