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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Park 81: Sherwood Park Natural Area
Day 25, 8:02am; 2694km.
Park 81: Just by happenstance, I’ve saved one of the best parks for (almost) last: Sherwood Park Natural Area is a quiet aspen/balsam woodland barely outside Edmonton with a lovely 2.5km nature walk that is everything one would hope such things would be.
Despite spending almost all the last month in the wilderness, there was something special about spending this serene morning exploring the trails surrounded by the hurling and calling of so many different bird species.
With interpretive maps at the trailhead, it was a different, more educational, experience than the previous month of just being out "in" nature, befitting its history as one of the old school sections from the days of the Dominion Land Survey and Alberta’s founding.
Park 82: Strathcona Science Provincial Park
Day 25, 10:29am; 2714km.
Park 82: Accessing Strathcona Science Provincial Park takes one through an aesthetic wasteland of oil refineries and other heavy industry, before reaching an island of greenery.
I can’t think of a more emblematically appropriate way to end the trip. So many times and for so many of these parks, I have had to go down resource roads, wellsite access roads, logging roads. I’ve often wondered if I was even in the right place?
It is a reminder that there is no place in this province where one is not in the footprint of industry and other development. Nowhere.
The closest thing we have - the only thing we have - is the legacy that is our parks system; a few green spaces, a bulwark against the tide.
July 29, 2021:
Park 79 (former): Gunn Provincial Recreation Area
Day 24, 4:39pm; 2585km.
Park 79 (former): Gunn Provincial Recreation Area, on the edge of Lac Ste. Anne, falls into the category of a dozen or so parks whose facilities were previously closed (for one reason or another) and now came up to be delisted entirely.
I’ll admit I’ve somewhat avoided posting about these parks as I’ve never known entirely what to say. But visiting this one, surrounded by agricultural lands on one side; and gas stations & RV storage yards on the other, reminds why it is important to have these places.
Even if there are no extant recreational facilities, these "closed" parks remain oases of wildness and natural function in a disturbed landscape, just as much as the undeveloped Natural Areas & Ecological Reserves perform similar important functions.
Even if there is no longer a campground or day-use area here, they need to remain on the public roster, not surrendered to potential future development. And what’s more, these ones should be easy wins, as it costs so little to maintain them...
Park 80: Riverlot 56 Natural Area
Day 24, 8:25pm; 2648km.
Park 80: Approaching Riverlot 56 Natural Area from the St. Albert side, it was an interesting experience coming along the River, and passing Red Willow Park, Kingswood Park, the Botanical Gardens, etc.
As a non-Edmontonian who didn’t know the area, I was struck by the contrast between the highly developed, "groomed and pruned" city parks, and the wildness of Riverlot 56 immediately over the Sturgeon County border.
While both types of park represent nature and green spaces, they do so in vastly different ways, that are all important. They offer, in a sense, counterparts to each other’s function. (Can I get a 🙌 for "counterparks"? No? Ok. Try the veal; I’ll be here all night.)
Edmontonians will mostly, of course, be familiar with Riverlot 56’ system of XC Ski trails, functioning as nature walks in the summer. But did you also know that the park is important habitat for moose, coyote, snowshoe hare, muskrat and beaver? It’s all important to keep.
July 28, 2021:
Park 76: Edith Lake Provincial Recreation Area
Day 23, 1:45pm; 2390km.
Park 76: About 15km NW of Swan Hills is Edith Lake Provincial Recreation Area, a small lakeside site with a day use area that has also been transformed into a "user-managed" park.
Unfortunately even compared to other user-managed sites, this one is in sorry shape. In the absence of garbage collection there is litter strewn everywhere and filling up fire pits; without firewood one of the picnic tables has been hacked up and part of it burned in a pit.
The lake itself is very pretty and with a small boat launch I had wondered if it was suitable for fishing. There is no-one here to ask however (again: it’s a tiny site) and access is difficult, with several km along rough industrial (wellsite) roads.
A disappointing and frustrating stop, to say the least.
Park 77: Chrystina Lake Provincial Recreation Area
Day 23, 3:50pm; 2409km.
Park 77: Chrystina Lake Provincial Recreation Area, another lakeside Park a little moth of Swan Hills (but larger than Edith Lake) and another "User-maintained" site, was much busier and better kept than the previous.
Possibly because it’s much easier to access, all of the half-dozen campsites were occupied (and I passed more RVs headed in while on my way out... hmm!) and there were canoeists using the boat launch and day-use areas.
Also, despite the signs, it was obvious that someone (who? 🤷♂️) was still coming in to mow the lawn, there were still garbage cans, etc. and the campgrounds were still relatively orderly.
I spoke to some campers; a mix of Edmonton folks and locals. No-one knew who was doing maintenace; only that they no longer had to pay to camp.
It’s a mystery?
There was one sign indicating the Town of Swan Hills was charged with operations. Maybe they’re continuing with (some) maintenance but just no longer collecting fees...
Park 78: Trapper Leas Cabin Provincial Recreation Area
Day 23, 8:09pm; 2462km.
