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Province: Alberta

Population: 61,000

Climate: Humid Continental, with long, cold winters and short, warm summers.

Overview: Although commonly (and mistakenly) called a city by many Canadians, Fort McMurray in northern Alberta is actually an ‘urban service area’ since it became part of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. The nearest major city is Edmonton, located to the south. The area is situated in the heart of the Athabasca oil sands, where there are large deposits of crude oil. Fort McMurray has produced oil since the 1930’s and the commodity remains the most important industry in the area.

Due to the abundance of jobs in the area, Fort McMurray is growing quickly and welcomes newcomers from both within Canada and further afield. The Fort McMurray Public and Catholic school districts serve all the education needs of the residents, and schools offer a range of diverse programs. As the majority of workers in the area have high income jobs, childcare can cost between $800 and $1200 a month. Housing is also becoming increasingly expensive as more people move to the area and more people build bigger houses. The most popular neighbourhoods for newcomers include Timberlea, Beaconhill and Thickwood.

Living in Fort McMurray is different to living in a major Canadian city, as some facilities are quite limited and the population tends to be male dominated. Some important sites in the area include the Oil Sands Discovery Centre where you can learn how oil is made, as well as attractions such as Heritage Park and Fort Chipewyan Museum.  

Sports tourism is becoming an important draw for the Wood Buffalo area, and activities such as ice hockey, snowmobiling, kayaking, ice fishing, boating and biking are all popular. There are plenty of recreational areas, such as the Birchwood Trails, as well as golf courses and parks. Fort McMurray also has a number of restaurants, bars, casinos and events to keep residents entertained.

Transport: The majority of residents in Fort McMurray use cars to get around, and many of the oil companies provide employees with a bus service to take them to and from the oil sands every day. Wood Buffalo Transit provides public transport in the area, with a bus service for residents and school students. 

Economy: As previously mentioned, oil is the leading industry and source of employment in Fort McMurray, with Wood Buffalo being home to one of the world’s single largest oil reserves. Energy companies, such as Athabasca Oil Corporation, Suncor Energy and Imperial Oil, are the main employers in the region.

For more information on Fort McMurray and the surrounding areas, take a look at the official Wood Buffalo Regional Municipality website