Red Deer, Alta, incorporated as a city in 1913, population 90 564 (2011c), 83 154 (2006c). The City of Red Deer is located on the Red Deer River, 150 km south of Edmonton. The Cree applied the name "Elk" to the river, but Scottish fur traders appear to have confused elk with the red deer of their homeland. The original settlement began in 1882 where the old Calgary-Edmonton Trail crossed the Red Deer River. During the North-West Rebellion (1885) the Canadian militia constructed Fort Normandeau at this site. The post was then used by the North-West Mounted Police until 1893. In 1891 the settlement moved 7 km downstream to a site on the newly constructed Calgary-Edmonton Railway (later part of the Canadian Pacific Railway). Around the turn of the century, the community experienced a surge of growth as a huge number of settlers flooded into the area to take up homesteads.
Red Deer developed primarily as an agricultural service and distribution centre, an activity enhanced by its location midway between Calgary and Edmonton, in the centre of a very fertile mixed-farming district. It became a major divisional point of the CPR in 1907, and in 1911 the Alberta Central and Canadian Northern railways entered the town. The provincial institution for the care of the mentally handicapped, currently known as Michener Centre, established 1922, has had a great impact on the community. After World War II, with the discovery of significant oil and natural gas fields in the area, Red Deer entered a prolonged boom. In the late 1950s it may have been the fastest-growing city in Canada. The petroleum service industry became an increasingly important part of Red Deer's economy. After a lull in growth in the early 1970s, another boom accompanied the construction of world-scale petrochemical plants east of the city at Joffre and Prentiss.
Red Deer is a modern city with excellent recreational and cultural facilities, a college, a large regional health-care centre, and extensive convention and exhibition facilities. It is also the centre of the parkland district of central Alberta. Attractions include St Mary's Church (1968), Red Deer and District Museum and Archives (1978), Fort Normandeau Interpretive Centre (1985) Kerry Wood Nature Centre (1986) and Alberta Sports Hall of Fame (1996).