Park 78: Trapper Leas Cabin Provincial Recreation Area is as much historical site as campground - although there is a campground here too - and that’s what the GoA had proposed optimizing into nothingness last year.
As a smaller site on the side of the highway and no obvious nearby lake/river/etc., I was expecting it to be mostly a quick stop for those traveling on, but the 4 or so occupied sites were set up for the long haul with awnings, carpets (and, yes, those portable generators that some people love so much) and the whole 9 yards.
One of the occupants said it was a nice place to "get away from it" for a while since it was rarely an overflowing site.
Unfortunately the cabin has not had ongoing maintenance so is unsafe to enter and could only be admired from a distance, through a chain-link fence... 😕
July 27, 2021:
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
Day 22, 8:42pm; 2356km.
Park 75: Freeman River Provincial Recreation Area is the first of four parks in the Swan Hills whose presence on the closure list made local residents very concerned.
This is something I’ve noticed about many of the parks I’ve visited: the people using them are the local residents, who know, understand and appreciate the values and features they offer; as well as having them as places to go to that don’t require extensive travel plans.
Just because they’re not the big flashy "destination" parks doesn’t mean they don’t hold great value for the people who return to them again and again. Today this small campground was 1/3 full, all with residents of the town of Swan Hills, ~ 20km away.
They were all just enjoying their summer Tuesday evening, grilling dinner over the fire pits after an afternoon fishing on the river.
July 26, 2021:
Park 73: Nojack Provincial Recreation Area
Day 21, 4:21pm; 2149km.
Park 73: Nojack Provincial Recreation Area is outwardly similar to yesterday’s Hornbeck Creek PRA, with a similar setting, amenities and so forth. But what a difference a bit of upkeep and maintenance makes!
To begin with, one is actually met with a sign indicating it’s a park (not present at Hornbeck Creek), the sites are in good repair - the whole place is actually inviting (and cheaper too! But that’s neither here nor there). It’s an instructive difference.
I will admit it may be weather-related, but I would be much more inclined to return here in the future, if I had to find a place to stop along the Yellowhead. It’s a reminder that the care shown by the park operator can make a huge difference.
This speaks to one of the open questions with delisting the parks and turning them over 100% to private operators - some may continue to take good care of the grounds, but there’s no guarantee if that. Even within the Provincial Parks system there can be wide discrepancy.
Park 74: Paddle River Dam Provincial Recreation Area
Day 21, 10:12pm; 2232km.
Park 74: the AB Parks website describes Paddle River Dam Provincial Recreation Area as "operated by the County of Lac Ste Anne under a lease agreement with the Province of Alberta. This long-term lease provides some flexibility in how the site is operated."
This makes it difficult to figure out what’s going on. Outwardly the entire park appears as a county park, with multiple campgrounds, multiple day use areas, a boat launch area, viewpoint, etc. There is effectively no Provincial signage anywhere. (Just stylistically similar county signage.)
So what was actually the intent? The ’Optimizing Parks’ list proposed closing the day-use area, but made no mention of the other facilities. I went to the location indicated by the AB Parks website (a viewpoint) and found county signage proposing expansion of the park facilities.
But how did the day use Area (and was I even at the right one?) differ from the rest of the park? Was the intent just to amalgamate everything under county management? Everything I saw here was well maintained, so maybe in this case it would have made sense. Although the entire park is a PRA, even if it is managed by the county. The whole situation suffers from a lack of clarity.
July 25, 2021:
Park 70: Lovett River Provincial Recreation Area
Day 20, 12:45pm; 1982km.
Park 70: perched above its eponymous river and near the old mining town of Lovettville, Lovett River Provincial Recreation Area features one of the cooler picnic shelters I’ve seen at any of these parks.
There is another one of the great FRMA posters here indicating activities at the park (canoeing, kayaking, fishing, bird-watching & wildlife viewing). There is also a snowmobile staging area adjacent to the park, indicating that activity is available in the area.
The sites farther from the river seem to see little (summer) use and show some disrepair, but the ones closer to the bluffs are intact and are used. There may be some scope for reducing the number of sites (or advertising the park better!) but not just closing it wholesale.
Park 71: Weald Provincial Recreation Area
Day 20, 5:00pm; 2033km.
Park 71: Weald Provincial Recreation Area - another day, another confusion over whether this is a PRA with a campsite (closure list), a PRA with a group use site (AB Parks website) or a group camp (sign).
Enclosed in a bend of the Embarrass River, it seems a pretty site with a really cozy lodge and other facilities - if a bit under-maintained. As with all group sites, it’s impossible to tell how much use it gets (it was empty today and I had to hop the gate, leaving the bike behind, and walk ~ 2km in to get there).
Park 72: Hornbeck Creek Provincial Recreation Area
Day 20, 7:42pm; 2071km.
Park 72: they can’t all be gems. It might just be the fact that it’s pouring rain but I’m not very taken with Hornbeck Creek Provincial Recreation Area.
