I grew up in central Alberta, but from the first time I visited the Rockies, they became my spiritual home. Surprisingly it was only in the last few years that I managed to make it to the extreme southwest of Alberta and experienced Waterton Lakes National Park, an oasis for plants and animals among the ranches and wind farms of the region.
Waterton Lakes is a relatively small park packed with sights and surprises. Red Rock Canyon being one of the top surprises, the iron containing argillite gives this canyon a bright red coloration.
The ranchland surrounding Waterton Lakes is dry and windy, however once into the mountains green forests and lively streams are found.
The quiet parkways of Waterton are perfect for evening drives, one of the rewards being that you get to encounter some of the large wildlife that make this park their home. But please give them space and don't attempt to feed, touch or harass them. You are a visitor so remember your manners!
I am always thrilled to see animals doing natural behaviours, this black bear (Ursus americanus) was turning over stones looking for insects and other invertebrates for its supper.
Mule deer are frequently seen in Waterton. This adult female, with her characteristic large ears looks particularly elegant in the soft evening sunlight.
With a large variety of habitats, Waterton Lakes is excellent for bird watching. This white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) was out foraging for caterpillars to feed its chicks. Curiously it was carrying this dried piece of grass, perhaps for some nest repairs.
One of the highlights of Waterton Lakes is its wildflowers, they even hold a wildflower festival in June attracting wildflower lovers and photographers from all over the world. It is one of the few locations in Alberta where you will find red monkey flowers (Mimulus lewisii).
The grasslands leading up to the mountain front is an excellent place for wildflower viewing in the late spring and early summer. These sticky purple geraniums (Geranium viscosissimum) are a colorful component of this prairie habitat.
I had seen Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum), a member of the rose family, before in its dried state. However, a late spring trip to Waterton Lakes gave me the opportunity to see this subtle beauty flowering.
Slender blue beardtongue (Penstemon procerus).
Waterton Lakes National Park is known for being where the prairie meets the mountains. Since my first trip I have visited it again and will likely be returning before not too long.