Many people rush right in to Waterton Lakes National Park, and fail to stop at the Bison Paddock which is just inside the park entrance. Waterton is a place where the prairie meets the mountains, and the Paddock is located on the prairie, but with a great mountain view.
The Bison Paddock is a large fenced in area with a one way loop road. Visitors can drive around and view a small herd of of American Bison (Canadian Bison?) - also called Buffalo. There is no gate, other than a cattle guard across the road, and no admission charge. Karen and I drove around the paddock on two different days. On the first visit we only saw the Bison from a distance, and with a fence behind them which we didn't like in our photographs. The second day we were much luckier. The regal shaggy beasts were right in the road. We had to wait for them to move before we were able to complete the loop, and we enjoyed every minute of the wait.
Seeing Bison at such close range is a thrilling experience. These are wild beasts and can be very dangerous, so stay in your car.
On the south shore of Upper Waterton Lake you will find this Pavilion, between downtown Waterton Park and the town's Marina. There is a small park with a collection of interpretative displays that tell the story of the formation of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. As a history buff I found it very interesting. By taking the time to stop and read the displays here one will have a better understanding and appreciation for everything else they see and do at Waterton Lakes.
The Pavilion was established in 1982 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the creation of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
The Glacier National Park in Montana, U.S.A., actually joins Waterton National Park in Alberta, Canada.
We went for the drive to Glacier, so we could drive the "Going to the Sun" scenic road journey.
Lucky we remembered our Passports, as we had to go through a border crossing. On the way, there were nice scenic views, this meant a few stops for photo's.
Once we reached the St. Mary visitor Centre, we found out the road was still partially closed because of snow, we could go so far, and then would have to turn back. When taking the park entrance fee into consideration, we decided against it. The road was to be fully open a week later, this was in June.
I did check the website before leaving home, this gives details about the road condition and whether it is open or not, I was hoping that it would be open by the time we reached there, it wasn't to be!
In future years, it is hoped the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road will be open for public vehicle access from mid-June to mid-September.
Day Single Entry Permit
Summer Rate - $12.00 May 1 - November 30
Winter Rate - $10.00 December 1 - April 30
Per person entrance fee for a visitor traveling on foot, bicycle, motorcycle, or for individuals traveling together in a vehicle as a non-commercial, organized group. Non-transferable.
Waterton Village, and I couldn't believe my eyes!.......there were Deer roaming the streets, infact, Deer were everywhere, in people's front yards, on the roads, and some had Fawn's too!
Waterton Village is only very tiny, offering everything you could need, such as activities, lodging, dining and other services.
The Village is scenically located, one of the prettiest location's a Village could be!
From the village, you can easily see the majestic Prince of Wales Hotel looking down on the Village.
This area has warm weather in the summer that is cooled by warm breezes.
Of course, all the Deer and the beautiful setting made this a favorite of mine.
Even if you are not staying here, do stop and go in for a look, we did!
As you follow the road to the township of Waterton, you can't miss the Hotel, sitting alone, high on a high with the lake & beautiful mountain's surrounding it.
The 86-room hotel, named after Prince Edward, was opened in 1927. Of course, we couldn't see the rooms, I have seen photo's, and they do look nice, but we did walk around inside and upstairs. All the staff were wearing Kilt's and they looked so nice.
Inside, the wood is dark, and in the impressive lobby where the window's are wall-to-ceiling high, I had wonderful views of Upper Waterton Lake and beyond to Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park, Montana.
At the gift shop, we found some different souvenirs, probably not the cheapest, but lucky we bought here, as we didn't see them elsewhere. The staff were so friendly and helpful, we had to drag ourselve's away.
As you may know, the Hotel is a well known landmark!
The Cameron Falls are located in the townsite of Waterton Village.
They are signposted, so you really shouldn't miss them. We went for a look, and were not disappointed, as they had plenty of water pouring over the Precambrian bedrock which dates back 1.5 billion years (1500 million years) old.
If you happen to come at night, they are lit, and there are seats by them to enjoy a romantic evening.
The falls are also the site of the oldest rock in the entire Canadian Rocky Mountain range!
A nice place for photo's of the Lake!
The best time to visit Cameron Falls is during July and August, when Waterton Park Townsite and other nearby park services and facilities are open, in June, most was open.
The Buffalo Paddock is a fenced-off area of prairie grassland that is home to the park's buffalo herd. It is situated on the road leading from Pincher Creek to Waterton Lakes, so as we were staying at Pincher Creek and were driving past, we decided to go in for a look.
We drove in and followed the loop around the paddock. For us, it was a chance to see Buffalo in the wild for the 1st time. I thought that this drive gives you the feel, that these animals are out in the wild, which they are to a certain extent.
Rember, do not get out of you car to take photo's close up, these are huge Animals, and can run speeds of up to 50 km/hr, that is fast for such a huge animal.
