3 Jul 2021 - 29 Jul 2021
Expected time: 26 days
Follow Sean this
June July as he bikes around Alberta on a 3,500+ km odyssey, visiting the 164 parks formerly slated for delisting by the Government of Alberta in 2020. Sean will be posting regular updates, photos and videos from each park, telling the stories from this emerald archipelago that we came so close to losing.
The trip will end at the last park on the list, the Strathcona Science Provincial Park in Edmonton where we will celebrate the occasion with a rally to support Alberta Parks, which all friends and supporters are invited to join in!Celebration Update:
The celebration will be held at The picnic area at Strathcona Science Provincial Park at 10:15 AM on Friday July 30, 2021. If you are in the Edmonton area, I hope you can come out - would to see you there and chat!
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Goal: $5,000Raised to date: $3,953.00
All donations to AWA are eligible for a charitable tax receipt.
Why Sponsor This Adventure?
Invitation: I would like to invite everyone in the Edmonton area to a special celebration of Alberta's Parks and Protected Areas, at the finish line of the Great Alberta Parks Bike-a-Thon!
It will be held at Strathcona Science Provincial Park in Edmonton on Friday July 30 at 10:15 AM.
If you, or anyone you know, is in the Edmonton area and cares about Alberta’s Parks and Protected Areas, I’d love to meet you and chat!
(PS: bring any “protect our parks” signs you might have... 😁)
Park 75: Freeman River Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
July 26, 2021:
Park 73: Nojack Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 74: Paddle River Dam Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
July 25, 2021:
Park 70: Lovett River Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 71: Weald Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 72: Hornbeck Creek Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
July 24, 2021:
Park 66: Brown Creek Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 67: Brazeau River Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 68: Pembina Forks Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 69: Fairfax Lake Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
July 23, 2021:
Park 61: Saunders Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 62: Harlech Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 63: Beaverdam Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 64: Dry Haven Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 65: Aylmer Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
July 22, 2021:
Park 57: Horburg Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Parks 58 & 59: Chambers Creek PRA / Chambers Creek Group Camp Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 60: Jackfish Lake Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
July 21, 2021:
Park 52: Mitchell Lake Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 53: Strachan Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 54 & 55: Prairie Creek PRA / Prairie Creek Group Camp Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 56: Cow Lake Natural Area (to be uploaded)
July 20, 2021:
Park 50: James Wilson Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 51: Tay River Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
July 19, 2021:
Park 43: South Ghost Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 44: Waiparous Creek Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 45: Ghost Airstrip Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 46: Waiparous Valley Viewpoint Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 47: Fallen Timber Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 48: Burnt Timber Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 49: Red Deer River Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
July 18, 2021:
Park 32: Barrier Lake Visitor Info Centre Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 33 & 34: Old Baldy Pass Trail PRA / Stoney Creek Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 35: Lusk Creek Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 36: Sibbald Meadows Pond Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 37: Dawson Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 38: Sibbald Lake Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 39: Sibbald Viewpoint Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 40: Pinetop Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 41: Ghost Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 42: Wildcat Island Natural Area (to be uploaded)
July 17, 2021:
Park 24: Fitzsimmons Creek Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 25: Strawberry Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 26: Cat Creek Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 27: Lineham Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 28: Lantern Creek Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 29: Trout Ponds Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 30: Picklejar Provincial Recreation Area (former)(to be uploaded)
Park 31: Mist Creek Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
July 16, 2021:
Park 19: Livingstone Falls Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 20: Cataract Creek Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 21: Etherington Creek Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 22: Sentinel Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
Park 23: Highwood Provincial Recreation Area (to be uploaded)
July 15, 2021:
Park 16: Racehorse Creek Provincial Recreation Area
Day 10, 5:01pm; 1089km.
Park 16: Racehorse Creek Provincial Recreation Area is the first of several that remind me of the experience camping in BC Provincial Parks as a kid. Secluded campspots, kids splashing and fishing in the refreshing creek.
Park 17: Dutch Creek Provincial Recreation Area
Day 10, 7:20pm; 1101km.
