Located less than an hour away from Edmonton, Elk Island National Park protects the wilderness of the aspen parkland, one of the most endangered habitats in Canada. This beautiful oasis is home to herds of free roaming plains bison, wood bison, moose, deer, and elk. Also boasting over 250 species of birds, the park is a bird watcher’s paradise. Be it for wildlife viewing, hiking, cross-country skiing, picnicking, golfing, overnight camping, star gazing, or taking in an entertaining interpretive program there is something for everyone at Elk Island National Park.
A History of Conservation
In the late nineteenth century, after wildfires swept through the Beaver Hills area destroying habitat, the Cooking Lake Forest Reserve was established to protect the forest. What was thought to be one of the last remaining herds of elk in Canada was attracted to the lush re-growth that resulted from the wildfires. Shortly thereafter, a group of five local men recognized the need to protect this herd of elk and other wildlife from over-hunting and pledged by bond to the Dominion Government of Canada to protect this herd. On March 28, 1906, Elk Park a 41-square kilometre fenced enclosure around Astotin Lake became Canada’s first wildlife sanctuary.
Plains bison were returned to the Beaver Hills about 30 years after their disappearance from this landscape. Their return represents one of the most significant events in Canadian conservation history.
In 2006, Elk Island celebrated their 100th anniversary and now include
- 9-hole golf course
- Sandy Beach campground
- canoe around Astotin Lake
- Trails from 300 m to 16.5 km
- 250+ species of birds
- 450 plains bison and 350 wood bison
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