When I saw their huge heads [this was at another time], there was no way I would want to come in contact with one!
This is another must do drive.
16 ks from Waterton village, following a scenic road, we came to roads end and the beautiful Cameron Lake. The drive itself is lovely, passing by many scenic views plus the National Historic site of western Canada's 1st Oil well. We pulled off now and then to have a look at the rapids in the fast running creek.
Majestic mountain peaks of the Akamina Ridge surround this sub-alpine lake, it really is stunning scenery. You can rent a canoe,[we didn't], how nice would that be in this beautiful setting, and grizzlies are often seen on the far slopes!
We looked through the interpretive center and souvenir shop, [Toilets are located here,] then just sat at one of the picnic tables, and took in the beauty of this area. A Blue Jay settled in a tree near us, so I managed a photo.
At an elevation of 1646 metres, this picturesque alpine lake, not only offers pristine beauty, but fresh, clean air, Birds, Wildlife and wildflowers, and don't forget........... The drive to Cameron Lake is almost as beautiful as being there!
A lovely scenic drive to Red Rock Canyon is a must.
It is only 16kms to drive, so not far, along the way the views were of hanging valleys, alpine meadows, jagged mountain peaks and we saw some Deer as well.
At the canyon car park, once again in miserable misty rain, we headed for our loop walk, up one side of the canyon, and back the other. The walk is only .7km return, and is very easy.
The Canyon is so "RED", layered in colours of red and green colored minerals, so different. The stream, with its crystal clear water was tumbling down and over the rocks, not a lot of water, but enough!
Something to remember is, this is Grizzly Bear country, and the day before us, one was on the other side of the bridge you cross to do your walk, glad he wasn't there when I was!
Mountain Meadow Trail Rides is located outside the park, near Mountain View. This family-run farm has been in the Nelson family for over 100 years. They offer 2 to 4 day all inclusive trail rides, and match the experience of the rider to the horse.
(I am *not* a horse person and so that's really all I have to offer on this subject!)
Pat's is a really unique spot, in downtown Waterton.
It is a combination gas station, convenience store, camping & fishing supply store, and bicycle rental store! Pat's is famous for their rentals of motorized scooters, surreys and mountain bikes. They also rent tennis racquets, binoculars.... whatever you need. You can rent by the hour or the day.
In the event that you brought your own bike, they even sell parts for bike repairs here!
A surrey is a golf-cart type of machine, that you move by pedalling, like a bike. It will seat two people (possibly a small child as well) and they are a really different way to see the town.
Coming to Warterton, we passed through the small town of Hill Spring. Here, there was a large dairy, with a huge barn and lots of calves in hutches, very different living for the cows in a cold climate, to cows in a warmer climate.
The bison paddock is about 3 miles north of the Waterton main entrance, just off highway #6. Head north from the park gates on highway #6, and watch for the sign that marks the turn-off into the paddock.
Right after you turn off the highway there is a viewpoint with a small parking area. You can park here and take a short walk up a hill along a paved pathway, if you wish. From here you can often see the bison in the paddock below you.
When you're finished viewing from afar, hop back in your vehicle and drive down the road to the entrance to the paddock. There is a narrow road that makes a loop through the paddock. My past experience has taught me that you will usually not see any bison until you have travelled at halfway around that loop. There is a watering hole on the east side of the paddock, where the bison usually can be found hanging out.
Whatever you do, DO NOT!!! get out of your vehicle while you are in the paddock. Bison are very dangerous animals and they can run very fast. For this reason you cannot enter the paddock on a pedal bike and motorcycles are not recommended, either.
I have made a few trips into the paddock and never saw a single bison, because they were hiding out in the bush somewhere. If that happens to you, make sure you make another trip back before you leave and chances are good that you will see them eventually.
Winter is another great time to explore Waterton - you can have the whole place almost to yourself! The Kilmorey Lodge, Crandell Mountain Lodge & Waterton Glacier Suites are open year-round, with the Kilmorey Lodge offering the only restaurant service in the winter. No other businesses are open in the winter.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular winter activities in the park. Routes from the Little Prairie picnic area, which has washrooms and a kitchen shelter with a wood-burning stove, are great for families and novice skiers. The rolling terrain is not difficult and is very scenic, particularly when you arrive at Cameron Lake. The area is accessed from the Akamina Parkway.
More experienced skiers can make extended backcountry trips around Cameron Lake, but beware: this is avalanche country; come prepared.
You can also go ice climbing in Waterton. There are a variety of climbing opportunities here.
While Upper Waterton Lake may be too cold for swimming, you can go scuba diving here. The best place to do this is in Emerald Bay. There is an old paddle wheeler (the Gertrude) sunk here - it's in about 66 ft of water in the bay.
If you want to partake of this activity, come prepared. There is nowhere in town to rent equipment or get tank refills. The closest place to do this would be in Lethbridge at Awesome Adventures.