Sylvan Lake | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake, Alberta, incorporated as a village in 1913 and as a town in 1946, population 14,816 (2016 census), 12,362 (2011 census). The town of Sylvan Lake is located on the south shore of the lake of the same name in central Alberta, approximately 20 km west of Red Deer. The origin of the name is descriptive. The area was once heavily forested and the name is based on the Latin word sylva, which means wood or forest. The lake was known variously as Snake (by the Cree and Stoney-Nakoda), and Methy or Swan (by 19th century explorers). In 1909, a local resident, Mrs. Green, circulated a petition to change the lake’s name to Sylvan Lake.

Settlement and Development

In the early 1880s, settlers began to take up land in the Red Deer area and Sylvan Lake was used as a source of fish. In 1899, a sawmill was established and soon a hotel was built for visitors. The development of Sylvan Lake as a resort community was encouraged by the growth of automobile touring and camping in the 1920s and 1930s, which made it accessible to people from Edmonton and other cities, as well as Red Deer.


Sylvan Lake is now one of Alberta’s major resort communities. In addition to the lake and water-based activities, other attractions include two provincial parks, one of which is within the town’s boundaries. Businesses servicing the region’s oil and natural gas industries also contribute to the town’s economy.