Awesome Alberta: Commune with nature at Elk Island National Park

Aug 25 2020, 10:00 am

COVID-19 still presents a very real and dangerous threat to public health. While much of Alberta’s outdoors have been reopened to visitors, it is recommended to plan ahead, check local restrictions and current public health measures, and avoid any areas that may be too crowded. 

A wild oasis of starry skies and magnificent animals lies just 35 minutes east of Edmonton.

The Elk Island National Park is every wildlife photographer’s dream destination thanks to the roaming herds of bison, elk, and more than 250 species of birds that make this national park a cornerstone of wildlife conversation.

With no light diluting the park’s starry skies, visitors can take a break from the hectic pace of city life and escape to this wild sanctuary to sleep under the stars at night, go hiking or canoeing during the day, and even learn more about bison conversation at a wildlife handling facility within the park.

For your own safety, please make sure you are prepared before heading out on your next adventure. Information on how to prepare for your trip and stay safe while on your hike is available from Albertaparks.ca and AdventureSmart. Parks Canada visitor guidelines are available here. Always remember to leave no trace, pack out what you pack in, stick to designated trails, and refrain from feeding wildlife — and please note that irresponsibly taken selfies (even if they look great for the ‘gram) can be fatal

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Where is it?

The majestic park is located within an hour’s drive from Edmonton. While the park itself is open all year round, the bison are particularly active from July to August.

However, it goes without saying that while bison look gentle, it’s important to remember that they’re wild animals and can be dangerous and unpredictable if threatened.

Here’s how you can keep both yourself and bison safe if you come across these beautiful creatures.

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How do you get there?

The park is located 35 km east of Edmonton, at Range Road 203, Fort Saskatchewan. In order to get there from Calgary, head north to Edmonton, then jump onto the Yellowhead Highway (or Highway 16) which bisects Elk Island National Park.

Those heading from Edmonton just need to make the quick journey east.

Elk Island National Park’s main entrance, the south gate, is located approximately 48 km from Edmonton’s city centre, via Highway 16 East (or Yellowhead Highway).

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What’s there?

Whether you want to go stargazing, canoeing, hiking, or maybe you just want to spread out a blanket and have a picnic with your family, Elk Island National Park has something for everybody.

The park is a Dark Sky Preserve, so if you plan your trip right, you can enjoy the breathtaking wonder that is the Northern Lights — as well as some potential meteor showers.

You can also enjoy picnics at the reserve all year round. Picnic shelters are available on a first-come-first-serve basis and are located at most trailheads including Astotin Lake Recreation Area, Beaver Bay Picnic Area, and the Tawayik Lake Recreation Area.

Visitors can also hike and bike through the park’s several aspen forest canopy trails, and catch various kinds of songbirds, bison, beautiful spruce trees, hazelnut shrubs, and even wild roses (depending on the time of the year) within the confines of the expansive park.

Though keep an eye out for signs and stick to the trails, because some areas do contain quicksand.

A list of various trails can be found here.

 

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