Waterton National Park

By joanne lemna | May 25, 2017

Exploring Waterton Lakes National Park: A Historical and Recreational Overview

Canada is celebrating 150 years by providing free entry to all national parks. There’s no better time to explore Canada’s outdoors. Here’s a short introdction to one of many incredible national parks in our country.

A proposal to protect the Waterton area was sent to Ottawa in 1893 by a Pincher Creek rancher by the name of F. W. Godsal. 140 km2 was set aside as a Dominion Forest Park in 1895 making it Canada’s fourth national park. It was named after Waterton Lake which was in turn named after Charles Waterton naturalist and conservationist.

John George Kootenai Brown was the first European settler in the park area. He was subsequently the first game guardian and fisheries inspector then became the first park superintendent in 1911. The Waterton townsite lots were first surveyed in 1910 and the first businesses were a hotel and livery stable. By 1927 the Prince of Wales Hotel opened catering towards wealthy tourists coming up from the United States. In 1930 the National Parks Act expanded the park to 505 km2 and made it officially Waterton National Park.

By 1931 the townsite was well established. Tourists were visiting mainly from the US. In 1932 Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was formed to represent peace goodwill and cooperation between Canada and the US. It was dedicated to world peace by Sir Charles Arthur Mander on behalf of Rotary International. It was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1995 and hosts two National Historic sites: the First Oil Well in Western Canada (1968) and Prince of Wales Hotel (1995). It’s also part of the Dark Sky Preserve.

You can stay in one of three campgrounds or nine backcountry sites in the park or one of the few privately owned campgrounds outside the park. If camping isn’t your style there are also bed and breakfasts hotels and home-sharing options.

The summer offers incredible hiking and climbing as well as canoeing kayaking and you can even take a memorable ride on a historic boat. View some of the amazing local wildlife or take in the stars as Waterton is part of the dark sky preserve network. Take your horses or your bikes through the trails or spend your mornings fishing or try geocaching. While the winter sees fewer tourists there is good snowshoeing and cross-country skiing as well. You can explore more of Waterton here .