Swan Hills, Alta, incorporated as a town in 1967, population 1465 (2011c), 1645 (2006c). The Town of Swan Hills is located in the Swan Hills, 209 km northwest of Edmonton. The Swan Hills were named by the Cree for legendary giant swans whose thundering wings would fill the air. In 1957 large oil deposits were discovered in the Swan Hills, a sparsely inhabited area south of LESSER SLAVE LAKE. The discovery sparked the construction of a highway into the area, and the town of Swan Hills was created jointly by the oil company and the provincial government to act as a service centre and residential community for the area.
Although the town still has a predominantly oil- and natural gas-based economy, efforts have been made to diversify. Completion of a hazardous waste disposal plant (1987) 18 km northeast of the town provides an alternative. The plant is designed to treat and dispose of many types of hazardous waste. The town is also a service centre for forestry activity in the area.