Park 17 is Dutch Creek Provincial Recreation Area, another one that reminds me of my childhood camping. About half the sites were available for seasonal booking and all were full; about half the remainder were taken.
All the seasonal campsites had an identical Canada Flag perched out front. I’m assuming it was a Canada Day thing? Either way, cool to see.
Park 18: Oldman River North Provincial Recreation Area
Day 10, 8:40pm; 1110km.
Park 18: Oldman River North Provincial Recreation Area. At this point way up close to its source, the Oldman forms almost a canyon as it tumbles out of the mountains. About half-full of people enjoying the evening with a beer around the fire.
July 14, 2021:
Park 15: Island Lake Provincial Recreation Area
Day 9, 3:31 pm; 1024km.
Park 15 is tucked away juuust inside the BC border: Island Lake Provincial Recreation Area is at the top of the Crowsnest Pass, making it an ideal and inexpensive overnight for tourists passing through and/or exploring the other attractions in the Pass. Its shady lakeside campsites are a great jumping-off point for swimming or fishing.
July 13, 2021:
Park 12: Oldman River Provincial Recreation Area
Day 8, 11:56am; 871km.
Rounding out the first dozen as I start to leave the grasslands for the mountains; park 12 is the cute Oldman River Provincial Recreation Area just outside of Fort MacLeod. Offering fishing opportunities in the river as well as a few dozen shaded pull-through sites, it’s perfect for a quick stop on highways 2 or 3. There are a couple of campers here today, enjoying the slower life.
Park 13: Oldman Dam Provincial Recreation Area
Day 8, 4:22pm; 912km.
Park 13: at 4,846ha (48km²), the Oldman Dam Provincial Recreation Area was the largest park to figure in the list of facilities to be closed/delisted.
There is—to put it mildly—history here.
The Oldman River Dam was opened 30 years ago in 1991 after a decade of controversy, protests, fights & court battles. The dam created a reservoir that flooded much land, including environmentally sensitive and culturally important land — burial sites for the Piikani First Nation.
As a result of those court battles, federal environmental law in Canada was permanently changed, as well as regulations surrounding assessments that needed to be performed for large industrial projects like this dam.
The other indisputably good thing to come out of the process, was the creation of the Provincial Recreation Area, surrounding the reservoir, and protecting what remains of the already-altered landscape. At nearly 50km², the park comprises nearly a dozen campgrounds, day use areas, and other facilities.
Many of these sites are on the edge of the reservoir (including boat launches, fishing and sites catering to similar activities) but my favourite ended up being the Porcupine campground and day use area, just a few km downstream from the dam.
There I was able to sit at the bottom of the valley, dangling my legs in the cool water, and imagine what it might have been like before all the development, with just a tumbly little river meandering its way out of the foothills and out across the prairie.
(For anyone interested in more of the backstory of the Oldman Dam, I’d recommend Robert Girvan’s book Who Speaks for the River?)
Park 14: Lundbreck Falls Provincial Recreation Area
Day 8, 8:29pm; 947km.
Park 14, Lundbreck Falls Provincial Recreation Area, is round right at the edge of the mountains, and holds 2 campgrounds plus the Crowsnest River where you can find the namesake falls, and hatching grounds for brown and rainbow trout.
July 12, 2021:
Park 11: Park Lake Provincial Park
Day 7, 3:57pm; 819km.
Park 11: Park Lake Provincial Park est’d in 1932 is one of the oldest Provincial parks in Alberta. There’s a busy 75-odd space campground and extremely popular beach area, with swimming, boating, etc.
There’s also a peninsula into the lake with a nature trail and lookout point, where one can check out migrating and breeding birds.
I’ll confess I haven’t made it too far today because I’ve had such a great time hanging out by the lake all afternoon, surrounded by people enjoying themselves. Had to double check the list to confirm this was one of the sites scheduled for de-listing, because it made no sense.
