Okanagan Dry Forests, Part 2

Okanagan Dry Forests

Part 2 of an article previously posted on April 2, 2015.

This ecoregion is between the Coast Ranges and North-Central Rocky Mountains and is in the rain shadow of the Coast Ranges. It is drained by the Thompson River and Okanagan Lake. Many areas support grassland and near-desert vegetation, especially in the large river valleys. Vegetation ranges from alpine areas to forest and grassland. In the valley bottoms, grassland and ponderosa pine-bluebrush wheatgrass-sagebrush vegetation is common. In higher areas, lodgepole pine, quaking aspen, white spruce, and Douglas-fir may be found. This is Part 2 of an earlier entry dated April 2, 2015.

Two regions of note are Important Bird Areas. Douglas Plateau (N50°20’ W120°14’) is an area of bunchgrass and marshy lakes that serves as a major migration corridor for waterfowl. Also notable are the sandhill crane, flammulated owl, and burrowing owl. The site is designated an Important Bird Area and is along and to the east of Route 5A between Kamloops and Nicola Lake. South Thompson River is an Important Bird Area between Little Shuswap Lake (N50°50’ W119°41’) and Kamloops Lake (N50°43’ W120°3’). The river is adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 1) for most of this length. The river supports wintering trumpeter swan and tundra swan. Banana Island Provincial Park, Pritchard Provincial Park, and Monte Creek Provincial Park are included in the IBA.

This ecoregion’s highlights include unique topography such as a matterhorn at Dunn Peak, waterfalls and natural tunnels at Eaken Creek Canyon, 850-m cliffs at Enderby Cliffs, cliffs and canyons at Lac du Bois, and lava flows at Bonaparte. Emar Lakes features a circular canoe circuit, and Buse Lake is an alkaline water feature attracting American avocet. Important fossil beds are at McAbee. More detailed descriptions of these areas follow. All sites listed are in British Columbia.

Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park (N50˚41’ W120˚18’) is operated by the Secwepemc Nation (also called Shushwap Nation) off Route 5 on the north side of the South Thompson River in Kamloops. The museum is on the site of a 2,000-year-old winter village and contains ethnobotanical gardens.

Arrowstone Provincial Park (N50°52’ W121°16’) is 6,153-ha of dry grassland and old growth Douglas-fir forest managed as a wilderness area. The watershed of Arrowstone Creek is within the park. Access is via the Battle Creek Forest Road east of Cache Creek.

Mount Baldy Trail, Columbia Shuswap Regional District (N50°53’ W119°31’) is west of Sorrento on the Trans-Canada Highway and provides overlooks of Shuswap Lake from a mountain to the south. The trail length is 2.8 km.

Banana Island Provincial Park (N50°44’ W119°46’) is a 10-ha island in the South Thompson River used for waterfowl nesting. Vegetation is ponderosa pine forest. The adjacent river is known for salmon spawning. The park is part of the South Thompson Important Bird Area.

Blind Bay-White Lake Trail System, Columbia Shuswap Regional District (N50°53’ W119°20’) is a recreational trail system between the arms of Shuswap Lake, providing lake overlooks from nearby mountains. Trailheads are at Balmoral and MacArthur Heights.

Buck Hills Road Ecological Reserve (N50˚9’ W118˚59’) is 16 ha, 11 km south of Lumby, and features a stand of western larch along with large weathered granite boulders.

Bonaparte Provincial Park (N51⁰9’ W120⁰29’) is 11,811 ha noted for prominent lava flows south of Bare Lake; these originate from volcanic features at Skoatl Point and Stockton Hill. The park has 50 lakes with wetlands and riparian areas. The park is accessed via Westsyde Road and Jamieson Creek Road north from Kamloops.

Buse Lake Protected Area (N50°37’ W120°2’) is a 228-ha site surrounding an alkaline lake that attracts shorebirds such as the American avocet. To the south, a hiking trail leads to Buse Hill, which features 200-m cliffs.

Campbell-Brown Ecological Reserve (N50˚10’ W119˚22’) is 107 ha along Route 97 south of Vernon, overlooking Kalmalka Lake. It was established to protect a forest transitional between Douglas fir and ponderosa pine.

Kenna Cartwright Park, City of Kamloops (N50˚29’ W118˚27’) is 800 ha on Mount Dufferin, providing panoramic views of the city and the Thompson River valley. There are 41 km of hiking and mountain biking trails.

Chu Chua Cottonwood Provincial Park (N51⁰20’ W120⁰10’) is a large floodplain island in the North Thompson River with old growth cottonwood and other riparian cottonwood-spruce-willow-hazelnut forests about 80 km north of Kamloops. Access is by boat, but the area is near Route 5.

Cougar Canyon Ecological Reserve (N50˚9’ W119˚19’) is a 553-ha canyon with a chain of six lakes formed by glacial meltwater. It is surrounded by Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park.  It was established to provide a representative example of an interior Douglas-fir forest ecosystem.

Dewdrop-Rousseau Wildlife Management Area (N50°48’ W120°39’) includes 5,757 ha on the north shore of Kamloops Lake about 25 km west of Kamloops. The area of grasslands and open forests is managed as winter range for mule deer and bighorn sheep. It is adjacent to Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area and Tranquille Ecological Reserve on the east and Painted Bluffs Provincial Park on the west.

Lac Du Bois Grasslands Protected Area (N50°46’ W120°28’) is a 15,712-ha area adjacent to the north side of Kamloops. Features are Mara Hill, Wheeler Mountain, Deep Lake, Long Lake, the Tranquille River, and Opax Hill. Four trails with a combined length of 26 km lead to cliffs, canyons, and hoodoos. Also in the protected area are glacial features including hummocky terrain, eskers, and potholes. Vegetation ranges from cactus and sagebrush at lower elevations to ponderosa pines and grassland at higher elevations, to aspen and Douglas-fir at the highest points. Wildflowers such as balsamroot are in flower in early June. Notable wildlife includes bighorn sheep. An adjacent Nature Conservancy Preserve includes 2,342 acres centered on Lac du Boise (N50°48’ W120°27’).  McQueen Creek Ecological Reserve (N50°49’ W120°20’) is a 35-ha portion in the northeast area of the Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area, protecting a representative middle elevation grassland.

Dunn Peak Protected Area is 19,350 ha between the North Thompson River near Little Fort (N51˚30’ W120˚10’) in the Okanagan dry forests ecoregion and Harper Creek (N51˚29’ W119˚51’) in the North-Central Rockies forest ecoregion. In between is Dunn Peak, a 2,634-m-high matterhorn and the highest peak in the vicinity. Notable features are old growth forests, lakes, tarns, and swamps. Most of the park is wilderness without trails, but the park also includes large islands in the North Thompson River along Route 5.

Eakin Creek Canyon Provincial Park (N51⁰27’ W120⁰14’) is a 10-ha narrow canyon with an 8-m scenic waterfall, natural tunnels, and rock outcrops. In the canyon are large cottonwoods, cedars, and Douglas-fir trees. Access is from Route 24 west of Little Fort.

Eakin Creek Floodplain Provincial Park (N51⁰28’ W120⁰19’) is 126 ha of red cedar, cottonwood, oak fern, and lady fern, along with old-growth Douglas-fir. Talus slopes include ice caves and rock outcrops. The park is accessible via a road off Route 24, 15 km west of Little Fort and the junction with Route 5.

Echo Lake Provincial Park (N50˚12’ W118˚43’) is 154 ha accessed by a 20-km gravel road southeast from Lumby. The park provides lakeside recreation, and there are two cabin resorts in the area. South of Echo Lake is Denison-Bonneau Provincial Park (N50˚9’ W118˚44’), which has no facilities.

Elephant Hill Provincial Park (N50˚45’ W121˚17’) is 995 ha on both sides of Route 97C between Cache Creek and Ashcroft. Elephant Hill to the west of Route 97C and Rattlesnake Hill to the east are grassland areas and some of the driest habitats in the province. Portions of the grasslands were not grazed in the past.

Ellison Provincial Park (N50˚12’ W119˚26’) is 220 ha of rocky headlands on the northeastern shore of Okanagan Lake. There are 6 km of trails within the ponderosa pine-Douglas fir forests and grassland in the Okanagan landscape, along with a campground and lakeside recreation activities.

Emar Lakes Provincial Park (N51⁰29’ W120⁰23’) is 1,604 ha of wilderness lakes, potholes, and wetlands adjacent to Route 24 west of Little Fort. The chain of lakes in the park allows a circular canoe route with short portages. Major lakes are Long Island Lake in the northwest, Emar Lake in the center, and Richard Lake in the north-central portion of the park. The Hudson’s Bay Company Brigade historic trail crosses the park.

Enderby Cliffs Provincial Park (N50˚35’ W119˚4’) is 2,300 ha off of Route 97A at Enderby. The 850-m-high cliffs overlook the Shuswap River in the Okanagan Valley. The Tplaquin Trail leads to the summit via a 6.5-km route.

Epsom Provincial Park (N50˚34’ W121˚18’) is 102 ha adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 1) between Ashcroft and Spences Bridge. The site is in the valley of the Thompson River and provides access to the river by crossing a railroad track. Vegetation is sagebrush and grassland, along with cottonwood and willow in riparian areas.

Fintry Provincial Park and Protected Area (N50˚8’ W119˚30’) is 3,500 ha on Westside Road about 35 km north of Kelowna. Included in the park are an early 20th century agricultural estate and a scenic gorge along Shorts Creek. A number of buildings are preserved from the estate, including the manor house, gatekeepers house, packing house, and octagonal barns. The protected area includes waterfalls along the creek and bighorn sheep habitat.

Graystokes Provincial Park is 12,000 ha accessed by unpaved roads south from Lumby or east from Kelowna. The park extends from Harris Lake in the north (N50˚5’ W118˚51’) to Mount Moore in the south (N49˚52’ W118˚50’). Forests are old growth subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce, and the park includes a complex of swamps and meadows.

Greenstone Mountain Provincial Park (N50˚37’ W120˚39’) is 98 ha of high elevation grassland and sagebrush, accessible by road 20 km southwest of Kamloops. The summit provides panoramic views of the Thompson Valley.

Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park (N50°55’ W119°38’) is 1,000 ha located 5 km north of Squilax on the Squilax-Anglemont Road. The park is one of the world’s great natural areas, known for the largest sockeye salmon run in North America, with millions of fish in the Adams River. The salmon run is in early October. There are 26 miles of trails, which follow the Adams River and pass rapids and waterfalls.

R.J. Haney Heritage Village, City of Salmon Arm (N50˚29’ W118˚27’), is located at the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 1) and Route 97B east of Salmon Arm. The 40-acre park includes historic structures such as a 1910 farmhouse.

Hat Creek Ranch Provincial Historic Site (N50°53’ W121°25’) is in Cache Creek on Route 99 just west of Route 97. The living history site has a roadhouse dating to the 1860s and used by gold rush travelers, a native Shuswap village and stagecoach rides.

Herald Provincial Park (N50˚47’ W119˚12’) is 80 ha on the Salmon Arm of Shuswap Lake. There are three campgrounds, and a trail leads to Margaret Falls and a canyon upstream. The park is 14 km from Tappan on the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 1). The park is also the trailhead for the Reinecker Creek Trail of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, which switchbacks up a mountain to views of Shuswap Lake and offers 20 kms of trails.

High Lakes Basin Provincial Park (51⁰23’ W120⁰25’) is 560 ha of Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir habitat on the Nehalliston Plateau. Features are High Lake and Higher Lake, which have a wild trout population.

Isobel Lake Interpretive Forest, Recreation Sites and Trails BC (N50°51’ W120°25’), is a 2,700-ha tract to the north of Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area, operated by School District 73. The area offers lakeside recreation, hiking, and mountain biking. Access is from Lac du Bois Road north of Kamloops.

Lake Le Jeune Provincial Park (N50˚29’ W120˚28’) consists of 180 ha of spruce-fir and riparian habitats on the Coquihalla Highway (Route 5) south of Kamloops. The park provides lakeside recreation and is famous for fighting rainbow trout. The Gus Johnson Trail circles the lake for 8 km, and the park also is trailhead for the 45-km Stake Lake Trail system to the east.

