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Magrath, Alberta, T0K, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1987/05/14

Magrath Canal, Magrath (May 2006); Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management, 2006
View looking north
Magrath Canal, Magrath (May 2006); Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management, 2006
Gears to open and close the headwater gates
Magrath Canal, Magrath (May 2006); Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management, 2006
Main canal gates

Other Name(s)

Magrath Irrigation Canal

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1898/01/01 to 1900/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/12/12

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Magrath Canal is an irrigation canal situated on 8.09 hectares of land within the J. Arthur Spencer Historical Park in the Town of Magrath. The site features the remains of original wooden piers, the ruins of the diversion weir, and associated gates and dams.

Heritage Value

The heritage value of Magrath Canal lies in its association with the establishment of an extensive irrigation system in southern Alberta and its connection to the opening of a vast region in the province's south to settlement, particularly by Mormons.

Prior to the 1890s, much of southern Alberta had been perceived as unsuitable for agricultural settlement. Enclosed within "Palliser's Triangle" - an arid expanse in the southern Canadian Prairies - the region had been largely avoided by settlers convinced of its dubious farming possibilities. This dreary vision was of particular concern to Elliott Galt, whose companies had amassed vast land subsidies in the area in return for constructing railway lines. In the 1890s, Galt and his associate A. C. Magrath of the Alberta Irrigation Company (later the Canadian North-West Irrigation Company) spearheaded the St. Mary River Project to address the problem of aridity in southern Alberta. Galt succeeded in securing the support of the federal government, the Mormon community, and British investors for the project. The government agreed to offer a rebate on the surveying fees associated with the endeavour in order to encourage settlement in an otherwise unattractive region. The Mormons offered their labour and their considerable expertise on irrigation - cultivated through years of "making the desert bloom" in Utah - in exchange for land and cash payments. And the financiers agreed to provide capital in the hopes of substantial returns. Begun in 1898, the St. Mary River Project was completed in 1900. As a result of this happy confluence of interests, vast tracts of southern Alberta were made viable for agriculture and settlement. The St. Mary River Project, of which the Magrath Canal was a part, was the first major irrigation project undertaken in Alberta and was essential in transforming the image of southern Alberta from a dry, desolate land unsuitable for agriculture to a region made fruitful by irrigation. The establishment of the communities of Magrath, Raymond, and Stirling was directly linked to the project.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 993)

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of Magrath Canal include such features as:
- mass, form, and scale;
- remaining wooden piers;
- concrete dam;
- composite concrete and iron gates systems, including chains, cables, and gears;
- chains and cables;
- remains of diversion weir;
- remains of staircases, ladders, and access points.




Recognition Authority

Province of Alberta

Recognition Statute

Historical Resources Act

Recognition Type

Provincial Historic Resource

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Technology and Engineering
Peopling the Land
People and the Environment
Peopling the Land

Function - Category and Type



Water or Sewage Facility

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 993)

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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