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Water Today Title July 18, 2019

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Feature

Update 2019/6/28
Holiday water report 2019


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HOLIDAY WATER 2019 - THE FIVE NATIONAL PARKS OF ALBERTA


By Suzanne Forcese

In her opening remarks of the Minister's Message of Parks Canada 2019-2020 Departmental Plan, the Honourable Catherine McKenna has stated, “It is important that we sustain the ecological, cultural and economic value that our national parks and national sites provide for communities across the country. Whether your interests lie in science and conservation, learning about the history of Indigenous cultures, or visiting hidden gems, I encourage all Canadians to connect with their natural and cultural heritage and discover all that Parks Canada places have to offer.” WaterToday accepted that invitation. Here is an encapsulation of the highlights and travel tips of Alberta's National Parks.

Banff National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Welcoming over 3 million visitors per year and considered the flagship of the National Parks system in Canada, Banff, the oldest National Park, has much to offer for every level and type of adventure. A walking tour of the town of Banff will get you everywhere within 10 minutes. The year- round ' happening' resort town(3.94 sq. km) with its mountain views, boutiques, restaurants, chateau-style hotels, souvenir shops and cultural performances also offers transit provided by Parks Canada to the Banff Gondola, hot springs, lake cruises and national historic sites.

Founded in 1885 in the Canadian Rockies with an area of 6641 square km, Banff National Park is a treasure trove of some of Canada's most pristine natural wealth-- featuring mountains, glaciers, ice fields, turquoise glacial lakes, dense forests, and more. The park has 3 dominant eco-regions which are the montane, alpine and subalpine. The scenery and abundant wild-life from big horn sheep to bears are the star attractions.

Visitors pilgrimage to the park for a variety of activities including hiking, biking, skiing and camping. Driving is a breeze on hundreds of kilometres of paved scenic parkways that pass crystalline lakes and glaciers. Or get back to nature at 14 diverse campgrounds. History lovers can explore national historic sites, while winter brings skiing, snowshoeing and sightseeing.

Want an authentic heritage experience? Put the Banff Upper Hot Springs on your list where travellers have come to “take the waters” in the Park's only year- round hot springs pool. Each Rocky Mountain Hot Spring has its own signature mineral mix. Thermal waters enjoyed at this facility are pushed vertically over 2000 metres through a big crack in the layers of rock called the Sulphur Mountain Thrust Fault. Rain seeps deep into the earth's crust, is then heated, pressurized and laden with minerals before returning to the surface. The highest volume is in spring and the lowest in winter. (Heated municipal water is used in winter when the seasonal flow is reduced). When the temperature of the hot springs drops below 37°C, Parks Canada staff closes the Upper Hot Springs. This can happen when outside temperatures dip below -20°C.

Current Water Conditions - 100% natural mineral water is flowing at the Banff Upper Hot Springs. Water temperature is currently between 37° and 40° Celsius (98°-104° Fahrenheit).

Lake Louise and Moraine Lake - Founded in 1890 as Laggan Station, Lake Louise was once a wild outpost at the end of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Today this hamlet, lake and the nearby area offer some of the finest skiing and site-seeing in the world. Lake Louise and Moraine Lake usually melt by late May. Alpine hiking season begins in late June.

A phone call to Park Officials came up with a green light for drinking water. However, Parks Canada has issued the following alerts for Banff National Park:

Safety: Parks Canada protects national treasures for present and future generations. Please never feed wildlife or leave food or garbage outside. Dogs must be leashed. Leave all flowers, rocks, antlers and artefacts to be enjoyed by others. Preserve the peace and safety of the park—no drones, firearms or motorised equipment. Be Bear Smart

Bulletin: Hiking or travel anywhere in the Sunshine Meadows, Citadel Pass and the Healy Pass areas is limited to official trails and designated roads. Any off-trail use is prohibited without restricted activity permit. Why? To protect sensitive habitat and improve habitat security for grizzly bears. Violators may be charged under the Canada National Parks Act: maximum $25 000 (Start Jun 1 End Oct 15)

Closure: North end of Vermillion Lake including the shoreline and nearby waters. Why? Nesting loons need protection from human disturbance. Penalty: $25 000 Closed until further notice.