Juniper Creek Provincial Park (N50°47’ W121°5’) is 260 ha on the Trans-Canada Highway (Routes 1-97) 20 km east of Cache Creek. Vegetation is sagebrush, cactus, and juniper. The site provides access to the Thompson River.

Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park (N50˚12’ W119˚15’) is 4,200 ha of grassland and ponderosa pine forests on the east side of Kalamalka Lake. There are unique cliff and wetland habitats. Located off Route 6 at Coldstream, the park is noted for wildflowers.

Kekuli Bay Provincial Park (N50˚11’ W119˚20’) is a campground and lakeside recreation park on a 57-ha site on the west side of Kalamalka Lake. It is adjacent to Route 97 and a railroad.

Kingfisher Creek Provincial Park and Ecological Reserve (N50˚48’ W118˚47’) is 1,900 ha of subalpine parkland at the transition between the drier Okanagan region and wetter North-Central Rockies. It is accessible by foot and is 14 km east of Sicamous.

Kingfisher Interpretive Centre (N50°36’ W118°50’) is a non-profit salmon hatchery and environmental education center on Mabel Lake Road 25 km east of Enderby.

Lily Pad Lake Ecological Reserve (N50˚8’ W118˚58’) is an undisturbed highland lake and bog about 12.5 km south of Lumby.

Truman Dagnus Locheed Provincial Park (N50˚13’ W119˚22’) is a small undeveloped park in the Okanagan Landing area of the city of Vernon, overlooking Okanagan Lake.

Cariboo Mountains

Part K of North Central Rocky Mountain Forests

A temperate Eocene paleontological site, the grand canyon of the Fraser, and extinct volcanoes

The Cariboo Mountains of British Columbia provide the concluding discussion for North Central Rocky Mountain forests.

Tommie Archie Lake Trail (N51⁰56’ W120⁰31’), BC Sites and Trails, is a 1.3-km trail on Pendleton Road north of Wells Gray Provincial Park.

Blue River Black Spruce Provincial Park, British Columbia (N52°8’ W119°16’) is 175 ha on the North Thompson River at the town of Blue River on the Yellowhead Highway (Route 5). Sandbars and meanders on the North Thompson River support the southernmost occurrences of black spruce as well as rare insectivorous plants like sundew.

Blue River Pine Provincial Park, British Columbia (N52°7’ W119°17’), is 26 ha on the Blue River near its confluence with the North Thompson River. It is adjacent to the railway in the town of Blue River on the Yellowhead Highway (Route 5). On sandy soils adjacent to the river is an unusual lodgepole pine-Vaccinium vegetation type.

Bowron Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia, is 149,205 ha east of Wells and is known for a world-class canoe circuit involving 12 lakes, 6 portages for 11 km, and 6 to 10 days. The complete circuit is 116 km, starting and ending at Bowron Lake. The north end of the park is at the Wolverine River headwaters (N53°26’ W121°1’), the northwest end is at Bowron Lake (N53°16’ W121°24’), the southwest end is at the Cariboo River downstream from Cariboo Falls (N53°0’ W121°5’), and the southeast end is at the Cariboo River headwaters (N53°0’ W120°35’).  Major points on the canoe circuit are Bowron Lake (N53°15’ W121°24’), the portage of Kibbee Lake (N53°16’ W121°20’), the portage to Indianpoint Lake (N53°16’ W121°16’), the portage of Isaac Lake (N53°18’ W121°11’), two portages around waterfalls along the Isaac River (N53°6’ W120°48’), McLeary Lake (N53°5’ W120°47’), the Cariboo River to Lanezi Lake (N53°4’ W120°51’), Sandy Lake (N53°2’ W121°4’), Unna Lake and the trail to Cariboo Falls (N53°3’ W121°10’), Babcock Lake (N53°5’ W121°11’), Skoi Lake (N53°6’ W121°13’), Spectacle Lakes (N53°7’ W121°13’), Swan Lake (N53°9’ W121°17’), and the Bowron River (N53°12’ W121°19’).

Caligata Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia (N51⁰44’ W119⁰50’) is a 153-ha north-facing cirque basin on Raft Mountain, with a lake, bogs, fens, and floristic diversity. The site is reached by trail from Spahats Creek Road.

Canim Beach Provincial Park, British Columbia (N51⁰49’ W120⁰52’) is a 6-ha pebble beach on a large lake surrounded by Douglas fir forests. It is east of 100-Mile House off of Route 97.

Cariboo Mountains Provincial Park, British Columbia, is 113,470 ha and includes the watersheds of the Matthew River, Mitchell River, and Niagara Creek. It is noted for serrated peaks and glaciers. The northwestern end is west of the Matthew River (N53°1’ W120°59’) and the eastern end is at the headwaters of Niagara Creek (N52°53’ W120°9’). The southern portion extends almost to the Clearwater River (N52°34’ W120°19’) in Wells Gray Provincial Park. Together with Wells Gray and Bowron Lake Provincial Parks, the area is managed for mountain caribou, grizzly bear, and bull trout. The main entrance and activity area is Ghost Lake (N52°56’ W120°52’).

Cariboo River Provincial Park, British Columbia, is a linear park of 3,210 ha extending along the Cariboo River from Kimball Lake (N52°58’ W121°11’) downstream to Cariboo Lake (N52°47’ W121°18’). The river flows through the Quesnel Highlands and the upper end is reached by driving 70 km east of Barkerville on 3100 Road. The lower end at Cariboo Lake is reached by driving 90 km north of Likely on 8400 Road.

Cedar Point Provincial Park, British Columbia (N52°35’ W121°32’) is 8 ha located 6 km south of Lively on Quesnel Lake. Old growth cedar is within the park.

Erg Mountain Provincial Park, British Columbia (N53°34’ W120°55’) is 1,010 ha in size and reached from Route 16 about 5 km west of Crescent Spur. A 7.5-km trail ascends to the peak, climbing 5,000 feet in elevation to reach the alpine area. The park also includes old growth cedar-hemlock forests.

Finn Creek Provincial Park, British Columbia (N51°54’ W119°19’), is 300 ha on the North Thompson River north of Avola and along the Yellowhead Highway (Route 5). A braided creek enters the river at this point, providing a good location for salmon spawning.

Hendrix Creek Falls Trail (N51⁰57’ W120⁰41’), BC Sites and Trails, is a short trail to a 20-m waterfall on Canim-Hendrix Lake Road.

Horsefly Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia (N52°23’ W121°17’) is 150 ha of old growth cedar and Douglas fir on the north shore of Horsefly Lake. The park is reached from 150-Mile House by taking the road to Horsefly and continuing 13 km north. A trail leads to an overlook of the lake. The nearby Horsefly River is known for its paleontological value. The Eocene Epoch lake sediments (50 million years old) contain high resolution fish, insects, plants, pollen and diatoms. Details include color patterns. The flora was temperate, which is unusual for Eocene sites, which tend to be tropical (British Columbia Paleontological Alliance, 2016).

Jackman Flats Provincial Park, British Columbia (N52°56’ W119°23’), is 615 ha on Route 5 north of Valemont. There are 100 sand dunes in this unique ecosystem. Four hiking trails interpret the area.

Mica Mountain Trail (N52⁰6’ W120⁰21’), BC Sites and Trails, is north of Spanish Lake near the western boundary of Wells Gray Provincial Park.

Ptarmigan Creek Provincial Park and Protected Area, British Columbia (N53°29’ W120°53’) is 4,630 ha surrounding the entire watershed of a narrow steep-walled valley. An 11-km trail leads from a trailhead off Route 16 about 5 km west of Crescent Spur.

Pyramid Creek Falls Provincial Park, British Columbia (N52˚21’ W119˚10’), is a 13-ha area surrounding a waterfall that exits a hanging valley and enters the North Thompson River. The waterfall is viewed from Route 5 about 30 km north of Blue River.

Lower Raush Protected Area (N53˚9’ W120˚2’) is 1,280 ha, and Upper Raush Protected Area, British Columbia (N52˚58’ W119˚58’) is 5,580 ha; both parks are along the Raush River, a tributary to the Fraser River south of Route 16 (Yellowhead Highway). Both areas are within a pristine watershed of alpine and subalpine habitats used by the mountain goat and grizzly bear.

Slim Creek Provincial Park, British Columbia (N53°46’ W121°11’) is 500 ha on Route 16 about 110 km east of Prince George. An old growth cedar-hemlock forest is in the Rocky Mountain trench at this point.

Sugarbowl-Grizzly Den Provincial Park and Protected Area, British Columbia, is 24,765 ha at the north end of the North Central Rockies Forests along Route 16. The Grand Canyon of the Fraser River (N53°56’ W121°39’) is at the north end of the park and Grizzly Den, which is part of a loop hike, is at the southern end (N53°44’ W121°33’). Trails also lead to Sugarbowl Mountain (N53°51’ W121°39’).

North Thompson Oxbows East Provincial Park (N52˚29’ W119˚15’), is a 293-ha area along the North Thompson River about 6 km west of Route 5. The park includes floodplain wetlands and old growth hybrid spruce and subalpine fir.

North Thompson Oxbows Manteau Provincial Park, British Columbia (N52˚29’ W119˚19’) is a 515-ha area along the North Thompson River about 10 km west of Route 5. The park includes floodplain wetlands.

Three Sisters Lakes Provincial Park, British Columbia (N53°32’ W122°31’) is 970 ha at the northern end of the north-central Rockies Forests. In addition to three lakes in a circular pattern, there is a canyon along Government Creek.

Mount Tinsdale Ecological Reserve, British Columbia (N53°1’ W121°16’) is 420 ha east of Barkerville but not accessible by road. It protects the alpine summit of Mount Tinsdale in the Quesnel Highlands, with undisturbed subalpine, alpine, and cirque topography.

Wells-Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia, is 541,515 ha, with several extinct volcanoes, 39 waterfalls, large lakes, springs, glaciers, and alpine meadows. The park extends from the Clearwater River near Route 5 (N51˚40’ W120˚4’) north to Mount Sir Wilford Lourier (N52˚53’ W120˚8’), and from Canim Lake in the west (N51˚52’ W120˚37’) to Murtle River (N52˚21’ W119˚29’) in the east. The park includes the entire Clearwater River, Azure River, and Myrtle River watersheds except for the western drainage of the Clearwater (Canim River). The main visitor area is the Clearwater River corridor, which contains a road ending at Clearwater Lake (N52˚8’ W120˚12’). The Clearwater Lake outlet is a waterfall. A boat tour includes Clearwater Lake, which is connected to Azure Lake (N52˚22’ W120˚11’) by a navigable channel. Along the Clearwater River corridor are trails into the backcountry, leading to bluffs, waterfalls including 140-m Helmcken Falls on the Myrtle River (51˚57’ W120˚11’), and volcanic areas such as Spahats Creek waterfall (N51˚44’ W120˚0’) and Trophy Mountain (N51˚49’ W119˚50’), noted for wildflower displays. Pyramid Mountain (N52˚0’ W120˚6’) is a volcano that erupted under a glacier about 10,000 years ago. Kostal Cone (N52˚10’ W119˚57’) erupted about 400 years ago. Murtle Lake (N52˚7’ W119˚39’) is a canoe lake with 100 km of shoreline, accessible from Blue River on Route 5 from the east. Mahood Lake (N51˚53’ W120˚30’) is accessible by road from 100-Mile House on Route 97 from the west. Also accessible from the west is Flourmill Volcano (N52˚3’ W120˚20’), which includes ropy lava flows and an explosion pit accessible by hiking trail. Canim Falls is accessible by trail from the upper end of Canim Lake.

West Twin Provincial Park and Protected Area, British Columbia, is 31,450 ha on both sides of Route 16 west of McBride. It spans the Robson Valley (N53°33’ W120°33’), part of the Rocky Mountain Trench, providing a wildlife migration corridor, and includes the watershed of West Twin Creek to its headwaters (N53°15’ W120°56’).  A trail leads from the Goat River (N53°29’ W120°37’) to Boulder Mountain. Another trail leads to the Ozalenka (N53°17’ W120°26’) and Eagle Valley areas with a trailhead on the Dore River at McBride; reservations are needed with the Ozalenka Mountain Club.