July 11, 2021:
Park 9: Chin Coulee Provincial Recreation Area
Day 6, 1:24pm; 659km.
Park 9 was supposed to have been Chin Coulee Provincial Recreation Area, on the edge of Chin Lake.
In reality there’s no government-of-Alberta (GoA) signage or indication there’s a (theoretically) publicly accessible park here, instead just a fence with a locked gate.
According to the GoA website, Chin Coulee PRA is “managed” by the Taber Kinsmen Society, who are effectively running it as a private site.
When the government talked about divesting these parks and entering into private partnerships to run them, is this the sort of thing they had in mind? 🤔
Park 10: Jensen Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area
Day 6, 9:18pm; 741km.
Park 10: What remains of Jensen Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area, closed since May 2020, according to the Parks website. It’s still physically accessible - for now - but the PRA status is unclear.
Do when I say things, as in the promo video for this series, like “the delisting was canceled but the GoA plans for these parks are unclear” this is the sort of thing I’m referring to. This park was still “closed” - and with all the confusion around them being delisted, then not delisted, few people noticed this “detail.”
But what does “closed” even mean? Just no maintenance? Will access be blocked? Will current or (especially) future governments now see fit to divest this land? Many questions, but few answers. For now locals still use it to fish and some infrastructure remains. However the only remaining park signage lies abandoned in the weeds.
July 10, 2021:
Park 7: Tillebrook Provincial Park
Day 5, 1:29pm; 518km.
The first of 2 hugely popular parks in the Brooks area, Tillebrook Provincial Park features an 85-site full-service campground that is regularly full, yet was scheduled for delisting. #tillebrookprovincialpark #greatparksbikeathon
Park 8: Kinbrook Island Provincial Park
Day 5, 3:43pm; 538km.
Park 8 is Kinbrook Island Provincial Park on Lake Newell just south of Brooks. It is the ideal of what a Provincial Park campsite should be. What idiot would ever want to close it?
Seriously, this one makes me mad. It speaks to the hypocrisy of the entire plan - there are hundreds of sites here, open and full year-round. There are thousands of people enjoying the beach today. It should be a cash cow for the province, a crown jewel; not something to close.
I really enjoyed my afternoon here. It was a great relaxing break, even with the crowds. And that’s without getting to check out the marsh nature walk to see the white pelicans or crested cormorants.
I’m so damn glad the plan was halted, and other Albertans will have the chance to continue to enjoy this great park.
July 9, 2021:
Park 6: Little Fish Lake Provincial Park
Day 4, 3:10pm; 394km.
Park 6: Little Fish Lake Provincial Park is a prairie oasis 45km east of Drumheller. It is the summer habitat of the Piping Plover, of which only 6000 remain in the world.
It also contains a small rustic campground, mostly used by fishers and anglers. (The lake is stocked.) The ferry operator (see post from later today) says that it is often full in the fall fishing season.
July 8, 2021:
Park 3: Bigelow Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area
Day 3, 1:27am; 226km.
Park 3 is the Bigelow Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area, a small park along the reservoir, a bit west of Trochu.
Small parks and wetlands like these are important for biodiversity, e.g. as stopping points for migratory birds.
There is a pheasant release program here but otherwise not much human infrastructure (though evidence of a past fire pit and picnic table?). No signs at all on the highway or access road - you need to visit the Alberta Parks website to even know it’s here.
Park 4: Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park
Day 3, 6:43pm; 276km.
Park 4: The Tolman (East & West) campgrounds of the Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park are a popular getaway just up the river from Drumheller and a great place to go swimming or watch river wildlife (like this busy beaver).
When I was here today the West campground (mostly overflow for the East one) was half full (because the latter had no space). Does this count as “under-used”?
Both are currently/already managed by Starland County. It is unclear what AB Parks was hoping to achieve by delisting the campgrounds entirely.
Park 5: Bleriot Ferry Provincial Recreation Area
Day 3, 10:02pm; 323km.