Closure: Several small areas in the Bow Valley from East Park Boundary to Castle Junction, may be closed, as needed. Closed areas will be clearly marked in the field. Why? To ensure public safety and prevent animal disturbance where predator-killed animals and/or carcasses are present or where wildlife capture is occurring. Violators may be charged under the Canada National Parks Act: max penalty $25,000.

Closure July & August: Peyto Lake Day Use Area parking lots, restrooms, trails, viewing platforms while restrooms are being replaced and parking lots reconfigured.

Note: Hamlet of Lake Louise - Aging water and sewer pipes in the Lake Louise village will be replaced in 2019 on Village Road and part of Fairview Road. Routine bridge maintenance will also take place at several locations. Significant impact to shuttle services in Lake Louise is not anticipated Traffic flow will be maintained but delays are possible.

Elk Island National Park

Located 35 km east of Edmonton along the Yellowhead Highway, the Elk Island National Park is known for its important role in Bison Conservation. Driving through the Park, you can expect a bison traffic jam and a breath of bison-y scent. In an area of 194 sq km that hosts the largest and smallest species of mammals from the bison to the pygmy shrew you will also encounter porcupine, mule deer, beaver, moose and a variety of birds. Interpretive programs in the Park (provided free of charge by Parks Canada) will get you up to speed on things such as pemmican, the food that sustained the Indigenous populations and the ecology of the area.

At Astotin Lake Campground you can view one of the highest densities of bison while glamping in an oTENTik. There are beds, chairs, electricity washrooms with showers and potable water. Or you can watch the night sky. Elk Island National Park falls within the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, which means optimal conditions for catching a glimpse of the aurora borealis. Throughout Elk Island National Park there are many names and welcomes that are expressed in one or more of the many Indigenous languages. Spend time learning about nature – but in Cree. Celebrate the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Classes are free with paid parking entry. Sundays July 14 & 21, August 4 & 17, Astotin Lake Recreation Area.

Closure: Mud Lake Area. Why? Bison calving season. Effective May 22, 2019 until further notice. Info: Call 780 922-5790

Restricted and Prohibited Activities: April 30, 2019 –April 30, 2020 Metal Detectors Prohibited; Motor Powered Vessels Prohibited; Camping outside designated areas not permitted; The flying of kites and all similar items is restricted to the Astotin Lake Area. Possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited. Smoking,vaping, or consumption of non-medical cannabis is prohibited in Astotin Lake Campground and the Group Campground Friday 8:00 am – Monday 6:00 pm on June 28-July1;Aug 2-5; Aug 30-Sept 2

Possession of alcoholic beverages is prohibited at all times in OsterLake Backcountry Campground and Overflow Campground. Smoking, vaping, or consumption of non-medical cannabis is prohibited at all times in Oster Lake Backcountry Campground, Group Campground, Overflow campground, Visitor Centre Area, Astotin Lake Recreation Area, Tawayik Lake Recreation Area.


Parks Canada reports drinking water is potable.

Jasper National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Located west of Edmonton Jasper National Park covers an area of 10,878 sq km making it the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, well known for its spectacular and interesting geographical features like snow-capped peaks, giant waterfalls, pristine blue lakes and hot springs the park.

It can be a magical experience to spot grizzly bears, caribou,elk, timber wolf, cougar and birds such as red-necked grebes, golden eagles and bohemian waxwings in their natural habitat. It is also important to remember that their continued health and survival relies on our being respectful in helping Parks Canada maintain healthy populations by following the rules: Do not feed wildlife; do not approach wildlife; stay on designated trails.

