Drumheller, AB
Demographic Factsheet:
 Population: 8,030 (2011)
2006 to 2011 population change (%): 2.7
Population density: 606.7 per km2
Land area (square km): 11.08
Participation rate: 69.6 (Alberta: 73.2)
Employment rate: 65.1 (Alberta: 69.0)
Unemployment rate: 6.5 (Alberta: 5.8)
Average after-tax household income for Drumheller families: $64,392.00
Homeownership rate: 77.4% (Alberta: 73.6%)
Average selling price for a single detached home: $244,000.00.
Average residential property taxes: $2,001.00 per year
Households in Drumheller: 3,185
Average rent rates for a single bedroom: $675.00
Average rent rates for two bedrooms: $733.00
Average monthly housing cost for homeowners: $1,038
The Town of Drumheller is located on the Red Deer River in southern Alberta, approximately 135 km northeast of Calgary. Drumheller has one of the largest land bases of all towns in Alberta, encompassing a total area of 111 square kilometers. It stretches for approximately 31 kilometers along the Red Deer River, with an average width of approximately 5 kilometers. The area is varied in terms of physical features, land use and development potential and constraints. Drumheller consists of an urban area, which accounts for a mere 5.8 percent of the total area with the Town, and a large rural area with agriculture as the dominant land use. The Town provides a very unique physical setting as it is located in the Red Deer River Valley bottom with badlands typographic features. Drumheller is surrounded by Kneehill county to the west, Starland County to the north, Special Areas District 2 to the east, and Wheatland County to the south. It is the largest community on the Calgary-Saskatoon corridor and draws thousands of tourists to its geologically unique region each year.
The discovery of coal, as early as 1792, was paramount for the success of the railway and the expansion of Canada. In the Drumheller area of the Red river valley, population growth was originally due to locational advantages such as proximity to the coal reserves and to rail facilities. Ranchers first settled in the Drumheller area in 1897. In these years, ranchers and homesteaders dug coal out of river banks and coulees to heat their homes. In 1910, the land was bought by Colonel Samuel Drumheller and sold to the Canadian National Railway to develop a townsite. In the following year, Samuel Drumheller began commercial coal mining operations at sites around the townsite that now bears his name. With the first shipment of coal leaving Drumheller in 1911, the great ‘coal rush’ had begun.
The coal industry had a sizable effect on population variations. The railway arrived in 1912 as CN laid tracks into town. Once the railway was completed, thousands of people poured in to profit from the burgeoning industry, with the greatest numbers coming from Eastern Europe, Britain, and Nova Scotia. Residential development occurred in the core area, today the Central business District. In quick succession Drumheller became a village in 1913 and a town in 1916. Between 1911 and 1979, 139 mines were registered in the Drumheller valley. While some mines only survived for short terms, there were around 35 which remained productive for many years. It is estimated that between 1912 and 1966, Drumheller produced approximately 57 million tons of coal, making it a major coal producing region in the country. In 1930, Drumheller was officially incorporated as a city. From 1930 to 1955, commercial coal mining contributed to the valley’s growth, which mostly transpired in the settlements within the Municipal District of Badlands No. 7, where towns such as East Coulee and Wayne grew to more than 3,000 residents in the 1930s and 40s, causing higher population distribution outside the City of Drumheller’s boundaries until the mid 1950s. The region’s mining industry boomed until the Leduc Oil Strike of 1948, when coal lost its importance as an energy source due to a prompt switch to natural gas as the fuel of choice in Western Canada. To put it simply, as the demand for coal dropped, mines closed, the population drastically declined and communities suffered— some, such as Willow Creek, vanished. The ‘coal years’ of the Badlands are considered to have officially ceased in 1979.
The City subsequently began to diversify its economy as to lessen the extent of the impact. It experienced a 148 percent population increase, which was for the most part due to the annexation of surrounding hamlets, adding 2,000 residents. Some migrated from the outlying communities in the Municipal District to the City. In 1998, the City of Drumheller amalgamated with the Municipal District of Badlands and was reverted back to town status, making it the largest town in Alberta. The commonalities with regards to physical planning and development issues between the two municipalities were cited as primary reasons for the merge. It was also argued that the amalgamation would create a recognizable social and economic unit as a predominantly urban sub-region. Former hamlets within the municipal district of Badlands retained their names as well as their unique identities and became suburb communities in the Town of Drumheller.
Today, coal mining has all but disappeared, and has been replaced by the development of other activities. The natural gas and oil sector employs around 600 people directly indirectly in the field. The Correctional Service of Canada, a federal penitentiary, and a regional Alberta Health Services complex also provide significant employment. Tourists are drawn to Drumheller by the remarkable landscape of the badlands along the Red Deer River, especially during the summer months. Themes focusing on the badlands topography, rich paleontological finds, and the valley’s coal mining heritage are being developed. The importance of the Cretaceous fossil resources was realized during the ‘Great Canadian Dinosaur Rush’ which took place from 1911 to 1925, when more than 300 skeletons were sent to be displayed in museums around the World. After a long period of inactivity, a renaissance of interest in dinosaurs led to the establishment world-class tourist destinations such as the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, the Drumheller Dinosaur and Fossil Museum, and the Homestead Antique Museum. The museum exhibits include the largest display of complete dinosaur skeletons in the world. Tourism is the fastest growing area of the Drumheller economy. On average, 500,000 tourists make Drumheller a destination point. Many major commercial hotel chains as well as several locally owned and operated hotels and bed and breakfasts offer renowned accommodations. As a result, today the top industries are retail trade, public administration and accommodation and food services, according to Statistics Canada.

Dr. Leith Deacon PhD