The Prairies is a region in the middle of Canada, made up of three provinces: Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Despite the name, they also contain mountains, hills, lakes, shoreline, and metropolitan cities.
This is a sparsely populated region; each of the provinces has a land area larger than France, and than any US state except Texas or Alaska, but the combined population for all three is under seven million. Part of the reason for that is that prairie winters are extremely harsh (see winter in North America); this region gets colder than the US states to the south or any of the big cities of Eastern Canada.
The Prairies were among the last inhabitable lands of North America to be charted by white explorers. Settlers were few before the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed in 1885 (see Old West#Canada). Today, the Prairies are Canada's breadbasket, producing most of the country's wheat.
Rolling hills, lush prairie, graceful mountains, bustling cities, lovely economy, untapped natural beauty
Rolling hills, beautiful water systems, gleaming parks, shiny cities
History, heritage-full, farming, hydroelectricity, large lakes, beautiful wilderness areas, "watchable" wildlife and rolling hills, woodlands and many lakes in its western highlands.
- 1 Edmonton - Largest mall W of Asia and Canada's largest historic park are two of the big attractions. It also has a lush river valley which is the largest parkland area in North America and is dubbed Canada's festival city. It is the capital of Alberta.
- 2 Calgary - This city is a fast-growing city with world-class Calgary Stampede and one of the biggest international airports in Canada. The largest city in the Prairies, but more influenced by the Rockies. It has a river and is close to the mountains, and is thus full of people who do outdoor activities.
- 3 Saskatoon
- 4 Regina
- 5 Winnipeg - The historic and cultural capital of the prairies. Those interested in architecture, art, museums, and culture would do well in Winnipeg. Also home to the largest French-speaking community outside of Quebec.
- 1 Banff National Park
- 2 Jasper National Park
- 3 Lake Louise
- 4 Prince Albert National Park
- 5 Riding Mountain National Park is renowned for its "watchable" wildlife and forms the core of the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- 6 Wood Buffalo National Park - largest national park in Canada and UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Prairies are a spread over three Canadian provinces: Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta. The southern parts of all of them are mostly farmland — lots of wheat and beef, some of various other things — while northern parts are largely forested.
There are rolling hills in many areas but the only serious mountains are the Rockies along the Alberta-BC border which is also the western edge of this region. That area is popular for tourism, quite scenic and with fine skiing and other mountain sports.
Much of the northern prairies is part of the Canadian Shield, a region scoured nearly flat by glaciers during the last Ice Age and left with rolling hills and many lakes. Much of the tourism there involves hunting or fishing though people also go just to observe or photograph wildlife, such as the polar bears around Churchill, or to see the Northern Lights.
The prairies do not extend far enough north for the midnight sun; for that, you have to go to Northern Canada, a region Canadians often refer to as "north of sixty" because the 60th parallel is the northern border of all three prairie provinces and of BC.
- The best way to travel in the Prairies is by car. The Prairies are served by Highway No 1 and 16 from west to east.
- There are also Via Rail services in Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton
- Rider Express, toll-free: . Bus service along the Trans-Canada Highway from Winnipeg to Vancouver, twice daily, and between Edmonton and Saskatoon.
- Other bus companies provide limited service on some other routes.
- Transit in the largest cities is good and it is not necessary to have a car, but in other places it is recommended.
Many Canadians consider Alberta beef the best available, though Texans and Argentinians would dispute that claim. Certainly you can get fine steaks and other beef anywhere in the region.
The Winnipeg Goldeye is a freshwater fish found in much of Canada and the northern US; the first report of it in English is in the records of the Lewis and Clark expedition to Oregon. It is popular with fly fishermen across the prairies and also fished commercially. Smoked Goldeye is widely sold and considered a delicacy, though the unsmoked fish is not particularly good eating.