Wire Cache Provincial Park, British Columbia (N51°43’ W119°21’), is a 50-ha area of wetlands on the North Thompson River south of Avola. It is across the river from the Yellowhead Highway (Route 5). The park was named for telegraph wire used in the building of the Canadian National Railway, which is also across the river from the park.

 

North Central Rocky Mountain Forests, Park J: Purcell, Selkirk and Monashee Mountains

World’s greatest alpine rock climbing area, largest sockeye salmon run in North America, and old growth forests

The three mountain ranges to the west of the Continental Divide in British Columbia contain little-known wilderness areas and spectacular scenery. The westernmost range, the Monashee Mountains, transitions into the drier Okanagan region.

Purcell Mountains

Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50°47’ W116°48’) is 13,600 ha and considered one of the world’s great alpine rock climbing areas. The glacier-sculpted granite spires are over 3,000 m in elevation. The park also includes the Bugaboo, Vowell, and Malloy glaciers. It is 50 km west of Brisco via gravel road.

James Chabot Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50°31’ W116°1’) is a 14-ha small beach park in Invermere providing lakeside recreation on Windermere Lake.

Doctor Creek Trail, Recreation Sites and Trails BC (N50⁰2’ W116⁰10’) begins at a trailhead on the Bull River and continues west to the Lizard Range. The trailhead is east of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy and west of Canal Flats.

Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park and Protected Area, British Columbia, is 202,700 ha of pristine mountain terrain between Fairmont Hot Springs and Kootenay Lake. Forests are old growth cedar and hemlock. Access is by trails on the perimeter.  The northernmost point is north of Dutch Creek (N50°21’ W116°13’), the easternmost point is on Skookumchuck Creek (N49°57’ W116°4’), the southernmost point is at Sawtooth Peak (N49°50’ W116°12’), and the westernmost point is on Hamill Creek east of Route 31 (N50°12’ W116°56’). The northern access is from Invermere to Toby Creek (N50°20’ W116°25’), eastern accesses are from Canal Flats to Dutch Creek (N50°15’ W116°11’) or Findlay Creek (N50°10’ W116°11’), southern access is from Kimberley to Dewar Creek (N49°54’ W116°28’), and western accesses are on the east side of Kootenay Lake, accessed from Route 31 at Meadow Creek. These are at Hamill Creek (N50°12’ W116°56’) and Johnson’s Landing-Fry Creek (N50°4’ W116°52’). The latter trail extends 12 km up Fry Creek Canyon to Carney Creek. The Earl Gray Pass Trail is 60 km between Hamill Creek and Toby Creek.  From the southern entrance at Dewars Creek, a trail leads to the Dewars Hot Springs, used by elk, goat, deer, and moose for minerals and nutrients. Rare plants and a rare damselfly are also found in the area.

Thunder Hill Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50˚10’ W115˚51’) is a small 44-ha preserve on Routes 93/95 west of Canal Flats. The site includes forest and grassland typical of the East Kootenay Trench. This park is at the upper (southern end) of Columbia Lake and is approximately the source of the Columbia River.

Windermere Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50°25’ W115°58’) is 200 ha of native grassland on the shoreline used by large populations of ungulates.  It is on Westside Road south of Invermere.

Selkirk Mountains

Arrow Lakes Reservoir, BC Hydro, extends 230 km from Hugh Keenleyside Dam near Castlegar (N49°20’ W117°46’) north to Revelstoke (N51°0’ W118°12’). Lakeside recreation areas include Syringa Creek Provincial Park (N49°21’ W117°54’), Fauquier Park (N49°53’ W118°5’), Burton Historic Park (N50°0’ W117°53’), McDonald Creek Provincial Park (N50°8’ W117°49’), Nakusp Park (N50°15’ W117°49’), Eagle Bay Recreation Site (N50°34’ W117°57’), Arrow Lakes Provincial Park-Shelter Bay site (N50°38’ W117°55’), Akolkolex Falls Recreation Site (N50°50’ W118°2’), Blanket Creek Provincial Park (N50°50’ W118°5’), and Begbie Falls Recreation Site (N50°56’ W118°12’).

Canyon Hot Springs, British Columbia (N51˚8’ W117˚51’) is in Albert Canyon between Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Goat Range Provincial Park, British Columbia, is 78,947 ha of old growth forest and alpine meadows in the Selkirk Mountains. The north end is at Gerrard along the Lardeau River on Route 31 (N50°31’ W117°16’) and the south end is at Wilson Creek (N50°8’ W117°21’). The Gerrard area offers the opportunity to see spawning Gerrard rainbow trout, while the Wilson Creek trail leads to a large waterfall. Other scenic areas are Poplar Lake (N50°17’ W117°18’) and Spyglass Valley. To the west of the park is Hamling Lakes Wildlife Management Area.

Goosegrass Creek Ecological Reserve, British Columbia (N52°0’ W118°15’), is a 2,500-ha undisturbed watershed with old growth forest. It is located on the south side of Kinbasket Lake, Columbia River arm.

Hamling Lakes Wildlife Management Area (N50°16’ W117°31’) is 30,572 ha in the Selkirk Mountains east of Upper Arrow Lake with old growth forest and alpine meadow habitats. It was established to protect the woodland caribou, grizzly, wolverine, bald eagles and other rare wildlife.

Kinbasket (Mica) Lake, BC Hydro, is formed by Mica Dam (N52°4’ W118°34’) on the Columbia River. It includes a long northwestward arm in the Rocky Mountain Trench in the former valley of the Canoe River.

Lew Creek Ecological Reserve, British Columbia (N50°32’ W117°27’) is 815 ha, encompassing the entire watershed of a glacier-fed creek and three ecosystems. Lew Creek originates in a cirque below a glacier on Mount Hadow, and flows through western hemlock-redcedar-yew forests before emptying into Trout Lake.

Martha Creek Provincial Park, British Columbia (N51°9’ W118°12’), is 71 ha on Lake Revelstoke. The location is 20 km north of Revelstoke on Route 23. It provides reservoir recreation opportunities.

McDonald Creek Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50°8’ W117°49’) is 468 ha on Route 6 adjacent to Arrow Lake on the Columbia River, providing reservoir recreation opportunities.

Lake Revelstoke, BC Hydro, is on the Columbia River north of the town of Revelstoke and extends for 130 km upstream to Mica Dam (N52°4’ W118°34’). Martha Creek Provincial Park (N51°9’ W118°12’) provides lakeside recreation. There is a visitor center at the Revelstoke Dam (N51°3’ W118°12’).

Rosebery Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50°2’ W117°24’) is 32 ha with a campground on Wilson Creek near its confluence with Slocan Lake, just off Route 6. It is between Goat Range and Valhalla Provincial Parks and also is in a valley of hot springs.

Summit Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50°9’ W117°39’) is 6 ha on Summit Lake on Route 6 southeast of Nakusp. The park is important for western toad migration and breeding. Mountain goats may be seen on the 500-m-high slopes of the nearby Nakusp Range.

Monashee Mountains

Adams Lake Provincial Park is north of the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 1) at Squilax. The Bush Creek site (N50°59’ W119°44’) is 100 ha on the southwest side of Adams Lake on the Holdings/Adams Lake West Road and provides lakeside recreation opportunities. The Spillman Beaches site (N51°8’ W119°36’) is 170 ha accessed by boat only.  The Poplar Point site (N51°12’ W119°32’) is 32 ha to the north of Spillman Beaches, also accessible only by water on the east side of Adams Lake.

Upper Adams River Provincial Park extends for 65 km from Adams Lake to north of TumTum Lake, protecting old growth floodplain forests and salmon spawning habitat. North of TumTum Lake, the park is known for its abundant lichen flora. The area of the park is 5,730 ha; the south end is at Adams Lake (N51˚24’ W119˚27’) and the north end is north of TumTum Lake (N51˚56’ W119˚6’). Access is by logging roads east from Route 5.

Anstey-Hunakwa Provincial Park (N51°8’ W118°55’), is 6,850 ha on the Anstey Arm of Shuswap Lake, accessible only by boat. The large park includes old growth cedar forests and a trail to Hunakwa Lake. Lakeside recreation opportunities are available at Rendezvous Picnic site (N51°5’ W118°56’), Anstey Arm West (N51°5’ W118°55’), Anstey Beach (N51°8’ W118°54’), Four Mile Creek (N51°5’ W118°54’), and Wright Creek (N51°8’ W119°0’), former Shuswap Lake Provincial Park sites now included in this park.

Arrow Lakes Provincial Park (N50°38’ W117°55’), is 21 ha of beaches and rocky headlands at the Shelter Bay Ferry terminal on Upper Arrow Lake. Route 23 crosses the lake at this point.

Blanket Creek Provincial Park (N50°50’ W118°5’) is 318 ha on Route 23 on Upper Arrow Lake. Near the campground is Sutherland Falls, a 12-m drop on Blanket Creek.

Cinnemousun Narrows Provincial Park (N51˚0’ W119˚0’), is 740 ha at the junction of the four arms of Shushwap Lake. The park is accessible by water only and has walk-in campsites and a hiking trail.

Dunn Peak Protected Area is 19,350 ha between the North Thompson River near Little Fort (N51˚30’ W120˚10’) in the Okanagan dry forests ecoregion and Harper Creek (N51˚29’ W119˚51’) in the North-Central Rockies forest ecoregion. In between is Dunn Peak, a 2,634-m-high matterhorn and the highest peak in the vicinity. Notable features are old growth forests, lakes, tarns, and swamps. Most of the park is wilderness without trails, but the park also includes large islands in the North Thompson River along Route 5.

Eagle River Provincial Park is a riparian corridor along the Trans-Canada Highway between Sicamous and Revelstoke. It is along the Eagle River from near Taft (N50˚56’ W118˚45’) downstream to Malakwa (N50˚58’ W118˚32’).

English Lake Provincial Park (N50˚55’ W118˚20’) is 337 ha south of the Trans-Canada Highway and west of Revelstoke.

Foster Arm Protected Area, British Columbia (N52°17’ W118°35’) is a 1,000-ha area on Kinbasket Lake with interior cedar hemlock forests.

Greenbush Lake Protected Area, British Columbia (N50˚47’ W118˚18’) is 2,800 ha of old growth cedar, hemlock and subalpine fir and protects grizzly bear and mountain caribou habitat. It is reached via the Sugar Lake Road north of Cherryville on Route 6.

Mount Griffin Provincial Park and Ecological Reserve, British Columbia (N50˚54’ W118˚34’) is 3,000 ha south of the Trans-Canada Highway at Three Valley.  Access is via the Yard Creek Forest Service Road.  The park protects Caribou and Wap Lakes, while the ecological reserve provides a transect from valley bottom to alpine meadow. Douglas-fir and western hemlock forests predominate at lower elevations, and subalpine fir is at higher elevations.

Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50°55’ W119°38’) is 1,000 ha located 5 km north of Squilax on the Squilax-Anglemont Road. The park is known for the largest sockeye salmon run in North America, with millions of fish in the Adams River. The salmon run is in early October.  Peak salmon runs are on a four-year cycle, with 2018 and 2022 being dominant years with the most fish. There are 26 miles of trails, which follow the Adams River and pass rapids and waterfalls.

Harbour-Dudgeon Lakes Provincial Park, British Columbia, (N51°34’ W119°10’), is 375 ha in area, which surrounds a series of lakes on Harbour Creek, a tributary to the Adams River. It is reached by logging roads from Adams Lake. The park includes old growth spruce and cedar-hemlock around Harbour Lake, along with moose and caribou.

Herald Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50˚47’ W119˚12’), is 80 ha on the Salmon Arm of Shushwap Lake. There are three campgrounds, and a trail leads to Margaret Falls and a canyon upstream. The park is 14 km from Route 1 (Trans-Canada Highway).

Kingfisher Creek Provincial Park and Ecological Reserve, British Columbia (N50˚48’ W118˚47’), is 1,900 ha of subalpine parkland at the transition between the drier Okanagan region and wetter North-Central Rockies forests. It is accessible by foot and is 14 km east of Sicamous.

Momich Lakes Provincial Park, British Columbia (N51˚20’ W119˚22’), is 1,850 ha to the east of the north end of Adams Lake, accessible by gravel logging roads. The park includes the most northerly occurrence of western larch in British Columbia.

