Hear roaring in the summer and whistling in the fall. Sound like a strange experience for a national park? It is. The lion-like roars of the bull bison in summer and the high-pitched whistling of rutting elk in the fall are sounds you’re unlikely to forget.
Elk Island National Park is second only to the Serengeti for the most hoofed wildlife. Feel the thrill of seeing wild bison in their natural habitat. Watch for herds of elk, and the white tailed deer and moose that roam the park. Observe the antics of the industrious beaver building a dam. If you’re in luck, you’ll spot the elusive coyote. The park protects 224 known Aboriginal sites and the aspen parkland, one of Canada’s most endangered habitats.
The abundance of animals means unbelievable photo ops. Watch for them on 80 km (50 mi) of trails along meadows, marshes, lakes, parkland, and even quicksand. Camp overnight in the Astotin Lake area and sleep under a zillion stars. If it’s late in the season, you might even see the northern lights. Come back in winter and snowshoe or cross-country ski. All this and less than an hour from Edmonton.
Bison. Beaver. Birds. Bivouacs. Here’s your insider Elk Island National Park checklist!
Welcome to a birder’s paradise, where you’ll have a chance to check 253 species off your tick list. White pelicans spend the summer on Astotin Lake. Watch for the beautiful but endangered trumpeter swans that find safe haven here.
Take a tour of the bison handling facility and see how the great beasts are managed. The park has loads of activities for explorers-in-training. Guided discovery walks teach kids the importance of conservation. The star gazing and theatre programs are favourites.
Dark Sky Preserve
Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area is Elk Island’s next door neighbour. Together they share the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, so make like Vincent and find a starry, starry night.
Visit historic homes throughout the park including the Pavilion, the horse barn and the Superintendent's residence, built in the 1930.
Sandy Beach campground at Astotin Lake is the only place in the park where you can camp overnight. Space is limited, so reserve ahead at Parks Canada. Wee ones love the playground and building sandcastles on the beach.
Winter is the best time to spot elk and moose, as they forage for food among the leafless trees. Hit the snowy trails on cross-country skis or snowshoes. You can even set up camp in the snow!