Park 5 is Bleriot Ferry Provincial Recreation Area. The only word I have for this PRA campsite is “adorable” and I am absolutely going to come back here to stay sometime!
(It wasn’t possible for me to stay here tonight, but I quite wished I could - and not just because of the cute bunny rabbits.)
Everyone in the PRA seemed to be just relaxing and having a great time.
July 7, 2021:
Park 2: Red Lodge Provincial Park
Day 2, 5:36pm; 162km.
Park 2 is Red Lodge Provincial Park nestled into bends along the Little Red Deer River. It is a favourite summer spot for fishing, swimming and rafting, and its 4-loop campsite is full to capacity nearly all summer long, yet was among those scheduled to be closed last year. #redlodgepark #greatparksbikeathon
July 6, 2021:
Park 1: Highwood River Natural Area
Mile 0 of the #greatparksbikeathon is the Highwood River Natural Area. 50km SE of downtown Calgary, it comprises islands and riparian areas along the bottom of the Bow River valley and is habitat for great blue herons.
It can be reached from the north via a trail at the end of Range Rd. 282, and makes a great place for a summer picnic. 😊 #highwoodrivernaturalarea
July 5, 2021: Well, here we are - finally. The trip has been delayed twice: once from June to July because of my personal concerns regarding Covid, and how advisable it was to travel (a decision made back in April/May when cases in Alberta were near their peak), and then a smaller delay just in the last few days due to a number of small logistical issues. (I was planning on leaving July 3rd, but that... didn't happen). However the bike is all packed up now, and I'm a mere hour or two away from hitting the road! After the delays, I've changed my planned route a little bit (I've had to shorten it by a few days, but I still expect to cover ~ 3800 km, and most of the parks, even though I will no longer make it up to Rainbow Lake and Fort Vermilion). The map to the right shows where I'm headed (route starts and ends in Calgary, direction is clockwise). Will add social media links shortly. Stay tuned!
The idea for this trip began, as all big ideas must, with a spark of inspiration. Late in 2020 as I was compiling resources on the list of parks that the Government of Alberta had at the time slated for closure and delisting, I was struck by how many of these parks I didn’t know anything about (as I’d wager most Albertans don’t), but how many of them looked fascinatingly beautiful. Doing the research I came across wave after wave of truly hidden gems, tantalizingly peeking out at me from every corner of the province. There are 164 parks in total that were on the chopping block – it is a truly staggering number that only really comes into focus once you take them one at a time. Surveyed as a whole, it is all too easy to reduce these parks to a mere abstract number which does them a huge injustice.
So it was right then that I was inspired to visit all of these places, before it is too late, and they disappear – literally! – from the Provincial map.
It will not surprise anyone who knows me to learn that it was only a matter of time before I was deep in the process of finding a way to bike to every one of these parks… both to explore them for myself, but also to raise awareness; to show them off and to bring their stories to all the other Albertans who know very little of these amazing places.
Since this trip was originally dreamt up, the provincial government has announced they are reversing their original decision, and will not, after all, be closing these parks as originally planned. However details of this supplementary decision are scarce, and it remains unclear what exactly the plans are for them, or for Alberta’s parks network in general.
If you care about Alberta’s parks, or are in any way inspired by these stories, AWA would appreciate your donation. All money donated in support of this bike trip will be put toward AWA’s work protecting our park system from closure and other ongoing threats.
Be sure to bookmark this page where I’ll be posting stories, photos, videos and other links from the trip once it starts in June July!
I will also be posting these stories to Social Media (links are above) for those who prefer to receive updates that way.
Also, if you are interested in biking along for some part of the adventure, I’d be glad to be joined by the occasional co-explorer! Some distance and/or highway biking experience would be preferred, but I’m happy to adjust for skill levels, etc. Feel free to contact me using the form below, or at email@example.com and we’ll see what we can work out!
Contact this Adventurer
by phone at (403) 283-2025,
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