Monashee Provincial Park, British Columbia, is 22,722 ha of a wilderness hiking park with old growth subalpine fir, Douglas-fir, cedar, and hemlock forests; alpine meadows, and glacial cirques. A herd of mountain caribou roams the area. The western portion is along the Shuswap River (N50˚31’ W118˚26’), the southern portion is along Bill Fraser Creek (N50˚26’ W118˚14’), and the northeastern portion is along Vigue Creek (N50˚38’ W118˚11’) The highest point is Mount Fosthall (N50˚29’ W118˚16’), and there are other peaks reaching 3,000 m in height. Access is from Cherryville on Route 6, via Sugar Creek Road and Spectrum Creek Road. A noncontiguous portion of the park is at Rainbow Falls on Spectrum Creek (N50˚29’ W118˚27’). From Spectrum Creek trailhead, a trail provides the main access into the park. Sol Mountain Lodge (N50˚27’ W118˚11’) provides lodging near the park on the southeast.

Moonraker Recreation Area, Columbia Shuswap Regional District, British Columbia (N51°15’ W116°59’), includes a trailhead at Cedar Lake Recreation Site and 50 km of trails west of Golden.

Mud Lake Delta Provincial Park, British Columbia (N52˚7’ W119˚9’) is 500 ha of floodplain wetlands east of Blue River off of State Route 5. The site is accessible by canoe via the North Thompson and Mud Rivers.

North Fork Wild Park, Columbia Shuswap Regional District, British Columbia (N51°0’ W118°42’) is on Avoca Road off of the Trans-Canada Highway north of Craigellachie and west of Revelstoke. The 51-acre preserve features a network of trails through old growth cedar and hemlock in the North Fork Perry River canyon, which is fed by glacial meltwaters.

Pukeashun Provincial Park, British Columbia (N51˚12’ W119˚15’), is 1,800 ha of alpine and subalpine areas, wetlands, tundra, and a high elevation pass, located 42 km north of Scotch Creek and Sushwap Lake.

Scotch Creek Hlina Trail, Columbia Shuswap Regional District, BC (N50°57’ W119°25’), features a trail to views of Shushwap Lake to the south. It is reached from the town of Scotch Creek on the north shore of Shuswap Lake.

Upper Seymour River Provincial Park, British Columbia, includes the headwaters of the Seymour River (N51°42’ W118°58’) and extends downstream to 40 km north of the town of Seymour Arm (N51°25’ W118°54’). The park includes glaciers, tundra, old growth interior western cedar and hemlock forests, and subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce forests. The park is reached by gravel road from Seymour Arm.  The access road passes a short trail to 40-foot Seymour River Falls (N51°17’ W118°54’).

Silver Beach Provincial Park, British Columbia (N51°14’ W118°58’), is on the Seymour Arm of Shuswap Lake. The 130-ha park includes camping areas and the remains of a historic gold rush town. It is reached by an 80-km drive by turning off the Trans-Canada Highway at Squilax.

Shuswap Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50°54’ W119°26’), is 150 ha and consists of a campground and beach providing lakeside recreation. Copper Island (N50°55’ W119°24’) is also included in the park. The park is accessible by road from Squilax on Route 1 (Trans-Canada Highway).

An additional 900 ha of park areas are along the four arms of Shuswap Lake. On the east-west trending main arm are the St. Ives (N50˚59’ W119˚6’) and Horseshoe Bay (N50˚59’ W119˚7’) sites, both on the north shore. On the southwest-trending Salmon Arm are the Herald Provincial Park, described separately, and the Aline Hill (N50°57’ W119°2’), Tillis Beach (N50°55’ W119°5’), Hermit Bay (N50°54’ W119°5’), Paradise Point (N50°48’ W119°10’), Hungry Cove (N50°52’ W119°3’), Marble Point (N50°55’ W119°2’), and Swall  (N50°58’ W118°59’) sites. Marble Point features marble outcrops and a trail.

On the northeast-trending Anstey Arm are the Twin Bays (N51°3’ W118°58’), Anstey View (N51°1’ W119°0’), and Roberts Bay (N51°2’ W118°57’) sites. On the north trending Seymour Arm are the Silver Beach Provincial Park, described separately, and the Albas (N51°12’ W119°0’), Two Mile Creek (N51°10’ W119°2’),  Encounter Point (N51°8’ W119°2’), Woods Landing (N51°4’ W119°3’), Woods Landing South (N51°3’ W119°4’), Nielsen Beach (N51°1’ W119°2’), Cottonwood Beach (N51°5’ W119°1’), Beach Bay (N51°10’ W119°0’), Bughouse Bay (N51°14’ W118°55’), and Fowler Point (N51°14’ W118°59’) sites. The Albas site has trails to waterfalls along Celesta Creek. On nearby Mara Lake is the Mara Point site (N50˚48’ W118˚59’).

Upper Shuswap Ecological Reserve, British Columbia (N50˚40’ W118˚21’) is 70 ha of old growth western red cedar along the Shuswap River about 50 km north of Cherryville, via Sugar Lake Road.

Victor Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50˚57’ W118˚24’) is 15 ha on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Revelstoke; however, no public access or facilities are constructed.

Wap Creek Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50˚44’ W118˚35’), is at the upper end of Mabel Lake in the transition between the Okanagan and North-Central Rockies ecoregions.

White Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50˚54’ W119˚14’), is 266 ha on the shoreline of White Lake, reached from Balmoral on the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 1). The lake is known as a rainbow trout fishing area. The park provides habitat for the western painted turtle. Rare plants are found in calcareous clay wetlands at the upper end of the lake.

Wild Rose Bay Park, Columbia Shuswap Regional District, BC (N50°58’ W119°6’), is on the south shore of Shuswap Lake and features a trail to a scenic shoreline view of the lake.

Yard Creek Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50˚54’ W118˚49’) is a 175-ha camping and hiking park on the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 1) east of Sicamous. The Eagle River Nature Trail Network is on the north side of the highway, and the campground is on the south. The cedar and hemlock forests are noted for the presence of American dipper along the Eagle River. The park also provides spawning for the most westerly natural population of the westslope cutthroat trout, and spawning for salmon.

 

North Central Rockies Forests, Part I: Continental Divide Ranges

Mount Assiniboine, Hamber, and Mount Robson Provincial Parks are described under World Heritage Sites. Parks are grouped according to the mountain range where they are located. The easternmost areas along the Alberta-British Columbia boundary are in the Continental Divide ranges. Sites in the Rocky Mountain Trench area also included in this area. Between the Columbia headwaters and Kootenay Lake-Duncan River trench are the Purcell Mountains. Between Kootenay Lake and Columbia River are the Selkirk Mountains, and west of the Columbia are the Monashee Mountains. Parks between the North Thompson River and the Fraser River are in the Cariboo Mountains

1. Sites of the Rocky Mountain Front (Alberta) south of Banff

Beehive Natural Area, Alberta (south end N50°0′ W114°38′, north end N50°7′ W114°43′), is 16,640 acres of alpine tundra, cliffs, and old growth spruce. The Oldman River is the north and eastern boundary.

Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park is 12,720 ha in the transition zone between the North Central Rockies forests and Alberta-British Columbia Foothills forests. The park surrounds the Sheep River Provincial Park, which maintains the trailheads of the Sheep River trails system and Sandy McNab trails system. The easternmost point is on the Sheep River at Long Prairie Creek (N50°38′ W114°28′), the southernmost point is near Junction Mountain (N50°33′ W114°41′), the westernmost point is at Bluerock Mountain (N50°41′ W114°50′), and the northernmost point is on Death Valley Creek (N50°42′ W114°33′). Major park trails are the Bluerock Creek Trail, Gorge Creek Trail, Mount McNabb Trail, Price Camp trail, and Death Valley Trail.

Bob Creek Wildland Provincial Park extends from the Oldman River in the south (N49°51′ W114°21′) to Chaffen Ridge in the north (N50°5′ W114°19′). Whaleback Ridge is the eastern boundary. The montane and subalpine ranges provide elk range. There are OHV trails crossing the area.

Bow Valley Provincial Park includes campgrounds, picnic areas and hiking trails along the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 1), Route 1A, and Route 40, all east of Canmore. Areas along Route 1 include, from west to east, Bow River Campground (N51°4′ W115°19′), Three Sisters, Lac Des Arcs, Whitefish, Middle Lake, and Willow Rock Campground (N51°5′ W115°4′). Along Route 1A, areas from west to east are Old Camp (N51°4′ W115°17′), Gap Lake (N51°3′ W115°14′), and Grotto Mountain (N51°4′ W115°12′). Areas along Route 40 include, from south to north, Mount Lorette Ponds (N50°58′ W115°7′), Barrier Lake and Dam (N51° 2′ W115°3′), and Canoe Meadows (N51°3′ W115°1′). The Barrier Lake Visitor Information Centre is also along Route 40.

Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park includes four separate areas with a total area of 37,370 ha, three to the north of the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 1), and one to the south. The park includes lands in the Alberta Mountain forests and North-Central Rockies forests ecoregions. The south unit includes Mount Butler (N50°55′ W115°15′) in the south, Mount Rundle (N51°8′ W115°27′) in the northwest, and Jewell Pass (N51°3′ W115°6′) in the northeast. It is bordered by Banff National Park and Spray Valley Provincial Park on the west, Evan-Thomas Provincial Recreation Area, Valley Provincial Park, and Bow Valley Provincial Park on the east, and Bow Valley Provincial Park and Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park on the north. Trails include Prairie View, Jewell Pass, Heart Mountain, Skogan Pass, and Mount Allen. Other notable features in the North-Central Rockies forests portion include Heart Creek Trailhead (N51°3′ W115°9′), Wind Valley trailhead and Spray Falls (N51°2′ W115°15′), and Quaite Valley (N51°3′ W115°7′). The northeastern unit consists of the former Yamnuska Natural Area (N51°6′ W115°7′) including Mount Laurie, and is on Route 1A. The north-central unit is the Bow Valley area along Route 1 (N51°3′ W115°17′), and the northwestern unit (N51°8′ W115°20′) is to the north of Canmore centered on Mount Lady McDonald. It borders Banff National Park and Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park.

Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park is 480 ha in the town of Canmore on the Bow River at the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics. The main ski trails and summer mountain biking trails are at the visitor center site (N51°5′ W115°23′). An additional park site with hiking trails is at Grassi Lake (N51°5′ W115°24′). There are five small tracts along the Bow River extending from Canmore downstream to Route 1 (N51°4′ W115°20′) which are also included in the park.

Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park is 79,998 ha of diverse Rocky Mountain landscapes south of Kananaskis along the Kananaskis River and in the Highwood Valley. The peaks of the Fisher and Opal Ranges dominate the northern portion of the park, which is mostly trail-less. The Elk, Highwood and Misty Ranges are in the southern portions of the park. The southernmost point is at the Lineham Provincial Recreation Area (N50°27′ W114°46′) on Route 40 and the northernmost point is at Barrier Lake (N51°1′ W115°4′), also on Route 40. The park adjoins Bow Valley Provincial Park, Evan-Thomas Provincial Recreation Area, Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park, Spray Valley Provincial Park, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park, Lantern Creek Provincial Recreation Area, and Lineham Provincial Recreation Area. Lantern Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N50°29′ W114°48′) on Route 40 provides a trailhead for Picklejar Lakes in the Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park. Mist Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N50°31′ W114°50′) on Route 40 is the trailhead for access to the Sheep River watershed and trails network. Other trailheads are at Junction Creek on the Sheep River in Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park (N50°36′ W114°44′) on Route 546, Elbow Pass (N50°38′ W115°1′) on Route 40 in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, which provides access to Tombstone backcountry campground, and Little Elbow Provincial Recreation Area (N50°48′ W114°51′) on Route 66, which provides access to Mount Romulus and Tombstone backcountry campgrounds. In the northern portion of the park, the Baldy Pass Trail (N50°59′ W115°1′) climbs from the Kananaskis Valley at Wasootch Creek.

Elbow Valley Provincial Park includes 10 sites along Route 66 west of Calgary in the Rocky Mountain front. Five sites are in the North-Central Rockies forests and five are in Alberta-British Columbia Foothills forests. The visitor center for the park is at Gooseberry.

