In Canada, the Waterton Lakes is officially recognized as one of the best places in the world to go on a holiday. In North America, it is the undisputed best place for tourists to go and have the time of their lives. There’s something special about the country in every one of its corners.
If you had to compare among the various provinces of Canada, then Alberta is the land of too many amazing tourist attractions. The Waterton Lakes National Park, the Banff National Park, the Jasper National Park, Abraham Lake, the list goes on and on.
In the southwest corner of the beautiful province of Alberta, you will come across the Waterton Lakes National Park. Here, you will find every little detail that you need to know about the national park. Here is Your Best Guide to Waterton Lakes in Canada:
History of the Waterton Lakes National Park
The park was named after the Victorian conservationist and naturalist known as Charles Waterton, after whom the lake is named as well. The first person to suggest that a park be constructed around Waterton Lake was a Dominion Land Surveyor who went by the name William Pearce. His suggestion was made in the year 1886.
This was followed up by a rancher called Frederick William Godsal, who wrote to Pearce about the report he published in 1886 about the conversion of the surrounding area into a park.
As the first proposal was rejected, Pearce gave the idea another shot in 1893 and forwarded the report, further emphasizing that the land around the lake was not fit for cultivation of any kind.
It also did not have a lot of scopes to be a grazing ground for cattle either. Thomas Mayne Daly, the then Minister of the Interior of Canada decided to act upon the proposal and instructed that the park be constructed around the lake.
In 1905, Frederick William Godsal made another set of changes through his writing. This time, he wrote to the Secretary of the Interior requesting that the park be expanded in its size so that it could be used for scenic recreation and that it could be visited by people from all across the country, and later, all across the world.
The Waterton Lakes National Park was declared a biosphere reserve. It shares this status with the Glacier National Park. This was done to preserve the vast ecosystem present in the confines of the National Park so that the natural beauty would not be spoiled by human interference.
The type of habitats that are found within the national park includes deciduous and coniferous forests, lower subalpine forests, prairie grasslands, the alpine tundra or the high meadows and the aspen grove forests.
Along with the Glacier National Park, which is in the state of Montana of the United States of America, the Waterton Lakes National Park is a part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, which was recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1995.
September 2017 brought dark times for the Waterton Lakes National Park. A large forest fire broke out in the area which caused a mass evacuation of the nearby town and the park itself. The large fire scorched a lot of establishments including many stables in the park and the visitor center among other buildings.
The fallout from the fires was pretty massive as well and the majority of the hiking trails and facilities of the park remained closed for the 2018 season to make repairs and renovations to the areas affected.
The Waterton Lakes
Named after Charles Waterton, as mentioned above, the Waterton Lake is the highlight of the Waterton Lakes National Park. The lake itself is comprised of two separate water bodies that are connected by a channel that the locals know as the Bosporus.
The two separate parts are called the Middle Waterton Lake and the Upper Waterton Lake. Now, about a third of the Upper Waterton Lake falls in the United States of America, because the lake spreads across the borders of the two countries, with Canada having the majority of the area of the upper part.
Things come in threes and the Waterton Lakes come in threes as well. Aside from the Middle and the Upper parts of the lake, there exists a third member of the trio which is known as the Lower Waterton Lake.
It is located to the north of the Middle lake, which gives rise to the trend of Lower-Middle-Upper from north to south. The Lower Waterton Lake is separated from the Middle lake by another similar shallow channel like the Bosporus, only this one goes by the name Dardanelles.
The northern part of the lake resides in the Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, whereas the southern part (Upper) is found in Glacier National Park in the American state of Montana.
The lakes flow out into the Waterton River, which is recognized as their primary outflow. They are located at an elevation of 4,200 feet above sea level which is above a lot of mountain ranges of the world, albeit the smaller ones. The lake is rather a depth, having a measured average depth of about 260 feet and being the deepest at a depth of about 500 feet.
Fauna Found at the Lakes
The area around the lake is recognized for having a very diverse variety of fauna. Some examples of fauna found at the Waterton Lakes National Park include the coyotes, beavers, river otters, hoary marmots, grizzly bears, black bears, white-tailed deer, mule deer, mountain goats, and wolverines.
Things to Do:
Waterton Lakes National Park has a huge amount of things that you can do and some of the popular leisure activities are listed down below:
1. Mountain Biking
If you can manage to load up your bike in the trunk of your car, then power to you. However, there are facilities for tourists to rent bikes for themselves here so you don’t need to worry because the people there have got you covered. Pat’s Gas Station is a popular place where you can rent bikes, as well as refuel your vehicle. They also have a mini store there in case you need to stock up on essential supplies.
