Palliser, a construction camp and siding in the 1880s, was named after Captain John Palliser who led the Palliser Expedition, a scientific exploration of British North America conducted btween1857 and 1860. Prior to this expedition the American government had sponsored surveying expeditions that crossed the border into British territory in western North America. Eager to solidify their hold on the west, the British government funded the Palliser Expedition.
A team of scientific experts was assembled to capture all aspects of the venture. Palliser, skilled in wilderness living and travel, would lead the expedition. Dr. James Hector (for which Hector Siding was named) was appointed geologist and naturalist, Eugène Bourgeau was the botanical collector, John W. Sullivan was the astronomical observer and Lt. Thomas W. Blakiston magnetic observer.
The expedition studied three distinct regions of the North West: Lake Superior to Red River, Red River to the Rockies and the mountains of the Pacific coast. While the men were members of the same expedition, they rarely travelled together. During his travels, Hector discovered the Kicking Horse Pass. Palliser and Sullivan explored the prairies.
One of the major contributions of the Palliser expedition was its identification of southern portion of the province of Alberta and southwestern portion of the province of Saskatchewan as too dry for agriculture, what became known as the ‘Palliser's Triangle’. However, the Canadian government ignored this warning and advertised the area in the early-twentieth century as fertile ground to establish farming operations. The extreme drought that swept the prairies in the 1930s eventually proved Palliser’s team correct and led to the 1930s being known in Canada as ‘the dirty 30s’.