Summer days are temperate with up to 17 hours of daylight. Visit the town of Jasper, originally a railway town or view the mountain ranges, glacial- fed lakes and rivers from the Jasper Sky Tram. Hike the alpine trail network or relax and enjoy a meal at the summit. You can raft the rivers, climb the mountains, go horseback riding or walk the trails. You can even golf at Canada's Number One Golf Resort, The Jasper Park Lodge. There are many glacier- fed lakes ranging in color from brilliant blue to dark green including Lac Beauvert, Lake Annette, Jasper Lake, Patricia Lake, Pyramid Lake, Maligne Lake, Medicine Lake.

Soak in the Miette Hot Springs which feature the hottest mineral springs in the Canadian Rockies. Water flows from the mountain at 54° C (129° F) that is cooled to a comfortable 40° C. Miette's 3 spring outlets gush at 1540 litres per minute and feature high concentrations of minerals.

Jasper National Park is the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world. That means there is no artificial lighting visible and active measures are in place to educate and promote the reduction of light pollution.

Winter adventures also abound in Jasper from the ski hill, through the woods or on the lake. Check out the Maligne Canyon Icewalk. Jasper National Park is an ice-climbers mecca with climbs for all skill levels.

Bulletins:

Bear Warning: Wapiti Campground Grizzly bears are frequenting the grounds Prohibited access to trails 6B & 8c until further notice. Why? In the winter of 2019, trees were removed from mountain pine beetle affected forests on Pyramid Bench to help protect the town of Jasper from wildfire. Many trails have been affected by this work and are in the process of being restored. Crews and equipment operating in the area create safety hazards. Violators may be charged under the Canada National Parks Act.

Prohibited access to Cavell Meadows area including the Cavell Meadows Loop until further notice to protect sensitive alpine vegetation until the trail conditions are suitable to discourage off-trail travel. Violators may be charged.

Bear Alert: no stopping zone along Hwy 1 West commences 4 km West of Jasper and ends 16 km West, includes 200 m on both sides of the highway. Wildlife including bear and elk are frequenting the road side in search of natural food. Stopping creates traffic hazards that are dangerous to passing vehicles and to wildlife. Traffic congestion can increase the chance of wildlife being struck on the road.

Prohibited access to section of Trail 7 along the south and east borders of the Jasper Park Lodge Golf course the area is closed to public use with the exception of equestrian travel. Equestrian riders are not to dismount. Grizzly and black bears are frequenting the trail area. Violators may be charged. No water issues were reported to WT.

For more daily bulletins including restrictions and notices check the Parks Canada website.

Waterton Lakes National Parks (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

The Prairies of Alberta meet the Rocky Mountains.

Following the wildfire in September of 2017, Waterton Lakes National Park is open and ready to welcome visitors in 2019. Parks Canada encourages all visitors to drive carefully and to expect construction traffic and noise in the park.

Before the wildfire moved into the park a team of bison experts from Grasslands National park in Saskatchewan assisted in relocating Waterton's bison. The bison paddock was burned through and one stubborn bull who had refused to be moved miraculously survived by taking refuge in one of the large ponds. His resilience has become symbolic for the entire park. Ecological renewal is already taking place. Beargrass ( a mountain lily and one of the park's most identifiable plants) re-sprouted at higher elevations just weeks after the fire. In the Kenow Wildfire 44 % of the park's vegetated area was burned with high or very high severity removing about 70% of the tree canopy. The ground surface is reduced to mainly ash or mineral soil. No tree canopy remains and the forest has been replaced by blackened tree trunks. The seed band in the soil may be largely destroyed.

Waterton's landscape has evolved with wildfire. Nature is expert at repairing such disturbances. Forests that may appear destroyed or lifeless are very much alive and provide a canvas for renewal. Tree seeds can blow in from unburned canopies nearby, or even from distant forests.

A vital part of Waterton's ecosystem has historically been shaped by fire. Periodic wildfires and those used strategically by First Nations kept the grasslands free of shrub and aspen to promote renewal of grasses and wildflowers. Monitoring and controlling invasive plants becomes especially important.

A changed landscape means changes to the streams, rivers and ponds and lakes. Because so much vegetation and soil have been burnt, more sediment will be carried by water into streams and rivers. Attached to this sediment will be phosphorus, which boosts aquatic plant growth. In many creeks, the colorful rocks that are so unique to this are are expected to become darkened, covered in small dark algae.

