Alberta-British Columbia Foothills Forests, Part A

This ecoregion is delineated as transitional between boreal forests and Rocky Mountain vegetation. There are linear ridges, rolling plateaus, and broad valleys to the east of the Alberta Mountain forests and Central British Columbia Mountain forests ecoregions. There are three discontinuous sections. The southernmost and smallest is south of the Bow River and west of Calgary. The middle section stretches from the Bow River north to Dawson Creek, BC; an extension is eastward to the Swan Hills south of Lesser Slave Lake. The northern section is the Clear Hills of BC and Alberta. To the east, this ecoregion grades into the grasslands of Alberta; and to the north, into the boreal forest. On wetter sites, black spruce and larch are common, while on drier sites, aspen and lodgepole pine are present. Prominent animals are beaver, black bear, moose, muskrat, and wolf. Halfway Valley is noted as a sandhill crane stopover, and the Chinchauga Hills harbor two subspecies of caribou—the mountain and woodland caribou. Unless otherwise indicated, sites are in Alberta.

Global Geopark in Alberta-British Columbia Foothills Forests

Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark, British Columbia, is 782,200 ha along the former edge of the Western Interior Seaway. The site, administered by the Tumbler Ridge Museum, includes Cretaceous-age dinosaur tracks and dinosaur bone beds, waterfalls, caves, and canyons. The park includes Bearhole Lake Provincial Park, Gwillim Lake Provincial Park, and additional areas in the Central British Columbia Mountain Forests ecoregion. The westernmost point is Mount Palsson (N55°6’ W121°48’), the northernmost point is near Skunk Falls (N55°23’ W120°56’), the southernmost point is at Mount Bully Glacier Peak (N54°27’ W120°56’), and the easternmost point is the Alberta border between Mistanusk Creek (N54°35’ W120°0’) and Windsor Creek (N55°7’ W120°0’). There are 22 trails to mountain summits, caves, canyons, waterfalls, and dinosaur trackways. Visitor sites outside the provincial parks include Quality Canyon (N55°11’ W120°57’), Teepee Falls (N55°19’ W120°56’), Bergeron Falls (N55°13’ W120°58’), Flatbed Falls and Cabin Pool dinosaur tracks (N55°6’ W120°58’), Boulder Gardens and Babcock Falls (N54°55’ W120°57’), Nesbitt’s Knee Falls and Barbour Falls (N54°57’ W121°7’), Wapiti Falls (N54°37’ W120°38’), and Red Deer Falls (N54°30’ W120°38’). All coordinates are approximate.

Bearhole Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia (N55°3’ W120°33’), is 17,460 ha including Bearhole Lake and the Kiskatinaw River. It offers lakeside recreation and is known for wildlife such as moose and trumpeter swan. It is part of the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark.

Gwillim Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia (N55°25’ W121°15’), is 32,326 ha in size and accessed via Route 29 about 60 km south of Chetwynd. Lakeside recreation, canoeing, and hiking opportunities are offered. The park extends from the Murray River in the north to Mount Merkle in the south. Vegetation is white spruce, aspen, and lodgepole pine.  It is part of the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark.

National Sites in the Alberta-British Columbia Foothills Forests

Nordegg National Historic Site (N52˚28’ W116˚4’) is located at Nordegg on Route 11 between Banff National Park and Rocky Mountain House. Also known as Brazeau Collieries, this coal mining landscape dates from 1911 to 1955 and includes two original mine entries, a coal processing plant, and coal loading facilities. Nordegg played a role in steam coal development between the end of the First World War and the 1950s. A museum is on site. Tours are offered by the Nordegg Historical Society. Trails connect the site with Fish Lake Provincial Recreation Area and Beaverdam Provincial Recreation Area.

Jasper National Park extends into this ecoregion at its eastern edge at Jasper House National Historic Site (N53˚14’ W117˚52’). Jasper House is a fur trading post built in 1813 on the north side of the Athabasca River off Route 16.

Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site (N52˚22’ W115˚1’) is 6 km west of the town of Rocky Mountain House at the confluence of the North Saskatchewan River and Clearwater River. Access is via Route 11A. The site commemorates the historic fur trace, the life and times of David Thompson, the Canadian explorer and mapmaker of the West, and the relationship of Canada with the Blackfoot Nation and other First Nations who traded at the post. The site protects the archaeological remains of four trading posts, which were rediscovered by archaeologists between 1958 and 1975. In 1799, the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company built competing trading posts at the site. Both locations are now known. David Thompson used Rocky Mountain House as a base for exploration of the Pacific Northwest west of the Rocky Mountains. He was able to map the Columbia River from its source to its outlet at the Pacific Ocean in today’s Washington and Oregon. When the two companies later merged, the successor Hudson’s Bay Company maintained two additional trading posts at the site, one built in 1835 and the last one built in 1868. Rocky Mountain House trading post was used until 1875.

Trans-Canada Trail traverses the Alberta-British Columbia Foothills forests via the Kananaskis Country Trail east from Bow Valley. The West Bragg Creek Trail (N50⁰57’ W114⁰35’) also is part of the TCT corridor. This is in the Jumpingpound Area (N51⁰2’ W114⁰45’). From Bragg Creek, the trail turns north to Cochrane and enters the Canadian Aspen forests and parkland ecoregion. Trans-CanadaTrail segments are also north of the Peace River in the foothills ecoregion. This includes the CANFOR Trail from Jack Creek (N56⁰18’ W118⁰34’) to Worsley (N56⁰34’ W119⁰7’), the St. John’s Trail (N56⁰34’ W119⁰10’), and Ike’s Hill Trail (N56⁰34’ W119⁰7’). Continuing westward into British Columbia, the trail follows the Alaska Highway, which extends through the foothills forests between Dawson’s Creek and Pink Mountain (N57⁰30’ W122⁰30’).

Provincial and Local Parks in the Alberta-British Columbia Foothills Forests

Additional public lands of note in the Alberta-British Columbia Foothills Forests are grouped by watershed. In the south and east, areas are along or adjacent to tributaries of the Bow and Red Deer Rivers.  To the north are the North Saskatchewan River, Athabasca River, and Peace River, with parks grouped under the watershed where they are located.

Bow-Red Deer Rivers Area

The area west of Calgary features two parks with extensive trail systems, Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park and Sheep River Provincial Park, as well as four groupings of parks along roads or river corridors, those in Elbow Valley, Ghost-Waiparous, Jumpingpound, and McLean Creek. Diverse habitats include fens, beaver wetland complexes,  moraines, and grassland as well as spruce, larch, and aspen forests.

Anderson Natural Area (N52⁰50’ W114⁰33’) is 130 ha west of Hoadley on Route 611. Amidst white spruce and lodgepole pine, there are large beaver wetland complexes.

Bentz Lake Natural Area (N51°48’ W114°52’) is 65 ha of fens surrounding islands of glacial till forested with aspen and white spruce. It is on Route 584 west of Sundre.

Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park is 12, 720 ha surrounding 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, Green Mountain, Sheep Trail, Long Prairie trail, and Death Valley Trail.

Brown-Lowery Provincial Park (N50°48’ W114°25’) is 278 ha of grasslands, forests and foothills southwest of Calgary between Routes 762 and 22. There are 12 km of trails.

Cartier Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N51°42’ W114°52’) is 44 ha on the Red Deer River west of Sundre.

Deer Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N51°39’ W115°8’) is a horse and off-highway vehicle staging area on the Red Deer River east of Route 734.

Elbow Valley Provincial Parks group 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 the Alberta-British Columbia Foothills Forests. The visitor center for the park is at Gooseberry. The following are in the Alberta-British Columbia Foothills Forests:

  • Bragg Creek Provincial Park (N50°54’ W114°48’) is 128 ha north of Route 66 and west of Route 22.
  • West Bragg Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N50°57’ W114°42’) is 25 ha on Township Road 232, providing access to the West Bragg Creek trail system and the Trans-Canada Trail.
  • Elbow River Launch Provincial Recreation Area (N50°52’ W114°45’) is 15 ha on Route 66 below Elbow Falls.
  • Elbow River Provincial Recreation area (N50°54’ W114°48’) is 252 ha providing on Route 66 and the Elbow River providing a trailhead for the Fullerton Loop Trail, West Bragg Creek trail system, and Elbow Valley trail system.
  • Gooseberry Provincial Recreation Area (N50°55’ W114°38’) is 42 ha on Route 66 and the Elbow River, providing a visitor center for Elbow Valley.