  • Cobble Flats Provincial Recreation Area (N50°49′ W114°50′) is 91 ha on Route 66 adjoining the Elbow River and Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park.
  • Elbow Falls Provincial Recreation Area (N50°52′ W114°47′) is 96 ha on Route 66 and the Elbow River. It is a trailhead for the Powderface Creek and Prairie Creek trails in the Elbow Valley trail system.
  • Little Elbow Provincial Recreation Area (N50°48′ W114°51′) is 215 ha at the terminus of Route 66 and at the confluence of the Elbow and Little Elbow Rivers. It serves as a campground and trailhead for Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park, Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park (Forget-Me-Not Mountain) and other trails in the Elbow Valley trail system.
  • Ings’ Mine Provincial Recreation Area (N50°54′ W114°48′) is 27 ha on Canyon Creek near Prairie Mountain and provides access to the Elbow Valley trail system.
  • Moose Mountain Trailhead Provincial Recreation Area (N50°54′ W114°47′) is 15 ha providing a trailhead for the 7-km Moose Mountain trail within the Elbow Valley trail system.

Evan-Thomas Provincial Recreation Area (N50°56′ W115°8′) is a 2,570-ha developed park in the Kananaskis River Valley along Route 40. Included in the park are Mount Kidd and Mount Allan. The park is bordered on the west and north by Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park and on the south and southwest by Spray Valley Provincial Park. There are hotels, campgrounds, a ski area, and golf course, along with 60 km of bicycle and hiking trails.

Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park is 62,775 ha in 12 units along the Rocky Mountain front, nine of which are in the North Central Rockies forests ecoregion. The remaining three units are in the Alberta Mountain forests ecoregion. The park is known for blockfields, large, sheet-like expanses of weathered blocks covering bedrock on mountain plateaus and ridges.

  • The westernmost unit stretches along the High Rock and Elk Range at the British Columbia border, between the Oldman River (N50°7′ W114°43′) and Mount Odlum (N50°29′ W114°55′). It includes the trail over Fording River Pass into British Columbia and a trail to Carnarvan Lake accessible from Cat Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N50°25′ W114°43′) on Route 40.
  • Unit south of Mount Livingstone Provincial Park (N50°7′ W114°23′)
  • Unit north of Mount Livingstone Provincial Park surrounding Windy Peak (N50°10′ W114°23′)
  • The unit (N50°19′ W114°34′) surrounding Cataract Creek between Route 940 and the confluence with the Highwood River. A trail leads to Cataract Falls.
  • East of Route 40 and north of Route 541 at Eyrie Gap, a unit includes the southern Highwood Range, Patterson’s Peak, Pyriform Mountain, Mount Head, and Holy Cross Mountain (N50°28′ W114°40′). It adjoins the Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park on the north.
  • The unit including Junction Mountain (N50°33′ W114°39′) is east of Elbow-Sheep Provincial Park and adjoins Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park on its north edge.
  • Unit east of Big Elbow River (N50°46′ W114°48′) adjoins Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park and Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park on its south edge. A trail leads to Forget-Me-Not Ridge, with the deepest known caves in Alberta. Access is from the east at the end of Route 66. The Big Elbow Provincial Recreation Area (N50°43′ W114°52′) is in the southern portion of this section of the park and the Big Elbow Trail continues to Tombstone campground in the Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park.
  • Unit south of Little Elbow River (N50°45′ W114°54′), including Mount Glasgow and surrounded by Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial park on three sides to west.
  • Unit in east Fisher Range and Canyon Creek area (N50°53′ W114°57′); adjoins Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park on its west side.

Ghost/Waiparous Provincial Recreation Area group includes eight sites north of Ghost Lake along Route 40. The sites are in the North Central Rockies forest and Alberta-British Columbia Foothills forest ecoregions. There are two sites in the North Central Rockies forest ecoregion.

  • Ghost Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area (N51°13′ W114°43′) is 24 ha on Route 1A at the Ghost River crossing. It provides lakeside camping and day-use reservoir activities.
  • South Ghost Provincial Recreation Area (N51°19′ W114°57′) is a 7-ha day-use site providing access to off-road vehicle and snowmobile trails.

Highwood Provincial Recreation Area Group consists of 13 sites along Routes 40, 541, and 940 between Cataract Creek and Mist Creek. Most sites offer camping, picnicking, and hiking, with equestrian uses also at selected sites. One site (Greenford) is described in the Canadian Aspen Forests and Parklands ecoregion.

  • Cat Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N50°25′ W114°43′) is on Route 40 north of Highwood Junction and offers a trail to a waterfall to the east or Carnarvan Lake in the Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park to the west.
  • Cataract Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N50°17′ W114°35′) is 53 ha offering a trailhead for Cataract Falls in the Tom Getty Wildland Provincial Park and for Mount Burke south of the park. It is off Route 941 at the Cataract Creek crossing.
  • Etherington Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N50°20′ W114°38′) includes a trailhead for travel to points west. It is on Route 94 south of Highwood Junction.
  • Fitzsimmons Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N50°23′ W114°41′) is 2 ha on Route 40 north of Highwood Junction along the Highwood River.
  • Highwood Provincial Recreation Area (N50°24′ W114°32′) is 30 ha on Route 541 east of Highwood Junction, on the Highwood River.
  • Highwood Junction Provincial Recreation Area (N50°23′ W114°39′) is 6 ha at the junction of Routes 40, 940, and 541 on the Highwood River.
  • Lantern Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N50°29′ W114°48′) is on Route 40 and the Highwood River and provides a trailhead for Picklejar Lakes in the Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park.
  • Lineham Provincial Recreation Area (N50°27′ W114°46′) is on Route 40 and the Highwood River at the southernmost extension of Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park.
  • Mist Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N50°31′ W114°50′) is on Route 40 and the Highwood River adjacent to Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park. A trail along Mist Creek provides access to the Sheep River watershed and trails network.
  • Picklejar Provincial Recreation Area (N50°31′ W114°49′) is 8 ha on Route 40 and Picklejar Creek north of Highwood Junction.
  • Sentinel Provincial Recreation Area (N50°23′ W114°35′) is 15 ha and the trailhead for Grass Pass trail, an area with extensive bunchgrass meadows north of Route 541.
  • Strawberry Provincial Recreation Area (N50°24′ W114°42′) is 46 ha on Route 40 north of Highwood Junction on the Highwood River.
  • Trout Pond Provincial Recreation Area (N50°30′ W114°49′) is 2 ha adjacent to Route 40 and the Highwood River north of Highwood Junction.

Honeymoon Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N50°2′ W114°33′) is an 18-acre equestrian campground on the Oldman River.

Indian Graves Provincial Recreation Area (N50°14′ W114°22′) is on Willow Creek at Route 532 west of Route 22 at Chain Lakes Reservoir.

Jumpingpound Provincial Recreation Area group is a collection of nine sites along Route 68 east of the Kananaskis Valley. There are four sites in the North-Central Rockies forest ecoregion.

  • Old Baldy Pass Trail Provincial Recreation Area consists of a 28-ha right-of-way for Old Baldy Pass Trail, which begins east of Barrier Dam in Bow Valley Provincial Park (N51°2′ W115°1′) and ends at Old Baldy Pass (N50°59′ W115°2′). The trail continues west from Old Baldy Pass to Route 40 at Porcupine Recreation Area (N50°59′ W115°4′), crossing the Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park and providing a 20-km circuit.
  • Lusk Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N51°2′ W115°1′) is a 14-ha recreation site and trailhead. The Kananaskis Integrated Forest Interpretive Trail and Lusk Pass trail begin here.
  • Sibbald Meadows Pond Provincial Recreation Area (N51°3′ W114°57′) is a 10-ha day-use area on Route 68.
  • Stoney Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N51°2′ W115°1′) is a 13-ha campground and trailhead on Route 68 just east of Route 40.

Livingstone Falls Provincial Recreation Area (N50°6′ W114°26′) is a scenic area on the Livingstone River in southern Alberta.

Mount Livingstone Natural Area (N50°8′ W114°24′) is an unusual 535-ha high elevation grassland located south of Calgary and west of Route 22.

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is 50,142 ha along Routes 40 and 742 south of Banff National Park. The park is located in both the Alberta Mountain forests and North-Central Rockies forests ecoregions. There are 23 glaciers and numerous U-shaped valleys. Upper Kananaskis Lake (N50°37′ W115°7′) and Lower Kananaskis Lake (N50°41′ W115°8′), used for hydroelectric purposes, are prominent features. The park is bordered by Elk Lake Provincial Park and Height of the Rockies Provincial Parks of British Columbia on the south, Banff National Park on the west, Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park on the east, and Spray Valley Provincial Park on the north. Features of the park in the North Central Rockies forests are a visitor centre on the Kananaskis Lakes Road (N50°40′ W115°7′), Highwood Pass and Ptarmigan Cirque (N50°36,W114°59′), Elbow Lake (N50°38′ W115°0′), Kananaskis Canyon (N50°42′ W115°7′), and Black Prince Cirque (N50°42′ W115°13′). Above Ptarmigan Cirque, Mount Rae is noted for its abundance of horn coral fossils of Mississippian age.

Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve (N50°13′ W114°32′) is 2,325 ha in the Livingstone Range south of Calgary, featuring a flat plateau with unique ice cave crystals and other phenomena. The reserve is known for blockfields, large, sheet-like expanses of weathered blocks covering bedrock on mountain plateaus and ridges.

Sheep River Provincial Park consists of 6,192 ha along the Sheep River in the Rocky Mountain foothills. Access is from Route 546 west from Turner Valley. The main section of the park provides bighorn sheep habitat along the river gorge. Several outlying sections provide recreational campgrounds and trailheads for the Sheep Valley Trail system. The park is surrounded on all sides by the Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park. Major sites in the North-Central Rockies forest portion are the Junction Creek Trailhead (N50°36′ W114°44′), Sheep River Falls (N50°37′ W114°42′), and Threepoint Backcountry campsite (N50°42′ W114°47′).

Spray Valley Provincial Park is 27,472 ha on Route 742 south of Canmore and Route 40 south of Kananaskis Village. The park is located in both the Alberta Mountain forests and North-Central Rockies forests ecoregions. The Spray Lakes Reservoir, a hydroelectric development, is included in the park. It is bordered by the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park on the south, Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park on the east, Evan Thomas Provincial Recreation Area and Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park on the north, and Banff National Park on the west. Features in the Alberta Mountain forests ecoregion include Goat Creek on Route 742 (N51°4′ W115°25′), Spray Lakes Reservoir (N51°0′ W115°22′), and Ribbon Lake (N50°53′ W115°15′).

Wildcat Island Natural Area (N51°13′ W114°38′) is an 8-ha island in the Bow River downstream from Ghost Reservoir. It is known as a bird-watching site for cliff swallows and fish-eating birds.

2. Sites of the Continental Divide Ranges in British Columbia (outside of the Rocky Mountain parks world heritage site).

Cummins Lakes Provincial Park is 21,700 ha and includes the Cummins River from the Clemenceau Icefields of Jasper National Park (N52°10′ W117°59′) downstream to Kinbasket Lake (N52°3′ W118°13′). Wildlife includes grizzly bear and caribou. It is a park for wilderness mountaineering, with two glacial lakes and three waterfalls.

East Side Columbia Lake Wildlife Management Area (N50°14′ W115°49′) is 6,900 ha, providing winter range for ungulates and habitat for grizzly bear and waterfowl. The area stretches from Canal Flats (the source of the Columbia River) in the south to Fairmont Hot Springs in the north.

Columbia Lake Ecological Reserve (N50°12′ W115°49′) is a 32-ha tract designated to protect limestone-loving plants found in wet seeps and springs. These habitats are unique ones for the Columbia Valley. It also has interior Douglas-fir forests. The site is surrounded by the East Side Columbia Lake Wildlife Management Area.

Mount Sabine Ecological Reserve (N50°11′ W115°48′) is an 8-ha site protecting a representative montane spruce forest north of Canal Flats. It is surrounded by the East Side Columbia Lake Wildlife Management Area.

Columbia Lake Provincial Park (N50°18′ W115°51′), is 257 ha and bordered by the East Columbia Lake Wildlife Management Area on the east and west. It provides lakeside recreation across from the Riverside Gold Resort and south of Fairmont Hot Springs.

