If you’re visiting Edmonton or actually live there, count yourself lucky! You live close to Elk Island National Park, a conservancy of the largest land mammal in North America, the wood bison.
Elk Island National Park is the only fully fenced National park in Canada and manages conservation recovery herds for Wood and Plains Bison. It’s located on the North side of Highway 16 approximately 35 minutes’ drive East of Edmonton.
Activities inside the park include wildlife viewing, hiking, cycling, canoeing, kayaking, camping, star gazing, picnicking among others.
One of the mistakes we did was visiting Elk Island National Park at midday when all the animals had gone hiding from the summer sun. We were nevertheless fortunate to meet a heard of close to 20 wood bison grazing by the parkway, and a white-tailed deer by the shores of Astotin Lake.
Wildlife available in Elk Island National Park includes Elk, Wood and Plains Bison, Coyotes, Beavers, Black Bear, wolf, mule deer and white-tailed deer. Early morning or late evening are the best times for a safari. Drive slowly on the park way, stop and look around for any animals grazing by.
There is a total of 11 trails in Elk Island National Park ranging from flat to moderate terrains.
The shortest trail is the 2.5 kilometres Amisk Wuche Trail which is popular for aquatic and bird life, with the longest trail being Wood Bison and Tawayik Lake Trails 16 and 16.5 kilometres long respectively.
Other trails are:
|Tawayik Lake Trail||16.5 km||Moderate|
|Wood Bison Trail||16 km||Moderate|
|Lakeview Trail||13 km||Moderate|
|Moss Lake Trail||12.5 km||Moderate|
|Shirley Lake Trail||12.5 km||Moderate|
|Hayburger Trail||12.2 km||Flat|
|Simmons Trail||5 km||Moderate|
|Beaver Pond Trail||3.5 km||Gentle|
|Shoreline Trail||3 km||Gentle and Paved|
|Amisk Wuche Trail||2.5 km||Moderate to Steep|
|Living Waters Boardwalk||300 m||Flat|
For a good chance to spot wood bison, moose and elk, Tawayik Lake, Wood Bison and Shirley Lake Trails are recommended.
Most trails have parking, bathrooms, viewpoints and garbage facilities at the trailheads.
Cycling is one of the best ways to adventure while keeping fit. At Elk Island National Park, enjoy 20 kilometres of paved Parkway with plenty of animal viewing opportunities.
Cycling in the park makes a good summer family day. As a safety measure, it’s advised not to cycle silently to prevent chances of sudden wildlife encounters. Make noise or sing off key and the wildlife will be happy to have you around.
Canoeing in Astotin Lake
Rent a canoe or kayak at Astotin lake and explore all the islands in the lake. A Canoe for two adults and two kids or three adults costs from $25 to rent for the first one hour with $10 charged every extra hour.
Stand up paddle board for one-person costs $10 for the first hour. Kayak for one person also costs $15 for the first hour.
Around Astotin and Oster Lakes is a camping ground offering walk-in tenting and unserviced RVs with facilities like flush toilets, hot showers, picnic shelters. Firewood is provided free with a purchase of fire permit.
Beginning May 2017, backcountry camping is now available at Oster lake which should be reserved online in advance on Parks Canada Reservation System.
At Elk Island National Park, you will be literally spoilt for choice with outdoor and scenic picnic areas like Astotin Lake, Beaver Bay, and Tawayik Lake.
If the weather doesn’t permit an outdoor picnic, there are three all-year round picnic shelters available at Astotin Lake Pavilion, Astotin Lake, and Tawayik Lake.
Astotin Lake Pavilion is also available for winter picnic adventure.
There are eight geocaches in Elk island to keep you busy and adventurous for up to half a day. Geocaching is an exciting high-tech adventure game where contestants use GPS to search for caches (containers).
Star gazing in summer or Northern lights in Beaver Hills Dark Sky Reserve during winter? You choose. Be sure to call in advance for the dark sky programme in Elk Island National Park.
Watch a concert (Summer only)
Check parks Canada website prior to your visit to see summer festivals and concerts worth attending.
We clearly had our fun moments at Elk Island National Park !
Elk Island National Park Contacts
- 1-54401 Range Road 203
- Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta
- 780-922-5790 – General inquiry & Snowshoe rental
- 1-877-737-3783 – Campsite reservation (Alternative reservation.parkscanada.gc.ca)
- 1-877-852-3100 – Emergency Contacts for Parks Canada
- 911 – Fire, Ambulance, RCMP
What did i miss? Share your adventures at Elk Island National Park in the comments section below.