Cold Lake, Alta, incorporated as a city in 2000, population 13 839 (2011c), 11 991 (2006c). The City of Cold Lake is located on a lake of the same name, 290 km northeast of Edmonton. The Cree called the lake "Kinosoo" or "big fish" after a Cree legend. European settlers named the lake for its deep, cold water. The area was home to the Chipewyan, who participated in the fur trade after the first post was built around 1871. Non-Indigenous settlement commenced in the early 1900s and increased during the dust bowl of the 1930s when farmers from the southern prairies moved north looking for fertile land.

Growth was slow until a Canadian Forces Base was established here after World War II and this development lead to Cold Lake's incorporation as a town (1955). The base, 4 Wing Cold Lake, is a testing range as well as a training base for jet pilots. It also houses a radar unit that conducts surveillance and ground control intercept for aircraft. The base continues as one of the main economic generators of the city's economy. Cold Lake has been a centre of oil exploration, and in 1985 Imperial Oil Ltd began production of heavy oil nearby. Imperial Oil has since expanded its operations and other companies are also investing in heavy oil production. The area is also a popular fishing resort and tourist centre with Saskatchewan's nearby Meadow Lake Provincial Park.

In 1996 Cold Lake, the nearby town of Grand Centre and the residential quarters for the base were merged into the new town of Cold Lake. This municipal entity received civic status in 2000.