Cranberry Marsh/Starrett Wildlife Management Area (N52°49′ W119°15′) is 319 ha west of Route 5, south of Valemount in the Rocky Mountain trench. The site is noted as a staging area for swans and geese and is also used by the American bittern.

Dry Gulch Provincial Park (N50°35′ W116°2′), is a 29-ha campground park adjacent to Kootenay National Park south of Radium Hot Springs on Routes 93-95.

Elk Lakes Provincial Park is 17,240 ha reached by driving 100 km north from Sparwood (Route 3) on the Elk River Road. The north extent of the park is Elk Pass (N50°35′ W115°4′) and the south end is near Wolverine Lake (N50°22′ W115°4′). Features in the north end accessed by trail are Upper Elk Lake (N50°33′ W115°7′) and in the south end Abruzzi Lake (N50°27′ W115°5′). The Alpine Club of Canada operates a lodge in the park. Vegetation is alpine vegetation as well as alpine fir, Engelmann spruce, and lodgepole pine at lower elevations. The park is bordered by Peter Lougheed Provincial Park of Alberta on the north and Height of the Rockies Provincial Park on the west.

Mount Terry Fox Provincial Park (N52°56′ W119°16′) is 1,930 ha and a memorial to a bone cancer victim who publicized the need to fund cancer research. A trailhead to reach the mountain is on Route 5 north of Valemont.

Burges James Gadsden Provincial Park is described under the Columbia Wetlands Ramsar site.

Height of the Rockies Provincial Park is 54,170 ha of wilderness used for hiking and maintained for grizzly habitat. It adjoins Banff National Park on the north and Elk Lakes Provincial Park on the east. Access is from the Elk River on the east and Palliser River and White Rivers on the east. Trailheads for the park are located along the roads along these rivers. The north end is at Mount Sir Douglas (N50°43′ W115°20′), the west end is at Ralph Lake (N50°39′ W115°29′), the south end is south of Forsyth Creek (N50°14′ W115°5′), and the east end is at Mount Bleasdell (N50°21′ W114°57′).

Holliday Creek Arch Protected Area (N53°13′ W119°52′), is 395 ha surrounding an 80-m-wide and 18-m-high natural stone arch. Mountain goats are often seen. The site is accessible via an 8-km trail from Route 16 between Dunster and McBride.

Kakwa Provincial Park is 170,890 ha in size, at the junction of three ecoregions (Alberta Mountain forests, Central British Columbia Mountain forests, and North Central Rockies forests) 70 km north of McBride. Access is by foot from the end of Walker Creek Forest Service Road, 85 km from Route 16. A continuous chain of national and provincial parks begins at Kakwa and extends southward to Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park in Alberta. The park is also the northern terminus of the Great Divide Trail, which extends 1,200 km south to Waterton Lakes National Park and continues in the United States as the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail to Mexico. The park includes two peaks over 10,000 feet, Narraway waterfall, caves, Triassic fish fossils, and dinosaur track sites. Forests are sub-boreal. The headquarters is at Kakwa Lake (N54°0′ W120°11′). The northern extent is along the Narraway River (N54°16′ W120°15′), the western extent is at McGregor River at Jarvis Creek (N53°59′ W120°42′), and the southeastern extent is at Intersection Mountain (N53°49′ W120°0′).

Marl Creek Provincial Park (N51°31′ W117°12′) is 169 ha on the Columbia River about 25 north of Golden. The park includes the last remaining natural reaches of the Columbia River, as well as old growth forest. It is not accessible to the public.

Ram Creek Ecological Reserve (N50°2′ W115°36′) is 122 ha protecting natural hot springs. The rare vivid dancer damselfly (Argia vivida) is found at the hot springs, along with a rare plant, Crawe’s sedge. The reserve is in the Kootenay Range east of Routes 93-95.

Rearguard Falls Provincial Park (N52°58′ W119°22′) is 48 ha on Route 16 just west of Mount Robson Provincial Park. It is noted as an observation point to observe salmon on the Fraser River.

Skookumchuck Prairie (N49°51′ W115°44′) is an Important Bird Area for a breeding population of long-billed curlew. The area is along Routes 93-95 in the Upper Kootenay River area.

Small River Caves Provincial Park (N53°10′ W119°30′), is 1,800 ha and protects a series of caves partially overlain by a glacier. It is accessible by logging road from Route 16 north of Valemount.

Sunbeam Creek Ecological Reserve (N53°21′ W120°7′), is 510 ha on the northeastern side of the Rocky Mountain trench, off Route 16 at McBride. The area includes the glaciated McBride Peak and protects alpine communities on the peak.

Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia (N50°7′ W115°33′) is 1,900 ha in a Douglas-fir forest with two natural lakes and the Lussier Hot Springs along the park entrance road. A hiking trail is on the north shore of Whiteswan Lake. The site is east of Routes 93-95 on the Whiteswan Forest Service Road, which is south of Canal Flats.

 

North Central Rockies Forest, Part H, World Heritage Site

Arctomys Cave, Burgess Shale, and Spiral Tunnels

The southern parts of this ecoregion in Montana and along the US-Canadian border were included in an earlier post. This focus is north of the 50th parallel. The western slopes of the Rocky Mountains from the Fraser River headwaters to the Cariboo, Monashee, Selkirk, and Purcell Mountains are included in this ecoregion. The Columbia River begins south of Kootenay National Park and flows north, then completes a U-turn and heads south, all in this ecoregion. Major features are Glacier, Kootenay, and Yoho National Parks of Canada. The ecoregion continues south into Montana including the U.S.’s Glacier National Park, which was the subject of an earlier post. Sites are classified according to the mountain range in which they are found.

·         Continental Divide ranges extend along the Alberta-British Columbia border and include the High Rock, Kootney, Mitchell, Opell, and Livingstone Ranges, bordered on the west by the Rocky Mountain Trench. This includes the upper Columbia and Fraser Rivers.

·         Purcell Ranges are between the Rocky Mountain Trench and the Kootenay Lake trench, including the Duncan River. Bugaboo Provincial Park and Purcell Wilderness Conservancy are in this area.

·         Selkirk Ranges are between Kootenay Lake and the south-flowing Columbia River, including the Upper and Lower Arrow Lakes. Major features are Glacier and Mount Revelstoke National Parks, Goat Range Provincial Park.

·         Monashee Ranges are west of the Columbia River and extend to the North Thompson River.

·         Cariboo Ranges are north of the North Thompson River and west of the Fraser River. Major features are the Wells-Gray, Cariboo Mountains, and Bowron Lakes Provincial Parks.

Coniferous forest is the dominant vegetation, and it benefits from Pacific moisture. Hemlock, yew, larch, and western red cedar, lodgepole pine, and Douglas-fir are common. There are many remnant old growth forests as noted in the site descriptions. In addition to coniferous forest, mountain meadows and low elevation foothill grasslands are found. Glaciers are noted in site descriptions in this northern area. Large carnivores such as the wolf and grizzly, as well as caribou, mountain goat and waterfowl use the intact forests, which are interrupted by only a few road corridors.

World Heritage Site

The World Heritage Site in this section of the North-Central Rockies forests is the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks. It consists of seven parks chosen for classic illustrations of glacial geologic processes—icefields, remnant valley glaciers, canyons, alpine meadows, lakes, and waterfalls. Six of the seven parks in this designation are all or partially in the North-Central Rockies forests ecoregion: Mount Assiniboine, Banff, Hamber, Kootenay, Mount Robson, and Yoho. In addition, there are six national historic sites within these parks and therefore within the boundaries of the world heritage site.

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, British Columbia, is known as the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies. The park is accessible only on foot from the end of a gravel road from Banff to Sunshine Valley or from the Spray River south of Canmore in British Columbia. Included in the park are Mount Assiniboine Lodge (1928) and the Magog Lake Fossil Beds (N50˚54’ W115˚38’), Mount Assiniboine (N50˚52’ W115˚39’), and Sunshine Meadows (N51˚4’ W115˚47’), the largest alpine meadow in the Canadian Rockies.

Athabasca Pass National Historic Site, Alberta-British Columbia (N52˚23’ W118˚11’), commemorates the major fur transportation route traversed by early adventurers in the early 1800s. The first white man to cross the Rockies, David Thompson, used the pass in 1811, and it was a fur trade route to the Oregon territory for the next 50 years afterward.  The site is accessed from Jasper National Park via the 7-km-long road to Moab Lake south of Route 93A, then by trail for 49 km along the Whirlpool River, a three-day hike.

Banff National Park, Alberta, is primarily in the Alberta Mountain forests ecoregion; however, the Bow River Valley from Banff downstream to the park boundary is within the North Central Rockies forests ecoregion. The Rocky Mountain Legacy Bike Trail extends from west of Banff (N51˚10’ W115˚40’) downstream to Canmore (N51˚5’ W115˚21’), outside of the park. There are two National Historic Sites in the North Central Rockies forests ecoregion of Banff National Park. Banff Springs Hotel National Historic Site (N51˚10’ W115˚34’) was built between 1911 and 1928 by the Canadian Pacific Railroad and is still operated today. Banff Park Museum National Historic Site (N51˚11’ W115˚35’) is a natural history museum housed in a 1903 log building.

Hamber Provincial Park, British Columbia (N52˚22’ W117˚46’) is a 24,000-ha wilderness park accessed by a 22-km-long trail from Sunwapta Falls in Jasper National Park. At the end of the hike along the Athabasca River is Fortress Lake. Vegetation includes spruce, balsam, and rhododendron.

Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, extends from semi-arid grasslands of the Rocky Mountain trench to the glaciers of the Canadian Rockies, and is along Route 93 between Radium Hot Springs and Banff.  The northernmost point is in the Tokumm Creek headwaters (N51°19’ W116°17’) and the southernmost point is east of Invermere on Stoddart Creek (N50°35’ W115°57’). The visitor center is in Radium Hot Springs. At the west gate of the park is Sinclair Canyon and the Redwall Fault, a deep canyon just outside of Radium Hot Springs on Route 93. To the east, Radium Hot Springs (N50°38’ W116°2’) are the largest hot springs pool in Canada.  Restoration Area (N50°37’ W116°3’), located at the Redstreak Campground at Radium Hot Springs, is viewed from an interpretive loop trail which discusses the role of prescribed fire.

The Paint Pots (N51°10’ W116°9’) were a location used by the Ktunaxa people for the collection of ochre for ceremonies and trade.  A trail accesses the site from Route 93. The Rockwall (N51°6’ W116°12’) is a vertical limestone wall that stretches for 55 km along the northwestern boundary of the park. Across from the Marble Campground, Marble Canyon (N51°11’ W116°8’) is the deep gorge of Tokumm Creek upstream of its confluence with the Vermillion River. A trail provides numerous scenic overlooks. The hike to Stanley Glacier (N51°12’ W116°5’) is 10 km round trip and includes waterfalls as well as Burgess Shale fossils at the base of Mount Stanley.

Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia, is 275,800 ha including Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954 m. The park protects the headwaters of the Fraser River, the deepest cave in North America north of Mexico, 530-m-deep Arctomys Cave (N53°4’ W118°54’), Precambrian fossils of the earliest life with hard shells, and 800-year-old whitebark pines. The westernmost point is in the Swiftcurrent Creek watershed (N53°3’ W119°26’), the northernmost point is Whiteshield Mountain (N53°18’ W119°21’), and the southeasternmost point is at Fraser Pass (N52°31’ W118°19’). The Ramparts formation is along the eastern border of the park, separating it from Jasper National Park.  Park facilities are along Route 16 which extends from Yellowhead Pass west across the park, following the Fraser River. From the Visitor Center (N53°2’ W119°14’), Berg Lake (N53°9’ W119°10’) is accessible by a 22-km hike through the Valley of a Thousand Falls. A short 1.5-km walk along the Fraser River from the Visitor Center leads to Overlander Falls. From Yellowhead Lake (N 52°52’ W118°32’), the Mount Fitzwilliam Trail leads to alpine lakes in a 14-km hike.

Yellowhead Pass National Historic Site, Alberta-British Columbia (N52˚53’ W118˚27’) is on Route 16 in Mount Robson Provincial Park. This major highway and rail crossing was also an early fur trade route across the Rockies from the 1820s to the 1850s.

