Calgary stands at the point where the vast Canadian prairie meets the jagged, snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Its young, glittering skyscrapers rise out of older suburban neighbourhoods and seem oddly superimposed on this breathtakingly diverse western landscape, as though dropped from the sky onto the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers. Accordingly, the land is never far from the minds of the people of Calgary. The oil that lies beneath it drives the citys vibrant economy; the distant mountains attract legions of skiers and snowboarders during the chilly winters; and, during balmy summers, cattle roam the flat expanse of grassland, marking this out as cowboy country.
Before Calgary was settled by white Europeans, it was the domain of the Blackfoot natives, whose presence has been traced back 11,000 years. The first recorded European presence in the region around Calgary took place in 1787 and by 1860 settlers began arriving to hunt buffalo and sell illegal whisky. In response, Canadas first Prime Minister sent a troop of Mounties to impose the law and make the prairie suitable for immigration. As a result of this, the sleepy little trading post of Fort Calgary was born (it was named by Colonel James Macleod after Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull, Scotland). The settlement did not experience much in the way of population growth until the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883 and it was not until 1894 that Calgary became a city.
However, 1914 was the year that Calgary experienced its most significant development: the discovery of oil in the Turner Valley, 35km (22 miles) southwest of the city. Overnight, Calgary became a boomtown, attracting settlers and investors and generating massive amounts of money. Additional oil discoveries throughout the century saw continued growth in the city that became the administrative centre for the Canadian oil industry.