The general setting with tall trees is initially attractive, but frankly the facilities have seen better days with minimal maintenance since; and being right beside the Yellowhead Highway means it is overwhelmed by traffic noise and semi trucks roaring by. It also seems to me pricy given what you get.
There were a good number of people camped here, though! So it may be that they know something I don’t... or the place puts on a better face when it’s not raining. 😁
July 24, 2021:
Park 66: Brown Creek Provincial Recreation Area
Day 19, 5:00pm; 1922km.
Park 66: Brown Creek Provincial Recreation Area is now a "user-managed site." There is - *sigh* - oh so much to say here. How does this fit in with the whole ‘Optimizing Parks’ plan? I have to wonder.
When I first arrived, I was gratified to see the site getting such use. Campers everywhere! Then I saw the "user-managed" sign, saw there were no fees, but also no rules, and looked again: there were campers *everywhere*. Not just at the sites, but filling every nook and cranny.
Things otherwise seemed generally orderly. No garbage strewn around that I noticed... lots of food being left unattended beside tables (which in bear country, it shouldn’t be) but you see that a lot at other campgrounds anyway.
Facilities were not being serviced, as per the sign. This meant no firewood, but also no toilet paper in the bathrooms; the water pump handle had been removed, etc.
For someone like me, who’s perfectly content random camping with zero facilities, all this is fine. (Tho’ it does raise the question of why I’d want to camp in such a site - as opposed to randomly in the forest - to begin with.)
But I do wonder about those who are a little less adventurous. What would they make of such a place?
But there were plenty of people here, so I asked around. Responses were polite but not "friendly" - I was clearly an outsider & why was I asking?
Apparently the fishing is good.
So this was all very interesting. Is this, I wonder, what the GoA had in mind as an outcome of defunding these sites?
Park 67: Brazeau River Provincial Recreation Area
Day 19, 8:01pm; 1943km.
Park 67: Brazeau River Provincial Recreation Area is another park that has been redesignated a "user-managed" park as of May. Unlike Brown Creek, this one had only a few occupants.
I appreciate the poster affixed by the FRMA listing things to do/see at the parks, and in the area. It was really well produced! It still would have been better to have serviced toilets, firewood and a working water pump, methinks.
The people staying at the campground with whom I spoke were from Edmonton, and just wandering around the province "aimlessly" looking for small and interesting parks to stay at. I have to say I appreciate the approach!
The other occupied site had no-one in it when I passed by; instead they seemed to be out on the river power-rafting up and down. 🤷♂️
Park 68: Pembina Forks Provincial Recreation Area
Day 19, 8:57pm; 1953km.
Park 68: I was relieved to see that Pembina Forks Provincial Recreation Area is still being serviced and properly managed / regulated. It was in clearly better shape than the last two, and 2/3 full of campers.
Otherwise, not much to say about this park. A perfectly serviceable campground - well-maintained, quiet (if that’s what one is looking for), on the borderline between foothills and boreal forest ecotypes. I believe there’s a fair bit of snowmobiling here in the winter.
Park 69: Fairfax Lake Provincial Recreation Area
Day 19, 9:40pm; 1959km.
Park 69: Fairfax Lake Provincial Recreation Area was Busy!! It’s a few km off the side of the Trunk Road, and anticipating a quiet hidden lakeside park, I had planned on staying here overnight. Nothing doing: it was 100% full!
The lake itself seemed to provide the reason: there’s a sizable boat launch here, and many of the campground occupants had boats at their respective sites. The sites are also more wide-open than at many parks, and there were plenty of larger RVs in evidence (which can fit here more easily; especially the wider RVs, for which there is special provision).
Clearly another popular park (even if I’d never heard of it 😆) that it makes no sense to consider closing.
July 23, 2021:
Park 61: Saunders Provincial Recreation Area
Day 18, 12:25pm; 1796km.
Park 61: I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, because I’ve been here before and Saunders Provincial Recreation Area has pretty much the coolest setting of any Alberta Park: it’s in an old mining ghost town!
The buildings themselves are long gone (the town was abandoned in the 50s) but there are footprints and historical markers aplenty to be found. Much of the townsite lies outside the current PRA boundary (and are full of OHV trails), but the park includes several sites.
This includes the old ferry terminal, which is now a boat launch - used today by several groups (both local and not) starting a paddling trip down the North Saskatchewan toward RMH.
The park campsites don’t have many people in them today; rather the (free) random camping areas just outside the PRA are overflowing. (The park sites are far better maintained, cleaner and have a nicer setting, FWIW. I’d prefer to camp here.) The day use facilities are very busy.
Park 62: Harlech Provincial Recreation Area
Day 18, 2:41pm; 1815km.
Park 62: Harlech Provincial Recreation Area, found just alongside Shunda Creek. Several occupied sites with tents here in this half-full 20-odd site park, but few vehicles.
I’m guessing many of the occupants were using it as a base to explore the surrounding mountains, or to go fishing at Harlech Fish Pond just a few km up the road, which was ringed with anglers as I rode past.