Yoho National Park, British Columbia is 1,300 km2 and is known for its towering rock walls, waterfalls, and paleontology. Kootenay National Park is to the south and Banff National Park is to the east. The Burgess Shale Fossil Beds (N51°26’ W116°29’) are between Mount Field and Wapta Mountain north of Field and accessible only by a guided tour.  Between 520 and 530 million years ago, hard-bodied animals first entered the fossil record. We know that because of the fossils found in Yoho National Park at the Burgess Shale. This fossil deposit is the best record of the diversity of life that first appeared in the Cambrian explosion. Many of the fossils are believed to be arthropods, although there is a chordate and many other fossils are as yet unclassifiable into phyla, or represent phyla that no longer exist. Burgess shale fossils may also be seen on the Mount Stephens guided hike, which leaves from the visitor center in Field.

Emerald Lake (N51°27’ W116°32’) is a scenic alpine lake at the end of the Emerald Lake Road, which begins south of Field.  Kicking Horse River Canadian Heritage River consists of the 49 km within Yoho National Park from Wapta Lake (N51°26’ W116°21’) downstream to the park boundary (N51°14’ W116°39’) as well as 18.5 km of the tributary Yoho River from its headwaters near Twin Falls to confluence with the Kicking Horse River (N51°35’ W116°31’).

Lake O’Hara (N51°21’ W116°20’) is a hiking area accessible by bus leaving from the Wapta Lake parking lot 13 km east of Field.  The area is noted for its hanging valleys and extensive trail network, with 34 maintained trails. A lodge and campground are at the lake.

Natural Bridge (N51°23’ W116°32’) is across the Kicking Horse River southwest of Field. Wapta Falls (N51°11’ W116°35’) is on the Kicking Horse River south of Field and is 30 m high by 150 m wide, accessible by a 2.3-km trail. From the Yoho Valley Road, trails lead to Takkakaw Falls (N51°31’ W116°29’), 254 m in height, Laughing Falls on the Little Yoho River, and Twin Falls.

There are two national historic sites within Yoho National Park:

Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site (N51°27’ W116°17’) commemorates the completion of the first railroad across Canada in 1885, unifying the country. It is the highest point on the Canadian Pacific Railway, at 5,538 feet. The historic site also includes the Spiral Tunnels (N51°26’ W116°25’), visible from a viewpoint and hiking trails leaving Route 1 between Field and Kicking Horse Pass. These switchbacks were completed in 1909 to relieve the steep grade to Kicking Horse Pass. An eastbound train first spirals to the left in a tunnel for 891 m, exiting 15 m higher and then crossing the river. On the south side of the river, it spirals 991 m inside the mountain and exits 17 m higher.

Twin Falls Tea House National Historic Site (N51°33’ W116°32’) overlooks the spectacular twin falls in Yoho National Park. Constructed between 1908 and 1928, it is an example of the Rustic Design Tradition utilized in early national park architecture and is also recognized for its role in recreation and tourism in Canada. The site is at the end of an 8.5-km one-way hike from the Takkakaw Falls trailhead on Yoho Valley Road. There are rooms available for rent.

Ramsar Site                                                                                                                                                              

The Ramsar Site (Wetlands of International Importance) in the North Central Rocky Mountain forests is in the Rocky Mountain trench. The Columbia Wetlands Ramsar site consists of the Columbia National Wildlife Area and Columbia Wildlife Management Area, British Columbia. These properties are within a 180-km-long area in the Rocky Mountain trench from Fairmont Hot Springs (N50°20’ W115°53’) north to Mica Reservoir (N51°30’ W117°9’). It is a key site on the Pacific Flyway. Wetlands along the Columbia River provide habitat for waterfowl such as ducks and swans. The Ramsar site includes the 17,000-ha Columbia Wildlife Management Area and Burges James Gadsden Provincial Park (N51°24’ W117°3’), a 400-ha area that includes the Moberly Marsh, is on Route 1 (Trans-Canada Highway) north of Golden. It also includes four Canadian Wildlife Service properties which constitute the national wildlife area. These are at Harrogate (N50°57’ W116°24’), Spillamacheen (N50°54’ W116°23’), Brisco (N50°49’ W116°17’), and Wilmer Marsh (N50°33’ W116°4’), all along Route 95 between Windermere and Golden.

Other National Sites

Nationally designated lands in the North-Central Rocky Mountain forests include Kootenay and Yoho National Parks, described above under World Heritage Sites.

Barkerville National Historic Site (53°4’ W121°31’), is a 457-ha property heritage property and park owned by the Province of British Columbia and managed by the Barkerville Heritage Trust in the Cariboo Mountains. In 1862, the town was the site of the largest creek-side placer gold deposit ever discovered. Today, it is the largest living history museum in western North America, with 125 heritage buildings. Even today, the site is remote, reached deep in the Cariboo Mountains at the end of Route 26 about 85 km east of Quesnel.

Glacier National Park, British Columbia, is 1,350 km2 on the Trans-Canada Highway between Mount Revelstoke and Yoho National Parks in the Selkirk Mountains. It includes Rogers Pass National Historic Site, described separately. The northwestern-most point is in the Mountain Creek watershed (N51˚28’ W117˚53’), the easternmost point is on Grizzly Creek (N51˚20’ W117˚12’), the southeastern-most point is at the Beaver River headwaters (N51˚4’ W117˚16’), and the southwestern-most point is on the Incomappleux River (N51˚6’ W117˚36’). The park features a hemlock-cedar rainforest at Hemlock Grove on the Illecillewaet River (N51˚15’ W117˚40’), Glacier House (N51˚17’ W117˚31’), a Victorian-era hotel site, and Rogers Pass visitor center. From Glacier House, trails lead to the foot of glacier and to alpine meadows. An old growth forest is along the Beaver River.

Kootenae House National Historic Site, British Columbia (N50°32’ W116°3’) is at the confluence of Toby Creek and the Columbia River between Invermere and Wilmer in the Rocky Mountain trench. The site of a fur trading post established by David Thompson in 1806 is interpreted. The post facilitated trade with the Ktunaxa people and served as a base of exploration of the northwestern Rocky Mountains.

Mount Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia, is 260 km2 on the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 1) in the Selkirk Mountains. The approximate boundaries are Revelstoke in the southwest (N51˚0’ W118˚12’), Illecillewaet River in the east (N51˚7’ W117˚53’), and Maunder Creek in the north (N51˚11’ W117˚59’). The major features are the 2,000-m climb by road or trail to Mount Revelstoke (N51˚3’ W118˚9’) and an old growth cedar and hemlock rainforest along the Illecillewaet River in the eastern portions of the park (N51˚5’ W117˚55’). Large skunk cabbage plants are along the trails in the rainforest. The 26-km roadway to the 1,835-meter Mount Revelstoke is known as the Meadows in the Sky Parkway.

Rogers Pass National Historic Site, British Columbia (N51˚17’ W117˚31’) is on the Trans-Canada Highway in Glacier National Park of Canada and includes early railroad history sites, including the Glacier House Hotel site. The site commemorates the completion of the first trans-continental rail link across Canada. The pass was discovered in 1881 as part of an effort to survey alternative rail lines across Canada. When chosen as the preferred railroad route, Canadian Pacific needed to use new technologies to cope with a 12-m annual snowfall and avalanche danger. A system of sheds was built along the route. Completion of a railroad fulfilled the Canadian confederation’s promise to connect British Columbia with the rest of the provinces. In 1917, the railroad over the pass was replaced by a tunnel. A visitor center and trails interpret the historic sites.

to be continued

Trans-Baikal, Stanovoy, and Greater Hinggan

Dinosaurs with feathers, the world’s largest forest fire, and the Vitim comet explosion

Map coordinates: 50 to 60 degrees north, 112 to 126 degrees east

Countries: China (Inner  Mongolia, Heilongjiang); Mongolia (Eastern); Russia (Amur, Buryatia Republic, Irkutsk, Sakha Republic, Zabaykalsky).

This area includes the watersheds of the Vitim, Olekma, and Aldan Rivers (tributaries to the Lena), as well as the upper Amur River/Heilongjiang River watershed. These rivers drain a mountainous region of boreal forests and tundra, with the Stanovoy Range, Stanovoy Plateau, Vitim Tableland, Yablonovoy Range, Greater Hinggin Range, and Dzhagdy Range being prominent. Although boreal forest occupies most of the area, mixed deciduous forests are in the southeast and grasslands are in the south of the map area. The Daursky Biosphere Reserve (Torey Lakes Ramsar Site) is described under the Mongolian grasslands ecoregion (PA 813). This region has been the site of recent fossil discoveries that changed the way we think about evolution.  For example, based on findings at the Kulinda Fossil Site, it can be concluded that feathers were not unique to the ancestors of birds and may even have been quite widespread.

Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests

PA 426, Manchurian Mixed Forests, occupies portions of Amur, Heilongjiang, and Inner Mongolia.The diverse mixed forest of pine and broadleaf deciduous trees supports species of birch, poplar, willow, oak, and ginseng. One Ramsar Site, the Heilongjiang Nanweng National Nature Reserve (N51˚19’ E125˚23’) is 229,523 ha located in the Songling District of Inner Mongolia, administered by the Da Hinggan Ling Prefecture of Heilongjiang province. Extensive marshes in the Nen River system on the south slope Yilehuli Mountains are forested with mixed conifer forests. Siberian crane and musk deer are present. It is an Important Bird Area for swan goose, lesser white-fronted goose, and scaly-sided merganser.

Huma River Nature Reserve, Heilongjiang (N52˚21’ E124˚48’ west end) is 60,000 ha and extends along the river from east of Tahe to the confluence with the Heilongjiang River. It is an Important Bird Area for swan goose, lesser white-fronted goose, Baer’s pochard, and scaly-sided merganser.

PA505, Da Hinggan-Dzhagdy Mountains conifer forests are found in Amur, Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia,and Zabaykalsky. A unique flora (Daurian) of larch, oak, hazel, alder, birch, poplar, and elm is found in this mountain area. The forests were mostly uncut until the 20th century and constitute the largest single timber stand in the world. The mountains are the southern limit of wolverines, lynx, and elk.  The Greater Hinggan Mountains divide the Manchurian plain from the Mongolian plateau. The area is the site of one of the largest wildfires in recent history, known as the Black Dragon fire. It took place in 1987. It was started by a temporary employee operating a brush cutter, which caught fire and spread to grasslands and nearby woods on May 6, 1987. Other fires started burning about the same time in Russia and China. The fire eventually burned millions of acres in China and Russia (Pyne, 1989; Salisbury, 1989).

The Gen River and the Genhelengshuiyu Nature Reserve (N51˚0’ E122˚0’) is an Important Bird Area for Baikal teal, redlk-crowned crane, and Siberian crane.

Hanma Nature Reserve, Inner Mongolia (N51˚35’ E122˚42’), is 107,348 ha on the main ridge of the Greater Hinggan Mountains. It is an Important Bird Area for scaly-sided merganser and red-crowned crane.

Huma River Nature Reserve, Heilongjiang (N52˚21’ E124˚48’ west end)  is 60,000 ha and extends along the river from east of Tahe to the confluence with the Heilongjiang River. It is an Important Bird Area for swan goose, lesser white-fronted goose, Baer’s pochard, and scaly-sided merganser.

Huzhong Nature Reserve, Heilongjiang (N51˚37’ E123˚3’), is a conifer forest of 167,213 ha. It is an Important  Bird Area for swan goose, lesser white-fronted goose, Baer’s pochard, and scaly-sided merganser.

Mangui, Inner Mongolia (N52˚8’ E122˚12’) is an Important Bird Area for swan goose, scaly-sided merganser, red-crowned crane, and Siberian crane.

Boreal Forests/Taiga

PA601, East Siberian taiga, is the most extensive natural forest of larch in the world. The portions on the map are in Amur, Buryatia Republic, Irkutsk, Sakha Republic, Zabaykalsky and Inner Mongolia.

Baissa, Buryatia Republic  (N53˚18’ E112˚6’) is the most important locality for fossil insects from the early Cretaceous. More than 10,000 specimens of insects have been collected, many of which are aphids. Fossils of spiders, ostracods, snails, bryozoans, and fish also have been found (Homan, Zyla, and Wegierek, 2014).