There’s a lot of different types of bikes that they offer for rent, despite the small stature of the shop. Apart from mountain bikes, they offer e-bikes along with special bikes for kids equipped with training wheels.
There are as many as five different bike trails. Don’t worry if you don’t know the trials by heart when you get there. The great people at Pat’s will not only help you out with the bikes and it’s technicalities, but also explain the biking trial to you in detail, so you can find your way around without a lot of hassle.
They’ll also give you a map so you don’t get utterly lost if technology picks a very bad time to fail you. You would be wise to look up the internet or a trusty guide on how to read a map because it can be a little overwhelming the first time.
2. The Red Rock Parkway
If you’re someone who loves cycling, then the Waterton Lakes National Park is practically what you would call paradise. Why? You get to check out the entire place on a bike and enjoy the scenery around. That’s why!
Red Rock Parkway is about 14 kilometers long and starts as a plain grassland that later transitions into a passage through a valley. You don’t have to worry about the mechanical monsters (cars!) honking you to get out of the way because they aren’t allowed on the Parkway.
The only way you can check this place out is by walking or by bicycle. I would recommend the latter a hundred times out of a hundred.
Animals like the black bear, bighorn sheep, elk, and whitetail deer can be found while pedaling through the trial. The Red Rock Parkway ends up in the Red Rock Canyon, where you can head over for a dip after a long bicycle ride in the summer.
The entire Parkway takes about two to four hours to ride through, depending on how fast you can ride. A great way to spend the day around the area is to set aside an entire day for hiking and biking. Group the Red Rock Parkway along with the Snowshoe Trail and the Blakiston Valley Trail nearby.
Blakiston Falls and Crandell Lake are the other places of prominence along the road.
3. Visit Cameron Falls
Cameron Falls is not quite like every other waterfall that you might come across. What makes the Cameron Falls special is the fact that under the right conditions, the entirety of the waterfall turns a beautiful shade of pink. However, the natural phenomenon is really rare.
This was discovered by Rochelle and Brian Coffey about a decade ago. According to the Coffey couple, they saw the waterfall turn a shade of pink right after a rainstorm.
The theory they proposed was that argillite somehow found it’s way into the waterfall, most likely through a landslide. The couple were awestruck at their discovery and submitted their photos to the National Geographic.
The location is very accessible and it is located right in the town. There’s also a parking lot so you can drive right next to the waterfall.
4. Cruises Around Waterton Lake
Boat rides are a thrilling experience, no matter how old you are. If you’re someone who just feels at peace among water, then you should consider taking a boat ride when you’re at the Waterton Lakes.
The cruises are scheduled, so you can’t have them at your convenience but it’s great to plan your days out on vacation so that you can make the most of your time. The boat ride clocks in at a couple of hours. And, you should get your camera for some amazing shots of yourself, and nature’s beauty.
The cruise is only offered in the summer months of July to August, and different times of the day offer different experiences to the people aboard the ferry.
For example, people who have been on the cruise themselves recommend the morning ride that leaves at about 10 in the morning for the best photographic experience. The sun shining on the waters does make for some stunning shots. and it’s a win-win scenario if you’re a morning person.
If you manage to get on the evening cruise that leaves at around 7 in the evening, then you’ll come across the most wildlife that the area has to offer. Bald Eagles and black bears are some common sightings during the cruise.
The guides are really thorough with the facts about the place, and the cruise crosses the Canada-USA border, into the Glacier National Park that’s essentially right around the corner.
5. A Hike Over the Bears Hump
Many people in the town will recommend you spend an hour of your time hiking along with the Bears Hump. The view is just too good to miss. You get a clear view of the town of Waterton along with the adjoining lakes. Kids can also come up on the hike, due to the simplicity of the path.
6. Hike Over To Crypt Lake
The trail of Crypt Lake has been recognized by the National Geographic as one of the best trails to go on. The trip takes an entire day to enjoy thoroughly and consists of a boat ride on Upper Waterton Lake. You’ll also be passing through tunnels, hiking along cliffs, and then enjoying a great view of the Crypt Lake.
There’s a significant amount of elevation involved, so be sure to give it your best shot!
7. Boating on the Waterton Lakes
You can go canoeing, kayaking, or take a paddleboat and chill out on the Waterton Lakes. This is a great idea on summer days, after lunch when you feel like things should start moving a little slower.
The summer season is when the park enjoys it’s the highest number of tourists in the calendar year, however, autumn is a good time to spot the wildlife in the park. There are small restaurants scattered all over the city because of its popularity as a tourist location. The Prince of Wales Hotel deserves a special mention because of its elegance and an amazing view of the Upper Waterton Lake. Having a cup of tea and snacks is an absolute must for tourists in here!