Park 63: Beaverdam Provincial Recreation Area
Day 18, 3:59pm; 1823km.
Park 63: Beaverdam Provincial Recreation Area is one of those initially unassuming parks that rewards more, the more you look into it. It sits in the crook where Shunda creek flows out and downhill from a small (unnamed?) Lake.
Initially greeted with a parking lot edged by a couple of picnic tables, outhouse and a short trail leading to the lake, I was a bit underwhelmed. I mean... one *could* camp here, but it wouldn’t be the most spectacular place to do so.
Nevertheless I continued poking around. Following the trail to the lake I discovered a dock and more picnic facilities - a nice place for a meal, at least. Then I saw a sign pointing down a trail toward "tenting" and understood this was intended as a walk-in campground.
Following the trail and the true charm of the park opened up to me - a handful of secluded, treed sites right beside the burbling creek, serviced with firewood and isolated from the sounds of the highway. Another one to add to my "remember for future reference" list!
Park 64: Dry Haven Provincial Recreation Area
Day 18, 5:53pm; 1841km.
Park 64 is Dry Haven Provincial Recreation Area - easily the busiest park I’ve visited along the David Thompson. It’s perched above the creek which runs down the bottom of a canyon and today was 100% full.
It’s not large (there is a larger campground a few miles away at Fish Lake PRA - not on the closure list - this one may serve as overflow) but was super busy.
I went down to the creek to shoot a video and had to walk a good way downstream to escape the sounds of kids and families laughing and playing in the creek (all good things but they kept overwhelming my audio 😁).
Park 65: Aylmer Provincial Recreation Area
Day 18, 7:26pm; 1862km.
Park 65: so... on "the list," the GoA included Aylmer Provincial Recreation Area as having a campground that was to be closed. But in that pesky thing we call the Real World, there’s only a group use site (available by reservation, as all group sites are).
I mean: don’t get me wrong... it’s a nice enough site on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River where it’s crossed by the Forestry Trunk Road. And looking at the AB Parks website now, indeed it’s shown as a group use site. But: here’s another case of the GoA’s left hand not knowing what its right is doing.
Poking around the site, there are remains of infrastructure (e.g.: a campsite reservation box, and so forth) indicating it probably once was indeed a campsite. Who knows how long ago it was converted?
I’ve said it before, but it keeps bearing repetition: the closure list was clearly based on outdated information. What other input to the decision-making processes is similarly obsolete?
July 22, 2021:
Park 57: Horburg Provincial Recreation Area
Day 17, 5:19pm; 1737km.
Park 57: Horburg Provincial Recreation Area is a small and cute (if rustic) riverside campsite with small boat (canoe, kayak, etc.) access to the North Saskatchewan - once you actually make it there.
Because... access to the campsite is not trivial. It’s not signed particularly well and requires a few turns down increasingly-sketchy, rocky and muddy minor roads that likely require 4x4 (at one point I had to get off my bike and walk it for a bit). A few times I wasn’t sure I was going the right way and had to trust that I’d placed the maker on my map correctly.
But once there, I wasn’t even the only person! One site (on a Thursday) was occupied, and the tags indicated a second had been just vacated. (The person had been there through the rainstorms - the poor sod!)
The remains of directional signs in the park show there used to be something of interest here (beyond the campground and river access), but whatever it was, is gone, and that trail now just disappears into the river.
Parks 58 & 59: Chambers Creek PRA / Chambers Creek Group Camp Provincial Recreation Area
Day 17, 6:32pm; 1748km.
Parks 58 & 59: Chambers Creek Provincial Recreation Area and Chambers Creek Group Camp Provincial Recreation Area lie across the highway from each other and feature several loops of campsites, making it one of the larger grounds along the David Thompson.
The creek for which they are named is a picturesque stream meandering its way through the forest. Riding through the campground at dinnertime, I was accosted by the smells of camp dinner: burgers here, steak there; grilled fish at another site. It’s nice when the smoke is delicious for a change!
#chamberscreekpra #chamberscreekgroupcamppra #greatparksbikeathon
Park 60: Jackfish Lake Provincial Recreation Area
Day 17, 8:22pm; 1777km.
Park 60: on the edge of a hidden lake a few km off the side of the David Thompson Highway, Jackfish Lake Provincial Recreation Area is a tiny campground (only 5 sites) that I will nevertheless keep on my list to return to.
Three of the five sites were occupied and with several more visitors out on the lake fishing in rafts, there were definitely more vehicles here than campsites. Some sites were beside the water, and others on bluffs with great views overlooking the lake.
July 21, 2021:
Park 52: Mitchell Lake Provincial Recreation Area
Day 16, 2:02pm; 1628km.
Park 52: I wasn’t sure what to expect from Mitchell Lake Provincial Recreation Area. Were it not for the list, I’d have barely known it was here. There is minimal highway signage and access is via a single-track dirt road through a cow field.
But after dodging the cow-pies (and the cows!) and passing through the park gate, you suddenly descend a forested hill and see the road end at an unexpected captivating, hidden lake. The campground here is small - it’s clear that fishing is the park’s main draw.
