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Waterways is located in Alberta
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]



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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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 alsoEdit


  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. ^ a b "Envision Wood Buffalo: Towards 250K – Fort McMurray" (PDF). Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. May 2004. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
  3. ^ a b c "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". Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  7. ^ a b 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.

External linksEdit