Ivano-Arakhleisky State Natural Landscape Reserve (Zakaznik), Zabaykalski Krai (N52˚13’ E113˚54’) consists of six large lakes in a larch, aspen, and birch forest zone along the Khilok River, a tributary of Lake Baikal.

Oak Grove Natural Monument, Zabakalsky Krai (N52˚40’ E120˚0’) is a Mongolian oak forest among pines and larches overlooking the Argun River.

Olekminsky Nature Reserve, Sakha Republic (N59˚0’ E121˚45’) is 847,100 ha along the Olekma River. The virgin boreal forest is known for larch pine, and 40 taiga animals, including the Siberian sable. A rock formation, the Devil’s Finger, overlooks the Olekma River.

Along the Tungur and Nenyuga Rivers, Zabaykalsky Krai (N54˚49’ E121˚7’) are lowland swamps which are an Important Bird Area for Siberian crane.

Vitimsky Nature Reserve, Irkutsk (N57˚0’ E117˚0’), includes larch forest and tundra in the Kodar Mountain range.

Vitim Event, Irkutsk (N58˚16’ E113˚27’), an explosion that flattened trees over a wide area, took place in 2002 and is believed to be the site of a comet explosion, similar to what occurred in Tunguska.

PA 609, Trans-Baikal Conifer Forests, are forests of larch and pine adjacent to Lake Baikal.  The portion shown is in Zabaykalsky Krai and includes Chita. The southern slopes have steppe, and there is permafrost over a wide area.

Temperate Grasslands, Savannas, and Shrublands

PA 804, Daurian forest steppe, is a mostly grassland area supporting scattered forests of birch and willow.  Mongol Daguur (Mongolian Dauria) Strictly Protected Area, East Aimag, Mongolia (N50˚3’ E114˚50’) is across the border from the Russian Daursky Biosphere Reserve.  It is a low mountainous area with grasslands and numerous lakes, ponds, and wetlands supporting migratory birds.  It is an IBA for six species of crane, the swan goose, and waterbirds and is also habitat for the Daurian hedgehog.  Khukh Lake on the Teel River in the southern part of the area is an IBA for swan goose, white-naped crane, and hooded crane.  Forests of willow, birch, and aspen are also present.

Alkhanai National Park, Zabaykalsky Krai, Russia (N50˚40’ E113˚25’) is 105,000 ha surrounding Mount Alkhanai, an ancient volcano. The park contains rock formations, springs, and waterfalls and is also a sacred center for northern Buddhists.

Aginskaya Steppe Zakaznik, Zabaykalsky Krai, Russia (N50˚44’ E115˚0’) is part of the Aginskaya Lakes IBA for breeding swan goose, saker falcon, great bustard, and yellow-breasted bunting. This is a saline lake and marsh area. Within the reserve, Gorbunka Lake is an alkaline lake with cyanobacteria and meadow vegetation northwest of Kunkur.

Argun’ River, Zabaykalsky Krai (north end N50˚17’ E119˚19’; south end E117˚57’) is an IBA for Baer’s pochard, breeding swan goose, Baikal teal, and Siberian crane.

Bain-Tsagan Lake Natural Monument, Zabaykalsky Krai (N50˚41’ E113˚37’) is a thawed permafrost lake on a tributary of the Taptanay River.

Borzhigantai Spring Funnel Natural Monument , Zabaykalsky Krai (N51˚17’ E114˚54’) is an area of five springs near Mogoytuy.

Dzeren Valley Zakaznik, Zabaykalsky Krai (N50˚19’ E115˚17’), is a grassland steppe and IBA for swan goose, saker falcon, great bustard, white-naped crane, and yellow-breasted bunting.

Gornaya Steppe Zakaznik, Zabaykalsky Krai (N50˚0’ E113˚22’) is along the Middle Onon River, which is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area for the swan goose, saker falcon, great bustard, and Siberian crane.

Kulinda Fossil Site, Zabaykalsky Krai (N52˚30’ E116˚30’, location approximate), is on the Olov River west of Chernyshevsk.  This is the location of the recent find of Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus, a 1.5-meter-long bipedal herbivorous dinosaur. The animals had small scales around the distal hindlimb, larger imbricated scales around the tail, monofilaments around the head, and featherlike structures around the humerus, femur, and tibia. Feathers coexisted with scales and were potentially widespread among the entire dinosaur clade. Feathers were for insulation and signaling and only later co-opted for flight. The dinosaur is from Cherynyshevsky District, Olov Depression, in a deposit with abundant well-preserved fossils of plants, insect larvae, and freshwater crustaceans that suggest deposition in a low-energy, probably lacustrine, freshwater environment. There was local volcanic activity. The pedal scales of birds were derived from feathers; the development of scales requires inhibition of feather development. This inhibition is lost in breeds with feathered feet (Godefroit et al., 2014).

Tsasucheisky Bor State Natural Reserve (Zakaznik), Zabaykalsky Krai (N50˚25’ E115˚10’) is a high terrace on the right bank of the Onon River. This 40-km-long river terrace contains Krylov pine forests, a subspecies of scotch pine.

Urul’guveem hollow, Zabaykalsky Krai (N50˚25’ E117˚24’) is a grassland steppe area and IBA for the black stork and great bustard.

PA 813, Mongolian-Manchurian grasslands. Flat to rolling grasslands provide habitat for wild ungulates and are used for sheep and goat grazing. Torey Lakes Ramsar Site and Daursky Biosphere Preserve, Zabaykalsky Krai (N50˚0’ E115˚32’), is an area of steppe, rivers, and islands which support 90 species of breeding birds and 42 mammals.  The lakes are an IBA for Baer’s pochard and Siberian crane. The area also supports patches of Pinus sylvestris forest.  The Torey Lakes are salty and dry up every 20 or so years. North of the lakes are granite hills. Evidence of human settlement dates back to 4,000 years.

Argun’ River, Zabaykalsky Krai (north end N50˚17’ E119˚19’; south end 49˚31’ E117˚57’) is an IBA for Baer’s pochard, breeding swan goose, Baikal teal, and Siberian crane.

Bab’e Lake Natural Monument, Zabaykalsky Krai (N50˚15’ EW116˚16’), is a saline lake near Borzinsky with cyanobacteria. The ud is used for health reasons.

Barun-Shivertuy Lake Natural Monument, Zabaykalsky Krai (N50˚3’ E116˚44’) is a saline steppe lake with black therapeutic mud. Flies on the lake are attracted to algae and detritus.

Tundra

PA 1112, Trans-Baikal and Bald Mountain Tundra, is found on mountain peaks in Amur, Buryatia Republic, Irkutsk, Sakha Republic, and Zabaykalsky.

Dzerginsky Nature Reserve, Buryatia Republic (N55˚12’ E112˚0’) is 237,800 ha of steppe, taiga, and larch forests.

Vitimsky Nature Reserve, Irkutsk (N57˚0’ E117˚0’), includes 585,000 ha of larch forest and tundra in the Kodar Mountain range.

References

Center for Russian Nature Conservation. Wild Russia website. Olekminsky Zapovednik (http://www.wild-russia.org/bioregion8/8-olekma.htm)

Godefroit, Pascal et al. 2014. A Jurassic Ornithischian Dinosaur from Siberia with Both Feathers and Scales. Science 345:451-455 (25 July 2014).  Supplementary materials at DOI: 10.1126/science.1253351,

Homan, Agnieszka, Dagmara Zyla,and Piotr Wegierek. 2014. Bajsaphididae fam. nov. from the Lower Cretaceous of Baissa, Russia: A New Family of Aphids and its Evolutionary Significance. Cretaceous Research, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cretres.2014.03.017.

Magnificent Trans-Baikal. www.nature.chita.ru/Reserves

Pyne, Stephen J. 1989. Apocalytic Fire and Other Exaggerations. BioScience 39:732-733.

Russian Nature. http://www.rusnature.info/zap/index.htm.

Salisbury, Harrison E. 1989. The Great Black Dragon Fire: A Chinese Inferno. Little, Brown and Company, Boston.

Boynes Islands and Elan Bank

Left Behind When India Moved North

I. Map boundaries: 50 to 60 degrees South; 56 to 70 degrees East

II. Country: France (French Southern and Antarctic Lands overseas territory)

III. Overview

This map area includes a small group of islands, Isles de Boynes, on the western edge of the Kerguelen Plateau, the second largest volcanic plateau in the world (the largest is called Ontong Java, and is northeast of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands along the equator). Volcanic activity has extended over the area for the last 130 million years, but most of the plateau is believed to have initially formed during two bursts of volcanic activity—one in the southern area between 109 and 115 million years ago and one in the central plateau about 85 to 88 million years ago. This was during the Cretaceous Period. During that burst, at least part of the plateau formed islands. Most of the plateau is now under water and has been so for millions of years, but at one time (Cretaceous Period), it was emergent or under shallow water. During the Cretacenous, Kerguelen was part of a land bridge between Antarctica and India-Madagascar. Wood fragments, charcoal, spores, and seeds found in late Cretaceous sediments now under more than 1,000 m of water indicate that the plateau was covered with forests. Continue reading

Labrador and the Eye of Quebec

Caribou, a Nickel Mine, High Tides, and Meteor Craters

I. Map boundaries: 50 to 60 degrees North; 56 to 70 degrees West

II. Country and Administrative Subdivisions: Canada (Newfoundland and Labrador including Nunatsiavut; Nunavut-part of Qikiqtaaluk Region; Quebec including Katavik Regional Government, Cote-Nord Administrative Region)

III. Overview

To the north of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the wilderness of Quebec and Labrador begins. There are mountains near the coast of Labrador and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and plateaus in a central lake area. Lowlands are around Ungava Bay. This region is home to the George River caribou herd, one of the great wildlife migrations, which is undertaken by several hundred thousand animals. The 5,000-mile migration extends from the coast of Labrador to James Bay (west of the map area). This map area is also home to two large First Nations territories—Kativik in Quebec and Nunatsiavut in Newfoundland and Labrador. Continue reading

Cape Horn and the Falklands

Avenue of the Glaciers at the End of the World; Goldman Sachs Gets in Park Business; Tame Wolf Noted by Darwin Goes Extinct

Map boundaries: 50 to 60 degrees South; 56 to 70 degrees West

Countries: Argentina (Santa Cruz, Tierra del Fuego, Burdwood Bank), Chile (Region XII-Magallanes), United Kingdom (Falklands overseas territory)

Overview

At the southern tip of South America, the Patagonian grasslands meet the southern beech forests. Santa Cruz province of Argentina and the northern and eastern parts of Tierra del Fuego are covered by Patagonian grassland and semiarid vegetation. Tierra del Fuego was given its name by Fernando de Magellan, who referred to the fires lit by Indians along the coast of the Straight of Magellan. The native people’s name for Tierra del Fuego was Karukinka, which is the name of a new natural park managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society and donated by Goldman Sachs. Continue reading

Ural Mountains and Turgay Plateau

Waterfowl, Mountain Meadows, and Nuclear Legacy

Map of the Month: Ural Mountains-South, Turgay Plateau, and Ishim Steppe

Map boundaries: 50 to 60 degrees North; 56 to 70 degrees East

Countries: Kazakhstan (Akmola, Aktobe, Karagandy, Kostanay, and North Kazakhstan) and Russia (Bashkortostan Republic, Chelyabinsk, Kurgan, Orenburg, Perm Territory, Sverdlovsk, Tyumen, Khanti Mantsia Autonomous Region)

Overview

This map area marks the transition from the Central Asian Desert to the vast boreal forest that covers northern Europe and Asia. In between are the steppes, which in this area contain patches of forests. The European and Asian steppes are separated by the forested Ural Mountains. East of the Urals in Chelyabinsk and Sverdlovsk are areas affected by the legacy of nuclear weapons production. The boreal forest is separated from the steppe by a band of deciduous forest. East of the Urals, thousands of lakes and wetlands dot the steppe, deciduous, and boreal forest, providing vital habitat for waterfowl in a dry region. The Turgay Plateau is a major watershed boundary, separating north-flowing polar rivers from the temperate Volga or Caspian Sea drainage to the west. To the south of the plateau, the Irghyz and Turgai rivers evaporate in the Central Asian desert. Continue reading