The post fire landscape will also mean a change in foraging habits of wildlife. Bears for example have lost a lot of their favorite berry producing plants and will be alert for alternative food sources. This makes it even more important for visitors to keep their food and garbage secure in bear proof containers.

Although the park lost at least 40 individual large mammals to the wildfire – including deer, elk moose and black bear the regions wildlife populations remain healthy. Some uncommon animals are also expected to take hold. Burned forests attract insects which in turn attract post fire once rare birds such as three-toed and black-backed woodpeckers. Parks Canada plans to return the bison herd to the park once their native grassland habitat has renewed itself.

Crandell Mountain Campground is closed due to extensive infrastructure damage from the Kenow Wildfire.

What's Open - a temporary visitor centre at the Lion's Hall on Fountain Ave.; the townsite is open. Open campsites - townsite hwy 5; Beely River Hwy 6 Backcountry camping open –Bertha Bay; Bertha Lake Boundary Bay

Wilderness camping is permitted at designated campgrounds ONLY

Water sources are available at each campground. Water should be boiled before use. Pit toilets are located at each camp ground. Urination around your campsite attracts wildfire and leads to vegetation damage.

The Parks Canada 2019 team of interpreters in Waterton reveal stories of the park through a wide variety of visitor programming form Jun 24 – Aug 30, 2019 Enjoy a theatre show, head out on a guided interpretive walk or jump in for some family-fun activities Daily summer programs are free!

Wood Buffalo National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Larger in area than Switzerland, situated on the plains in the north-central region of Canada, encompassing parts of the North West Territories, and home to the largest population of wild bison is Wood Buffalo National Park. Spanning an area of 44,807 sq km, Canada's largest National Park is also the nesting place of the once near-extinct and last remaining flock of migratory Whooping Cranes. Here you will also find the world's largest delta located at the mouth of the Peace and Athabasca Rivers, a salt plain, and gypsum karst. All four North American flyways converge over the Delta each spring and fall including the Whooping Crane.

Examples of ongoing ecological and biological processes encompass some of the largest undisturbed grass and sedge meadows left in North America. The Park is the most ecologically complete and largest example of the entire Great Plains-Boreal Grassland Ecosystem of North America. It remains the only place where the predator-prey relationship between wolves and wood bison has continued unbroken over time. The Park's size, remoteness, very low human population density, and absence of resource extraction activities minimize human-related stress within the property resulting in a high level of integrity.

The boreal plains near the NWT town of Fort Smith are the most accessible and popular area of the park. Day hikes take visitors through boreal forest of spruce, jackpine, aspen and poplar to see salt flats, underground streams sinkholes and saline streams.

The Slave, Peace, and Athabasca Rivers flow through the park. Opportunities for backcountry hiking and camping include a trip down the Peace River followed by a 7.5 mile hike into Sweetgrass Station which features a restored warehouse and former bison corrals.

The park has 2 gateway communities, Fort Smith and Fort Chipewyan. Watch for black bear and bison crossings. The park office in Fort Chipewyan is only accessible by air or water, except for a few months every winter when an ice road links it to Fort Smith and Fort McMurray. Northwestern Air Lease offers commercial flights from Edmonton. Flight seeing tours into the park can be arranged. Pine Lake Campground is open between Victoria Day weekend and Labour Day. The park is open in winter. January and February are the best times for aurora borealis viewing in the Dark Sky.

Parks Canada reported that fire danger is moderate but encourages visitors to be Bear Smart. Drinking water is potable.

WT spoke with John Stoesser who gave the best advice. “Plan ahead. Do your research and come prepared.” Natural Hazards are a part of the national park experience. You can reduce the impact of an unfortunate circumstance by being well informed and well prepared. For general information on how to stay safe when enjoying the outdoors visit AdventureSmart.ca

Connect with your natural and cultural heritage. Be safe while this country awes you.

suzanne.f@watertoday.ca
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