Pre-settlement and fur trade
The Beaver Hills make up a large portion of modern day Strathcona County. The Beaver Hills, with its numerous lakes, ponds and streams, are the product of the melting of the last great glaciers about 12,000 years ago.
The melting glaciers produced the Cooking Lake moraine — its rolling hills, gravel deposits and rich black loam soils. Closer to the North Saskatchewan River were lake bottom deposits left by a glacier melt lake — Lake Edmonton. The lake was short-lived, disappearing when the ice mountain at its southern extreme melted.
The forests that grew in the well-watered Beaver Hills became shelter to a myriad of animals and birds — including fox, lynx, bobcats, wolves, beaver, muskrat, moose, bear, martin, mink, elk, mule deer, white-tail deer and even caribou. The streams and lakes teemed with fish and water birds.
The Beaver Indians arrived more than 300 years ago from north of the Peace River. The Eastern Woodland Cree soon followed, looking for richer food supplies and finer furs to trade with the white merchants of Eastern Canada and the Hudson's Bay Company. This resulted in the biggest fur trading post in western Rupert's Land being established in 1795 on the edge of the Beaver Hills, known as Edmonton House.
When the Hudson Bay Company gave up its rights to Rupert's Land to the Dominion of Canada, in 1870, Canada began looking for new ways to use the territory. Surveyors were sent to find a rail route to the Pacific. Then, the Royal North West Mounted Police were introduced to Edmonton in 1874, and in Fort Saskatchewan the following year.