Lac La Biche | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Lac La Biche

Lac La Biche, Alberta, incorporated as a municipal district in 2007, population 7,673 (2021 census), 8,330 (2016 census). Lac La Biche County is located 225 km northeast of Edmonton on the south shore of the lake of the same name. Incorporated as a town in 1951, Lac La Biche amalgamated with Lakeland County in 2007 to create Lac La Biche County.

Indigenous Peoples and Treaties

Lac La Biche is located on the traditional territory of the Cree and Métis people. The municipal district is covered by Treaty 6, signed in 1876. However, the area also abuts Treaty 8, signed in 1899.

Settlement and Development

Biche in French means “doe.” Fur traders named the lake Lac la Biche after the elk in the area. The elk reminded the fur traders of its smaller European cousin. North West Company and Hudson’s Bay Company traders established posts at the lake between 1798-99, indicating the lake’s early position on fur trade routes. “Portage La Biche,” once a well-travelled connection, is the carry between the waters of the Beaver River and Lac La Biche.

In 1853, both an Oblate mission and the HBC’s Lac La Biche post were located near the eventual townsite. The town was established after the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway from Edmonton reached that point in 1915. The Lac La Biche Mission, now a national historic site (1990), was relocated to its present location 10 km west of the townsite in 1855-56. The mission was once known as l'entrepot du nord. French Canadian settlers joined Métis and others in the area. Later settlers were of Lebanese, Russian and Ukrainian origins.


Today the economy is based on forestry, oil and natural gas, and agriculture. Tourism began when railwayman J.D. McArthur opened the Lac La Biche Inn in 1916. The town is the gateway to Sir Winston Churchill Island Park, created on the largest island of Lac La Biche in 1965. Lakeland Provincial Park, established in 1992, is nearby. Portage College is located in Lac La Biche County.