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Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

Waterton Lakes National Park
Box 200, Waterton Park, AB,


View of Prince of Wales Hotel with mountains behind

Waterton Lakes National Park is in southern Alberta where the prairies meet the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and the park borders Montana’s Glacier National Park (not to be confused with Canada’s Glacier National Park, near Revelstoke, BC).

Waterton was named by Lt. Thomas Blakiston, a member of the famous Palliser Expedition and one of the area’s earliest explorers. He named it after 19th century British naturalist Charles Waterton.

Waterton Lakes National Park was created in 1895 as the Waterton Lakes Forest Park Reserve, an area of 140 km2 around the lakes. It was the fourth such federally protected area, and became Waterton Lakes Dominion Park in 1911, following the creation of the Dominion Parks Branch. In 1930, under the new Canada National Parks Act, the park was renamed to Waterton Lakes National Park. Waterton is part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (IPP), created in 1932 as a symbol of peace and goodwill between Canada and the United States, and in 1995 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Waterton Lakes where prairies meet mountains
Waterton Lakes National Park is within the traditional territory of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) peoples, that refer to this place as Paahtomahksikimi (pronounced Paw-toe-MOCK-sick-ih-mee), meaning Inner Sacred Lake within the Mountains.

It’s known for its chain of lakes, including the large Upper and Middle Waterton lakes, flanked by the Rocky Mountains. Upper Waterton Lake is the deepest lake in the Canadian Rockies, 148m (487 ft) at its deepest. Bison graze near the Bison Paddock Loop Road. There are five sets of red chairs set in scenic locations throughout Waterton Lakes National Park

The park has two national historic sites located within its boundaries: The Prince of Wales Hotel NHS (built in 1926-27, and  designated in 1995) and the First Oil Well in Western Canada NHS (drilled in 1902 , and designated in 1968).

Waterton Lakes Attractions

View of shoreline at Waterton Lake with mountains behind

Forest Fire Damage

The area has been hit by a number of fires. Most recently, in 2018 the Boundary Wildfire covered 1100 hectares on both sides of the Canada-USA boundary centred around the Boundary Creek valley. in 2017 a thunderstorm set the Kenow Wildfire which started  in the Cameron Valley along the Akamina Parkway. In the end, that wildfire burned approximately 35,000 hectares, including 19,303 hectares in Waterton Lakes National Park, affecting parkways, hiking trails, and various parks facilities. In 1998, the Sofa Mountain Fire burned 1521 hectares.  These fires are part of the natural process, and the fires are fought only to save or protect existing structures and infrastructure.

Cameron Falls

In Waterton village, a pathway offers close-up views of Cameron Falls.

Entrance Drive

The Entrance Parkway is an 8 km route from the Maskinonge wetlands, past the park gate to the townsite.  It starts out on the prairie and follows the Waterton Lakes chain past the Prince of Wales Hotel National Historic Site to the townsite.

Red Rock Parkway

View of wildlife at Waterton Lakes

The Red Rock Parkway travels 15 km up the Blakiston Valley through rolling prairie grasslands and ends at Red Rock Canyon where the roadway meets mountain landscape. There is a self-guided trail around the Canon, and in June see spectacular wildflowers

Chief Mountain Highway

The Chief Mountain Highway is the primary route between Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park (U.S), and the route includes a seasonal border crossing (bring your passport!). The highway climbs from the grasslands near Maskinonge Lake to the Chief Mountain lookout which offers a magnificent panorama of the Waterton and Blakiston valleys.  You also pass through wetlands and the site of the Sofa Mountain Wildfire in 1998 (which burnt 1521 hectares within the park).

Waterton Lakes Visitor Centre

The new (2021) Waterton Lakes visitor centre, built since the Kenow Wildfire.

Waterton Lakes National Park Area Map