And a draw it is - there were a good 10 vehicles today in the parking lot at the bottom of the hill. It’s obvious this is a site that locals know well - one of those "best kept secrets" that often get touted but less often live up to the name. This one would seem to, though!
Everyone here is out on a boat, so I haven’t been able to talk to anyone. But if they’re enjoying their time, that’s what these parks are all about! Signage shows the lake has an aeration program to improve fishing, so if you are a fisher, keep Mitchell Lake PRA in mind!
It’s about 20km SW of Rocky Mountain House, near the border between the white and green zones (agricultural vs forested lands).
Park 53: Strachan Provincial Recreation Area
Day 16, 3:34pm; 1644km.
Park 53, Strachan Provincial Recreation Area, is 25km SW of Rocky Mountain House. It lies along the banks of Prairie Creek, which flows into the Ram River; a significant tributary of the North Saskatchewan, and whose riparian areas are home to many of Alberta’s threatened species.
Lying just inside the forested Green Zone of the province, but so close to Rocky Mountain House, this is one of the most accessible "forest type" campgrounds I have visited - especially for someone wanting to avoid the crowds and/or fees of Kananaskis.
The 2-loop campground is today (a Wednesday) about 2/3 full - mostly from locals out from RMH, for which this is a quick and relaxing "no fuss" getaway. There are plenty of walking trails in the area, and angling in the river.
Parks 54 & 55: Prairie Creek PRA / Prairie Creek Group Camp Provincial Recreation Area
Day 16, 5:16pm; 1655km.
Parks 54 & 55: Prairie Creek Provincial Recreation Area and Prairie Creek Group Camp Provincial Recreation Area are a pair of parks that together form a large camping area 50km up Prairie Creek from Rocky Mountain House.
Reachable by Hwy 752, there are several camping loops here, and the facilities are among the best-maintained I’ve seen in the parks system (nicest provincial park bathroom I’ve had the pleasure to use! 😆 #importantthings). Many of the sites are pull-through, suitable for RVs.
In practice, I saw people camping with all kinds of vehicles - RVs, campers, cars, and (something that warmed the cockles of my curmudgeonly heart) bicycles. Unlike at Strachan, the people I spoke to weren’t mostly from RMH, but Edmonton and all over Alberta.
The grounds, which included group attractive sites for both large and small groups, were about 3/4 full (all sites reservation-only due to Covid) but the park is large enough that still left plenty of sites for last-minute reservations.
My compliments to the RMH Parks office (the campground operators) for such a well-maintained park! (As all of the ones operated by RMH have been, in retrospect).
#prairiecreekpra #prairiecreekgroupcamppra #greatparksbikeathon
Park 56: Cow Lake Natural Area
Day 16, 6:58pm; 1681km.
Park 56. Strange things are afoot at the Cow Lake Natural Area!
I first arrived at the Natural Area to discover no signage anywhere (save the yellow placards in the bushes marking the NA boundary).
This in itself isn’t that unusual; Natural Areas often don’t have directional highway signs. Tho’ 2nd-hand reports are that this one used to have signs to the day use area, possibly removed as part of the first wave of infrastructure removal when the closures were announced.
Either way, I was hardly deterred, and proceeded to the location of the day-use area that was slated for closure, as listed on the AB Parks website: 52.2944 N, -115.0296 W. And discovered... well, you can see for yourself. (See oil & gas facility, photo 5)
Was this ever the site of the day-use area? I dunno. But I’ve been reading (and re-reading, and re-re-reading...) the Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas and Heritage Rangelands Act (2000) and I am pretty DAMN sure this isn’t allowed inside a Natural Area.
So the GoA wanted to delist this Natural Area, did they? Yeah, I’ll bet they did. How long has this facility been here? It’s hard to say - it’s a couple hundred meters inside the NA and hidden from view from the highway. Sources (again) indicate it wasn’t here "before."
So what now? Well it gets stranger. A few km around the lake to the West is an area that IS marked by government signage as the Cow Lake PRA (see photo 6) - a PRA, mind you, that doesn’t exist on the Parks website. But all that’s here is a private campground; no day-use area.
A half km to the East, on the other hand, there is a day-use area, again unmarked by highway signage, that is inside the Natural Area. There’s a boat launch here, picnic facilities, and so forth.
This is probably the day-use area that’s been around for a while and was scheduled for delisting. I was only led astray because I don’t know the area. But that’s rather the point, isn’t it?
Also: it doesn’t negate the fact that the oil & gas facility I stumbled upon really shouldn’t be there. Unless, as always, I’m missing something.
AB Parks, you have the floor.
July 20, 2021:
Park 50: James Wilson Provincial Recreation Area
Day 15, 3:19pm; 1536km.
Park 50 (fifty parks!) is James Wilson Provincial Recreation Area nestled in a bend in the James River where it’s joined by the Wilson. Many families camped out at this park with kids running around and hanging out by the river.
