Okotoks (originally ) is a town in the Province of Alberta, Canada. It is situated on the Sheep River, approximately south of the City of Calgary. The town is a member of the Calgary Regional Partnership, a cooperative of municipalities within the Calgary Region. Okotoks has emerged as a bedroom community of Calgary. According to the 2011 Census, the town has a population of 24,511, making it the largest town in Alberta.
Before European settlement, journeying First Nations used the rock as a marker to find the river crossing situated at Okotoks. The tribes were nomadic and often followed large buffalo herds for their sustenance. David Thompson explored the area as early as 1800. Soon trading posts sprang up, including one established in 1874 at the Sheep River crossing on the current Okotoks townsite. This crossing was on a trade route called the Macleod Trail, which led from Fort Benton, Montana to Calgary.
In 1879, the area saw the killing of the last buffalo. Government leasing of land for one cent per acre ($2.47/km²) began in 1880. This created a major change in the region.
A community grew up around a sawmill that was established in 1891, and it would grow in size. The last stagecoach stopped in Okotoks in 1891 when rail service between Calgary and Fort Macleod replaced horse-drawn travel. By 1897 the community name had changed three times: from Sheep Creek to Dewdney to Okotoks, assigned by the Canadian Pacific Railway. The rail line is still a main line south to the U.S. border, but the last of the passenger service (Dayliner unit) ended in 1971.
The town celebrated its centennial in 2004.
Okotoks, like much of southern Alberta, suffered major flooding in June 2005. Virtually all lands adjacent to the Sheep River, including the central business district, were at least briefly flooded, with the most serious damage being inflicted to riverside pathways, parks and campgrounds. Prior to this event, the last major flood in Okotoks and the surrounding area occurred in 1995.
In 2007, the energy efficient Drake Landing Solar Community was established in Okotoks.
Numerous old buildings have been restored, and one house was even resituated blocks away to avoid destruction by the widening of the highway through the townsite.