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bootlegga Elk Island National Park - A travel report by James
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Elk Island National Park,  Canada - flag Canada -  Alberta
12589 readers

bootlegga's travel reports

An island of aspen parkland in a Prairie sea

  17 votes
Page: 1 2
Elk Island is a hiker’s dream. While there is little in the way of elevation changes, there are a dozen hikes in the park for hikers of all abilities, showcasing a wide variety of terrain and animal life.

A bison grazing
A bison grazing
Located less than an hour’s drive from Edmonton, this park showcases aspen parkland, one of Canada’s more endangered habitats (as they tend to be located near major cities). This park is home to herds of elk, deer, and almost 900 plains bison. In fact, this herd of bison is descended from the last few remaining on the plains from the late 19th century. Before North America was discovered by the Europeans, they numbered in the tens of millions!

Elk Island is considered an ‘island’ of nature surrounded by human activity, from farming to heavy industry to urban areas. It is in Elk Island that the northern boreal forests give way to the grasslands of the Canadian prairies.

For several decades the larger animals (elk, deer, moose and bison) have had no natural predators in the park after the last of a den of wolves died out. But this past fall, there were signs of a cougar family in the park, which has the wardens very excited.

There are plenty of activities to do here year round. There is camping, canoeing/kayaking and hiking in the summer, and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter. In the summer, there are a variety of interpretive programs on the weekends as well.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the conservation efforts in the Elk Island region.

For more info;

Favourite spots:
Astotin Lake
Astotin Lake
Astotin Lake is really nice. While it’s not recommended to swim in the lake because of swimmer’s itch, you can go canoeing/kayaking. There is also a playground on the shore for the kids, as well as picnic/BBQ areas. A community centre also holds weekly BBQs every Saturday night in the summer.

What's really great:
Elk Island National Park travelogue picture
The fact that this national park is less than 45 minutes from Edmonton is fantastic. Because of it, it is possible to go hiking, canoeing/kayaking, or cross-country skiing on Saturday morning and still be back for dinner if you want to.

Tawayik Lake
Tawayik Lake
Elk Island is all about nature and a hiker’s park. There is little in the way of buses full of tourists or big city distractions, like in Banff and Jasper, with their waterparks, shopping malls, and movie theatres. Your hiking choices range from a 500 m hike around Astotin Lake to a 18.6 hike through the southern portion of the park including the shores of Flyingshot Lake.

The shortest hike in the park is also one of the coolest. The Living Boardwalk on the shore of Astotin Lake follows the shore and then extends onto a floating boardwalk that takes you into the marsh on the southern edge, so you wind up walking amongst the bulrushes and frogs and insects. It’s short but still fun.

Should you feel in the mood for some recreation, the park also has a nine-hole golf course.

During the winter it is much easier to view wildlife in the park due to the lack of leaf cover. Winter nights are also great for viewing the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).

Near the Living Boardwalk
Near the Living Boardwalk
There is the Sandy Beach campground near Astotin Lake. Due to its close proximity to Edmonton, there are no hotels in the park. However there are several good ones in nearby Sherwood Park (about 20 minutes away), or a motel in Mundare (east of the park).

Astotin Interpretive Centre
Astotin Interpretive Centre
The park also offers interpretive hikes and at the Astotin Theatre, nature documentaries on wildlife in the park and throughout Canada.

Nothing beats a good campfire!
Nothing beats a good campfire!
The closest thing to a restaurant the park has is the community centre BBQ every Saturday evening during the summer months. The nine-hole golf course also has a snack bar, but it’s not really a restaurant. Otherwise, stock up on food from the local grocery store and enjoy some campfire cooking.

Other recommendations:
Vegreville's Giant Pysanka
Vegreville's Giant Pysanka
A short trip to Mundare will take you to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. It was built to resemble pioneer settlements in east central Alberta in the early 20th century. Buildings from the surrounding communities have been moved to the Village and restored. There are also meet people in historic costumes here who play the roles of the men, women and children who in the area lived at the time.

If you feel like traveling a little farther east on the Yellowhead highway, you can go to Vegreville, which has a large population of Ukrainian-Canadians. There you can see the world’s largest pysanka as well as indulge in a delicious Ukrainian meal with kobasa and pyroghy in one of Vegreville’s great restaurants.

Published on Saturday June 3th, 2006

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Thu, Sep 07 2006 - 05:56 PM rating by mrscanada

I want to back and see this, (in the summer) park so close to Edmonton. Did you know that Vegreville's Ukrainian Easter Egg is the largest in the world?

Sat, Jun 17 2006 - 07:01 PM rating by gloriajames

Great adventure report!

Mon, Jun 05 2006 - 07:54 AM rating by christianj.

Hi James,

thank you for sharing these interesting information. After reading your report, I feel it's time to visit Kanada and, of course, Edmonton + Elk Island National Park.

Regards, Christian

Sun, Jun 04 2006 - 10:33 PM rating by mamielle

Very interesting report with nice pic

Sun, Jun 04 2006 - 10:47 AM rating by mistybleu

James another interesting report. I would so love to go hiking there. It really sounds perfect.

Sat, Jun 03 2006 - 11:12 PM rating by marianne

Excellent information. It is quite difficult to write a report on a destination that doesn't have much variety. In this report you show what the national park is like, what to see and what to do. Your photos illustrate this. The result is that I now have aclear idea about Elk Island.

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