Waterton Lakes, Alberta on the map. National Park Waterton Lakes (province Alberta) on the map of Canada

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Waterton Lakes, Alberta on the map. National Park Waterton Lakes (province Alberta) on the map of Canada

Below: The purple-hued Rockies soar toward the heavens. A third of the park is above the tree line—and here alpine tundra predominates.

Waterton Lakes, Alberta

Established: 1895   Acreage: 129,920

Described as a place 'where the mountains meet the prairies,' Waterton Lakes National Park occupies a small corner of southwest Alberta. One of the smaller parks in Canada, it was joined with the much larger Glacier National Park in Montana in 1932, forming Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, a world first.

Glaciation played its part in carving out lakes and re-sculpturing valleys, leaving hanging valleys and waterfalls, and depositing a rolling landscape of glacial moraines (the accumulation of earth and stones), eskers (long, narrow ridges of sand, gravel and boulders) and kames (ridges of stratified drift). The deepest lake in the Canadian Rockies— Upper Waterton Lake—is here. On the international border between the United States and Canada, the lake supports many unusual aquatic organisms, including deepwater sculpin, pygmy whitefish and opossum shrimp. In other parts of the park, the forests, alpine meadows, prairies and marshes support a variety of plants and animals. Elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and black and grizzly bears are among the wildlife.

Archaeological sites indicate heavy use of the area in prehistoric times, and when western Canada was settled by white men, the region was shared (in different seasons of the year) by the powerful Blackfoot Nation of the Great Plains and the Kootenay tribes of the Alberta and British Columbia mountains.

Hiking through the forested valleys or delicate alpine meadows offers magnificent views of lakes and peaks. Cruise boats on the lake or a drive through the bison paddock provide another perspective on the scenery. Bus tours, boat rentals and trail rides are other ways to enjoy the striking beauty of Waterton Lakes.

Waterton Lakes, Alberta on the map. National Park Waterton Lakes (province Alberta) on the map of Canada