Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (Waterton Lakes National Park)
The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in the Rocky Mountains straddles the border between the Canadian province of Alberta and the U.S. state of Montana. On the Canadian side of the border is Waterton Lakes National Park while on American side, the park is called Glacier National Park. It is about three hours drive from Calgary. Of the two National Parks making up this relatively unspoilt area of the Rockies close to the Continental Divide (watershed), Canada's Waterton Lakes National Park is the smaller.
Chief Mountain International Highway
The twin Canadian and U.S. National Parks are linked by the Chief Mountain International Highway (Hwy. 6/SR 17), passable from mid-May to mid-September. Built in 1935 and running partly through the Park and partly through the Blackfoot Indian Reserve, the road initially provides exceptionally fine views of the Waterton Valley. Then follows a long stretch when Chief Mountain (2763 m (9068 ft)) is plainly visible, an isolated limestone relic of the Pre-Cambrian period which erosion has separated from the main mountain range. This furthermost manifestation of the Lewis over thrust towers above the rolling hills of the prairie, a sacred mountain to the Indians and a once important point of orientation. Crossing the U.S. frontier after a drive of 22 km (14 mi.) (the highest peak in the Glacier National Park, the 3190 m (10,469 ft) Mt Cleveland, can be seen to the south-west), the road continues for a further 24 km (15 mi.) before meeting U.S. 89. Following this south for another 21 km (13 mi.) leads to St Mary and the eastern entrance to the Glacier National Park. Outside the summer months access to the two National Parks is via U.S. 89 and Hwys. 2 and 5 via Cardston (Alberta). This route also provides superlative views.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is an incredibly scenic, and at times very narrow, road that clings to the mountain side as it winds its way up and over Logan Pass. It is only passable in summer.
At Babb, about 14 km (81/2 mi.) from St Mary, a 20 km (12 mi.) side road (closed in winter) branches off to Many Glacier, an area of exceptional scenic beauty. Mountain goats and black bears can often be spotted from the road. Built in 1914 the Many Glacier Hotel on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake is the Park's principal resort, conjuring up an image of Switzerland with staff dressed in lederhosen and dirndls. From here there are various walks and mountain hikes to e.g. the Grinnell Glacier, the Granite Park area, Iceberg Lake (where even in high summer ice-floes dot the sparkling emerald water) and Red Rock Falls. By following the 4 km (21/2 mi.) Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail starting from the hotel much of interest can be learned about beavers, geology and the forested mountain sides. Boat excursions are also run from the hotel on Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes. Boat rental, trail riding.
From its superb site above the narrow "Bosporus" which flows between Upper and Middle Waterton Lakes, the majestic Prince of Wales Hotel, designed by a Swiss architect and completed in 1927, enjoys magnificent views of the two lakes and the surrounding mountains. In the 1920s the President of the American Great Northern Railway hit upon the idea of offering coach tours from Glacier National Park to Jasper and Waterton Lakes was judged the ideal stop-over. With a depth of 152 m (498 ft) Upper Waterton Lake (1279 m (4197 ft) above sea level) is the deepest in the Canadian Rockies. Walkers can take advantage here of the water-taxi to Crypt Lake. All year round in Emerald Bay sub-aqua enthusiasts are to be seen diving to the wreck of a steamer which sank there in 1918. The vessel, built in 1907, was used to ship logs to a sawmill on the Waterton River.
Red Rock Canyon Parkway
About 5 km (3 mi.) beyond the Waterton Lakes National Park entrance, a narrow road branches off Hwy. 5 towards Red Rock Canyon, following Blakiston Creek which has here created a massive alluvial fan between Lower and Middle Waterton Lake. This Red Rock Canyon Parkway passes through successive bio-climatic zones between the prairie and Mt Blakiston (2940 m (9650 ft)), highest peak in the Waterton Lakes National Park. The very attractive Red Rock Canyon, reached after 15 km (9 mi.), was formed by a small tributary cutting deep into the red sedimentary rocks (from the Pre-Cambrian Grinell Formation). The canyon's distinctive coloring is due to the high iron content of the rock, set off by patches of bluish green algae.
A road circuits the large buffalo enclosure situated north of the Park entrance (Hwy. 5). The little herd is kept as a reminder of the vast numbers of bison which once roamed the Prairies.Near the north entrance of Waterton Lakes National Park visitors will find a buffalo paddock, open to the public. Visitors can drive their own vehicle through the natural area but area asked to remain in their vehicles.
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