Waterton, British Columbia At a Glance

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Written by Patrick J. Smith posted on Thursday, February 18th, 2010

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With its combination of distinct ecosystems, Waterton, British Columbia features some of the most diverse flora and fauna within its high mountain ranges, rolling prairies, and deep lakes. Created by glaciers, floods, harsh winds, and fires, the region has been shaped into one of the most arresting natural wonders in the Canadian Rockies.

Cameron Falls, Waterton Lakes National Park. © Mike Grandmaison

Geologists have designated the area as holding some of the oldest sedimentary rock in North America, visible in the rock layers of red and green. Located within the Canadian Rockies, the Great Plains, and the Pacific Northwest regions, Waterton boasts an eco-diversity that has been championed by the global community.

Because of this, the area is famous for its great Canadian Rockies photo opportunities, hiking, camping, backpacking and many more activities. With a plethora of magnificent hiking trails, Waterton Lakes National Park offers the visitor hiking tours where wildlife can be explored in the tranquility of this breathtaking natural setting.

In the winter, whether it’s cross country skiing or ice climbing, the park is ideal for anyone looking for adventure in the vast snowy reaches of its mountains and valleys. The Waterton Lakes Chain consists of clear waters that are ideal for canoeing. Rent a boat to take in all the nature that the eye and soul can hold.

Flora and Fauna

With its 203 square miles of meadows and forests, Waterton Lakes National Park, contains some of the most diverse plant and animal life in all of Canada. Half of Alberta’s plant species can be found in this park, amounting to approximately 970 species. In addition you can find over 264 types of birds and 24 types of fish. Cougars, grizzlies, black bears, and wolves find their homes in the mountains, while the open plains and forests are home to moose, elk, bison, and deer.

As one of the smallest parks in the Canadian Rockies, Waterton Lakes National Park remains one of the most pristine natural habitats in the world. With its lack of commerciality, the park is ideal for communing with nature, whether you are a photographer, naturalist, or someone looking to reconnect with all that is natural, healthy, and truly inspirational.

History of Waterton, British Columbia

Waterton Lakes National Park was created in 1895 and in 1979 was named a UNESCO biosphere community. In1995 the park also named a World Heritage Site and in addition has been named an International Peace Park. Back in 1927 a bus service was created to connect Waterton with Glacier National Park to the south. The Prince of Wales Hotel was also completed, providing lodgings to many Americans during prohibition. Named for Great Britain’s Prince Edward, the hotel is a magnet for visitors who can enjoy the majesty of its architecture and its British manners, including a grand afternoon tea.

In 1927, the M.V. International ferry was completed. This ferry service allowed visitors to transverse the border between Canada and the United States, providing access to Goat Haunt, Montana. The tour boat became a landmark and is still in operation today. Take a two-hour cruise to tour the region’s Rockies with guides providing information and commentary on the region. Bring a camera, for it is common to spot the native wildlife grazing on the shores of this beautiful British Canadian region.

Transportation to and from Waterton, British Columbia

Waterton Lakes National Park is not directly accessible by air. One must land at Calgary National Airport or Great Falls International Airport and connect with motorcoach service to arrive in Waterton, British Columbia. There are no taxis or car rentals within Waterton, so be sure you rent a vehicle before arriving. You can also rent two-seater bikes and scooters, which is a wonderful way to explore the town of Waterton. Once outside the townsite, bicycles are not allowed, so be sure to have your hiking shoes at hand.

Climate in Waterton, British Columbia

As found in most of the Canadian Rockies, Waterton Lakes National Park is subject to highly fluctuating temperatures and weather. From warm and sunny to instantly cold and dark, the area demands that the visitor dress in layers suitable to the quick change artist. Summers are short and temperate, with an average of 72 degrees sometimes rising to the high 80’s, but the winters are more temperamental, with mild days that can drop into below 40 degrees F. The Chinook wind is responsible for temperature change in the region. Cool air around the mountain peaks will lower to the prairies, creating the Chinook. The wind raises the temperature in winter, whereby the snow melts and runs off the mountain tops. The wind speed average is 19 miles per hour and can occur in wild gusts of 75 miles per hour, with the windiest months being January and November.

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