We’re right on the edge of the Bighorn Wildland here, a large 5000km² mostly pristine piece of wilderness along the edge of the mountains that has twice come close to being declared a Provincial Park. Fingers crossed that it may yet someday happen!
Park 51: Tay River Provincial Recreation Area
Day 15, 8:07pm; 1579km.
Park 51: the Tay River Provincial Recreation Area is one of the most immaculately kept campgrounds I’ve been to. I’ve noticed it many times going by on the highway, but never stopped in until today.
It’s right at the edge of the forest reserve - so definitely has aspects of the mountain park campgrounds I’ve been visiting, but is also easily accessible by paved road only a few km west of Caroline and conveniently close to supplies.
The Tay River itself is habitat for Alberta’s threatened Provincial Fish, the Bull Trout, with recovery programs active in the park. A great example of how conservation and recreation can act together.
The campground has an interesting mix of sites - everything from pull-through sites suitable for RVs, to walk-in sites nestled in the trees. And this biker found the picnic shelter to be a perfect dinner spot while he took refuge from a passing thunderstorm!
July 19, 2021:
Park 43: South Ghost Provincial Recreation Area
Day 14, 1:55pm; 1442km.
Park 44 - South Ghost Provincial Recreation Area is a day-use area on Hwy 40 just inside the forest reserve boundary. At the head of a trail network, it’s often used as a base by bikers, snowmobilers, ohv and other trail users.
Park 44: Waiparous Creek Provincial Recreation Area
Day 14, 3:10pm; 1449km.
Park 44: Waiparous Creek Provincial Recreation Area is a large campground on bluffs overlooking the creek. Plenty of trails here to play on - both local and connecting to the wider network.
Park 45: Ghost Airstrip Provincial Recreation Area
Day 14, 3:25pm; 1453km.
Park 45: Ghost Airstrip Provincial Recreation Area? I was confused by this one: the GoA closure list from 2020 lists overnight (campground) + group use areas to be closed. But only the latter was in evidence in person.
There was a campsite a kilometer or so up the road at the North Ghost PRA, but that wasn’t on the list. Is this another case like Stoney Creek where the closure list was referencing obsolete information? Your guess is as good as mine.
As for Ghost Airstrip PRA, the group use area was like a typical day use site: picnic facilities, bathrooms, garbage facilities, trailhead, interpretive signboards, and a large parking area (i.e.: suitable for groups).
Park 46: Waiparous Valley Viewpoint Provincial Recreation Area
Day 14, 3:59pm; 1456km.
Park 46: Waiparous Valley Viewpoint Provincial Recreation Area offers, if nothing else, a welcome rest break for a hot and sweaty biker on a smoky, dusty day!
As the name implies, the Waiparous Valley Viewpoint sits at the top of a long uphill and - in addition to typical day use facilities - offers visitors long scenic vistas down Waiparous Creek, back toward the Bow River.
Park 47: Fallen Timber Provincial Recreation Area
Day 14, 5:02pm; 1468km.
Park 47 is Fallen Timber Provincial Recreation Area - the large campground is clearly very popular with the offroad crowd. The campground’s several loops were filled with recreationists that seem settled in for the long haul.
Park 48: Burnt Timber Provincial Recreation Area
Day 14, 7:22pm; 1483km.
Park 48: Burnt Timber Provincial Recreation Area comprises 2 campgrounds on opposite sides of Burnt Timber Creek: one with drive-in sites and one for tents only (walk-in). The creek is lovely and warm enough to swim in with deep pools that make ideal swimming spots, and the occasional fish jumping out of them. Little rivulets cascading down waterfalls into the creek complete the idyllic setting.
I am reminded that for every one of these parks, there is a reason it is there, a reason it was created to begin with, in that spot. Sometimes this reason is not obvious when I only have a short time (1 hr plus-or-minus) to spend. In this case it was eminently clear.
Park 49: Red Deer River Provincial Recreation Area
Day 14, 8:59pm; 1498km.
Park 49 - Red Deer River Provincial Recreation Area - is a large campground available by registration only. I ducked the gate and poked around but on this Monday there didn’t seem to be anyone present.
Its location right next to the river presumably offers good fishing opportunities and it is close to supplies available from the resorts along the river. It can be accessed either from Cochrane to the south or Sundre to the East.
July 18, 2021:
Park 32: Barrier Lake Visitor Information Centre
Day 13, 1:10pm; 1323km.
Park 32: the Barrier Lake Visitor Information Centre
Parks 33 & 34: Old Baldy Pass Trail PRA / Stoney Creek Provincial Recreation Area
Day 13, 2:13pm; 1325km.
Parks 33 & 34: Old Baldy Pass Trail Provincial Recreation Area and Stoney Creek Provincial Recreation Area. This is a confusing situation and left me, uh, stumped (sorry) for a while. Settle in for a story!
Over 15 years ago, shortly after I moved to Alberta for school, I attended a conference/workshop at the Barrier Lake Field Station. One of the day activities was a hike up Mount Baldy. This was my first hike ever in Kananaskis (or indeed Alberta). It holds a special place in my memories.
