Introduction to Waterton Glacier International Peace Park
Waterton Glacier International Peace Park is comprised of two parks along the United States and Canada border. In 1932 Waterton Lakes National Parklocated in Alberta, Canadaand Glacier National Parklocated in Montana, United Stateswere combined to form the first international peace park in the world. The park contains a rich variety of plant and animal life, as well as outstanding scenery. Various landforms can be found here including forests, prairies, rugged mountains, lakes, and glacial landforms. One of the most striking landscape features of the park is the sudden change from prairie to mountain. Many of the landforms in the park were formed over the course of thousands of years by glaciation. Glacial erosion carved out mountain valleys and basins, while glacial depositions formed the grasslands. The park also contains five ecoregions, creating quite a diversity of plant life in the area. Animal life also flourishes here and the park contains 61 mammal species, 241 bird species, and 20 fish species. Some of the most noted species are the grizzly bear, American black bear, cougar, grey wolf, mink, moose and bison.
There are a variety of ways to experience the natural wonders offered by Waterton Glacier International Peace Park. Many visitors come to the park simply to enjoy the wildlife. Late summer and fall are often the best time to observe different animals. At this time, visitors are likely to see black bears, deer, elk, or bison.
Hiking is another way to enjoy the great outdoors. Within Waterton Lakes, there are 120 miles of hiking trails, while within Glacier there are 700 miles of trails. Between the two parks, there are a variety of trails, from short trails that take only a few hours to complete, to longer trails that may take multiple days.
Camping is also a popular activity within the parks. Waterton offers visitors 3 campgrounds, while Glacier offers 13. Backcountry camping is also available. However, depending on the time of year, visitors may want to check trail reports; sometimes these sites are closed for longer than expected during winter months and into spring due to excessive snow fall.
A variety of boating experiences are also an option. However, visitors should be aware that the waters in this region are very cold year-round, so hypothermia is a very real danger. Waterskiing is popular at many of the lakes but, because of cold temperatures, dry suits or full wetsuits are recommended. Canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboating are possibilities as well.
Winter at Waterton Glacier International Peace Parks broadens the range of activities available to visitors. Cross country skiing is a popular activity, allowing visitors to access different views of the unique landscapes of the park. Snowshoeing is also possible at many locations. In Waterton in particular, there are also a number of locations that are suitable for ice climbing.
Other popular activities throughout the parks including bicycling, horseback riding, fishing, and picnicking.
Evidence of humans in the area dates back to 10,000 years ago. When Europeans first came into the area, several groups of Native Americans already inhabited the region, including the Blackfeet, Salish, and the Kootenai. Most Europeans who initially came here were searching for animal belts. Later, settlers came searching for gold and later for land. In 1891, the great Northern Railway allowed people to have much easier access to the area. At this time, people like George Bird Grinnell began to push for the creation of a national park in the United States. Thus, Glacier National Park was established.
In Canada, the first step toward preservation of Waterton happened with F.W. Godsail. He proposed in 1893 that the lands surrounding Waterton Lakes be designated a protected area. In 1895, the area was protected by the Canadian govern as Dominion Forest Park. Eventually, it became the Waterton Lakes National Park.
In 1932, the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was created. The goal of this was to commemorate the ideas of peace and cooperation between the United States and Canada. Today, it continues to be a symbol of cooperation between the two nations.
Glacier National Park
Several airports are located near Glacier National Park. Glacier Park International Airport, located near is Kalispell, is approximately 30 miles to the west of the West Entrance. Missoula International Airport, located 150 south of the West Entrance, is also an option. Located to the east of the St. Mary, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier Entrances is the Great Falls International Airport.
To access the West Entrance, take Highway 2 heading north from Kalispell to West Glacier.
To access the St. Mary, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier Entrances to the park, take Highway 89 heading north from the Great Falls area. When you reach the town of Browning after traveling about 125 miles, follow the signs to the entrances of the park.
Waterton Lakes National Park
Nearby airports are located at Calgary and Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, or Kalispell and Great Falls in Montana, United States.
From Calgary, head south on Highway 2 to Fort Macleod. Then, you will take Highway 3 toward Pincher Creek, exiting onto Highway 6 south. The drive will be approximately 3 hours.
If you are coming from Lethbridge, take Highway 2 south toward Cardston. Then, take Highway 5 west to the park. The drive is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Coming from the British Columbia area, take Highway 3 to Pincher Creek and exit onto Highway 6 south to the park.
From Glacier National Park in Montana, United States, take Montana Highway 89 north to Alberta Highway 2. Then, continue west on Highway 5 to the park.
- First international peace park
- Consists of two parks, one in the U.S., one in Canada
- Features including mountains, prairies, and lakes
- Carved out by thousands of years of glaciations
- Opportunities for many outdoor activities
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