The North Saskatchewan River was formed as glaciers receded after the last ice age. The river cut a deep, wide valley which began to be used by animals and soon attracted Indigenous peoples. The valley was a sustaining force, giving people water, food, shelter, and medicine. Archaeologists have found evidence of camps along the valley dating back to 10,000 years ago.
Later the river was an important travel route for European fur traders pushing westward. Their first forts were built in the region in 1795. In 1802, they moved upstream to the place we now call Edmonton. River crossings in this era took on new economic importance and brought different cultures together. In the winter, crossings were on the ice. In other seasons they involved boats or swimming (or in low water, riding) horses across.
In 1882, John Walter established a cable ferry that connected the river flats we now call Walterdale and Rossdale. Walter’s ferry tied the two sides of the river closer together as Edmonton grew from outpost to city. The Walterdale Bridge, built in 2017 to replace an earlier structure, is the latest river crossing in this historic location.