The Old Baldy Pass Trail PRA exists solely to encompass the trail. It has no other facilities of any kind. It costs next to nothing for the government to operate or maintain. Why would it have been scheduled for delisting?
The "active logging" signs in the photo gave my cynical mind its first possibility. Was it because the GoA wanted to turn this area over to logging, and the trail was "getting in the way?"
But that made no sense. Logging has been going on here for years. Indeed all of today’s parks along the Sibbald Creek Trail were established as a joint project between the government and SLS (Spray Lake Sawmills — the forestry company holding tenure rights in this area).
In fact, the logging in this immediate area has ended and this logging road, if one reads the signs, is in the process of being reclaimed.
The clue came when I considered the second of these parks: Stoney Creek PRA is the trailhead for the Old Baldy Pass Trail, and per last year’s closure list, its day-use area was to be redlined.
But look at the sign on the fence! The day use area is long-gone; it was turned over to a group use site (and chained up behind a gate unless you have a reservation) *years* ago. Signage indicating this dates back to at least 2008.
My only conclusion: unlike yours truly, whoever selected these sites for delisting has never been here, and knows nothing about them. There was no careful selection based on the individual reality of these parks; rather someone drew a big circle around them on the map and - knowing nothing about them - said: "gone."
Do you have a different conclusion? I’m all ears!
#oldbaldypasspra #stoneycreekpra #greatparksbikeathon
Park 35: Lusk Creek Provincial Recreation Area
Day 13, 2:48pm; 1326km.
Park 35: In the absence of Stoney Creek’s day-use area, Lusk Creek Provincial Recreation Area is the trailhead for Old Baldy Pass. It also features the namesake creek, picnic facilities, and interpretive walks.
Park 36: Sibbald Meadows Pond Provincial Recreation Area
Day 13, 3:32pm; 1333km.
Park 36: Sibbald Meadows Pond Provincial Recreation Area. Confession time: I am... not a fisherman. But as I rounded the corner at the top of Sibbald Pass, and saw the edge of the pond dotted with dozens of fishers, I instantly understood what the appeal here was!
Park 37: Dawson Provincial Recreation Area
Day 13, 4:19pm; 1343km.
Park 37: Dawson Provincial Recreation Area. A few km down the rough Powderface Trail off Sibbald Creek, this is the closest to a true backcountry campsite I’ve yet to visit.
With walk-in, drive-in, and equestrian sites, this charming secluded campground is a great winter base for snowmobilers headed down the Powderface... or summer users as it marks the northern end of the renowned Tom Snow trail leading to West Bragg Creek, and the Elbow Valley beyond.
Park 38: Sibbald Lake Provincial Recreation Area
Day 13, 5:00pm; 1348km.
Park 38 is Sibbald Lake Provincial Recreation Area, possibly the centerpiece of the Sibbald Trail. With the lake and many interpretive trails, this large campground is a great introduction to this northeast corner of Kananaskis.
The 134-site campground also features several amenities not found in many other parks, including for example, Bear Bins (common in National parks but unusual in Provincial ones), again making this an ideal introductory campground for those uncertain about things like bear hangs.
Park 39: Sibbald Viewpoint Provincial Recreation Area
Day 13, 5:22pm; 1351km.
Park 39: Sibbald Viewpoint Provincial Recreation Area
Even so, the smoke gives the view an ethereal, otherworldly beauty.
The PRA sits at the other end of an interpretive trail leading to Sibbald Lake, and is an ideal lunch spot with tables directly overlooking the ravine and vista down to Jumpingpound Creek.
Park 40: Pinetop Provincial Recreation Area
Day 13, 6:00pm; 1360km.
Park 40: Pinetop Provincial Recreation Area is the last on the Sibbald Trail (or the first coming in from Calgary) and its day use area features great introductory hiking and mountain biking trails.
As the lowest elevation site, it remains snow-free longer than other sites in the area, and is a perfect edge-of-shoulder-season destination to keep you in shape until spring hits with fuller force.
Park 41: Ghost Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area
Day 13, 8:41pm; 1401km.
Park 41: The campground at Ghost Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area caters to boaters who enjoy using the grounds and adjacent marina as a base for spending the summer on the reservoir.
Park 42: Wildcat Island Natural Area
Day 13, 9:13pm; 1409km.
Park 42: Accessible only by canoe/kayak, Wildcat Island Natural Area encompasses the eponymous island in the Bow River, 1/4 the way from the Ghost Dam and Cochrane.
There is a long trail to the water’s edge at the end of Range Rd. 53 just off AB-1A. The island is habitat for many bird species, including cliff swallows, ruby-crowned kinglets, belted kingfishers and many more. Its beaches make a great picnic site.
With no facilities or explicit access points, this is another park that should be costing the government very little to maintain.
July 17, 2021:
Park 24: Fitzsimmons Creek Provincial Recreation Area
Day 12, 11:39am; 1205km.
Park 24: Fitzsimmons Creek Provincial Recreation Area is the first stopping point up AB-40 along Highwood River past the junction. It offers opportunities for wildlife viewing with plenty of interpretive signage.
There are also great views of Mounts Armstrong, Muir, and McPhail from this scenic stopping point.
Park 25: Strawberry Provincial Recreation Area
Day 12, 11:56am; 1207km.
Park 25: Strawberry Provincial Recreation Area offers one of the few staging points for equestrian expeditions in the south Kananaskis, with hitching posts and other facilities for horses. It also offers overflow camping for other sites-another good campground along the Highwood.
Park 26: Cat Creek Provincial Recreation Area
Day 12, 12:18pm; 1210km.
Park 26: Cat Creek Provincial Recreation Area
And honestly? Little wonder! The 2.5km interpretive trail to the "hidden waterfall" starting from the parking lot almost rivals Johnston Canyon in terms of being an easy but rewarding introductory hike experience into the local Rockies.
#catcreekpra #greatparksbikeathon #parknamechecksout
Park 27: Lineham Provincial Recreation Area
Day 12, 1:36pm; 1217km.
Park 27: Lineham Provincial Recreation Area offers a quick break from the trek up AB-40. As with all day use areas, there are picnicking sites, bathrooms, garbage and other facilities at these rest stops.
Park 28: Lantern Creek Provincial Recreation Area
Day 12, 2:01pm; 1223km.
Park 28: Lantern Creek Provincial Recreation Area might be one of the most popular parks in Kananaskis, judging by the cars scattered everywhere, parking wherever space allowed.
The reason for its popularity? It’s the trailhead for the massively (and deservedly) popular Picklejar Lakes hike - especially important now that the Picklejar PRA (the alternate trailhead) has been closed. Picnic sites and bathrooms at the trailhead are a bonus!
Park 29: Trout Ponds Provincial Recreation Area
Day 12, 2:21pm; 1224km.
Park 29: I feel like I should have added elevation data to these. It’s easy to merely say that Trout Ponds Provincial Recreation Area is "another day use area," but that would belie the change in vegetation and environment as one keeps heading up the mountain. It should be remembered that these ‘simple’ day use areas are also part of the network of protected areas that perform vital ecosystem function. As the name in this case would suggest...
Park 30 (former): Picklejar Provincial Recreation Area
Day 12, 2:26pm; 1225km.
Park 30 (former): Picklejar Provincial Recreation Area - once the trailhead for the Picklejar Lakes hike - was previously closed. This is what this closed site looks like. How many of these parks were destined for this fate?
Park 31: Mist Creek Provincial Recreation Area
Day 12, 2:31pm; 1227km.
Park 31: Mist Creek Provincial Recreation Area, the trailhead & staging area for the popular Mist Creek Trail, an equestrian / multi-use trail leading to the Sheep Valley, one of the few to cross the Kananaskis Range.
(As an aside, that picnic table was almost certainly, inadvisably, moved into the river by a visitor at some point, and will be gone with the next flooding event. But one can’t deny the appeal of having lunch a literal single step from the river’s refreshing waters...)
July 16, 2021:
Park 19: Livingstone Falls Provincial Recreation Area
Day 11, 12:51pm; 1132km.
Park 19: Now far enough north that it’s a reasonably short weekend hop from Calgary, at Livingston Falls Provincial Recreation Area for $26, you can get a campsite a mere 30 seconds’ walk from the namesake falls.
Assuming you don’t mind waking up to the sound of songbirds chirping and water burbling over rocks, this seemed like an idyllic place for a weekend getaway. It is totally going on my personal list!
Park 20: Cataract Creek Provincial Recreation Area
Day 11, 4:27pm; 1164km.
Park 20 is Cataract Creek Provincial Recreation Area - a large campground with several dozen sites in a glorious setting and many opportunities for day hikes and other activities in the area.
Park 21: Etherington Creek Provincial Recreation Area
Day 11, 5:42pm; 1172km.
Park 21 is Etherington Creek Provincial Recreation Area - another relaxing quick trip from Calgary, just a few km south of the Highwood Junction. A good base for day trips to nearby Kananaskis hikes.
Park 22: Sentinel Provincial Recreation Area
Day 11, 6:35pm; 1185km.
Park 22: Sentinel Provincial Recreation Area contains a newly-rebuilt day use area immediately beside highway 541 (running west from Longview) and with a long beach access to the Highwood River.
Sentinel is another site that makes a good base point for local hikes (including Grass Pass, a personal sentimental favourite), or just fishing or picnicking along the river.
With the closure of other day use sites along the Highwood after they got flooded out and destroyed in the 2013 floods, this rebuilt site is one of the few/best remaining day use spots in the Highwood south region. Makes no sense to consider closing just after it got rebuilt...
Park 23: Highwood Provincial Recreation Area
Day 11, 7:15pm; 1191km.
Park 23: Highwood Provincial Recreation Area is just inside the Kananaskis boundary and offers several picnic pots in its day-use area. Several trails lead down from the parking lot to secluded beaches on the river.
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!
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