Fallen Timber Provincial Recreation Area (N51°37’ W114°44’) is a 3-ha site on Fallentimber Creek, a tributary to the Red Deer River, south of Sundre off Township Road 310.

Ghost/Waiparous Provincial Recreation Area group includes eight sites north of Ghost Lake along Route 40. There are six sites in the Alberta-British Columbia Foothills forest ecoregion.

  • Burnt Timber Provincial Recreation Area (N51°35’ W115°10’) is 33 ha along route 734 at the Burnt Timber Creek crossing.
  • Fallen Timber South Provincial Recreation Area (N51°30’ W115°4’) is a 50-ha recreation area on Fallentimber Creek along Route 734 north of Route 579.
  • Ghost Airstrip Provincial Recreation Area (N51°24’ W115°2’) is a 162-ha snowmobile and ski recreation area on Waiparous Creek.
  • Waiparous Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N51°22’ W114°59’) is 102 ha on Waiparous Creek off Route 40, providing trailheads and camping.
  • Waiparous Creek Group Camp Provincial Recreation Area (N51°22’ W114°59’) is a 17-ha site on Route 40 along Waiparous Creek.
  • Waiparous Valley Viewpoint Provincial Recreation Area (N51°25’ W115°2’) is a 3-ha day-use site along Route 40 north of the Waiparous Valley.

James-Wilson Provincial Recreation Area (N51°49’ W115°11’) is 16 ha on Route 734 on the James River at the Wilson Creek confluence west of Sundre.

Jumpingpound Provincial Recreation Area group is a collection of nine sites along Route 68 east of the Kananaskis Valley. There are five sites in the Alberta-British Columbia Foothills forests ecoregion.

  • Dawson Provincial Recreation Area (N51°1’ W114°53’) is a 2-ha equestrian campground on Powderface Trail off Route 68, providing a trailhead for the Sibbald area trail system.
  • Pine Grove Provincial Recreation Area (N51°2’ W114°46’) is a 27-ha group campground providing access to the Sibbald area trail system.
  • Pinetop Provincial Recreation Area (N51°2’ W114°44’) is a 5-ha day-use area and trailhead for the Jumpingpound Loop Trail.
  • Sibbald Lake Provincial Recreation Area (N51°3’ W114°52’) is a 72-ha aspen forest and meadow area with an interpretive trail on camel hunting 11,000 years ago and an Assiniboine campsite 200 years ago. Trailheads provide access to the Sibbald trail system.
  • Sibbald Viewpoint Provincial Recreation Area (N51°3’ W114°51’) is an 8-ha day-use area and trailhead providing access to the Sibbald trail system.

McLean Creek Provincial Recreation Area group includes five sites south of Route 66 and southwest of Calgary which provides access to an off-highway vehicle trail system.

  • Fisher Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N50°47’ W114°35’) is 11 ha on Route 549, providing access to the southern portions of the McLean Creek Off-Highway Vehicle area.
  • McLean Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N50°53’ W114°41’) is 245 ha south of Route 66 on Route 549, providing campgrounds for the McLean Creek Off-Highway Vehicle area.
  • Mesa Butte Provincial Recreation Area (N50°46’ W114°34’) is 10 ha on Route 549, serving equestrian users of the Sheep Valley trail system.
  • North Fork Provincial Recreation Area (N50°45’ W114°32’) is 17 ha on Route 549 at Gorge Creek Road, serving users of the Sheep Valley trail system.
  • Ware Creek Provincial Recreation Area (N50°44’ W114°36’) is 4 ha on Gorge Creek Road, serving as a trailhead for the Sheep Valley trail system.

Medicine Lake Provincial Recreation Area (N52⁰45’ W114⁰45’) is 40 ha on Medicine Lake Road east of Route 22 south of Buck Lake.

Ole Buck Mountain Natural Area (N51°6’ W114°48’) is a 357-ha site of mixed aspen, spruce, and pine south of Ghost Lake, overlooking the Bow River valley.

Red Deer River Provincial Recreation Area (N51°39’ W115°16’) is a 117-ha park on Route 734 at the Red Deer River, offering a site for canoeing, rafting, and off-highway vehicle use of the surrounding area.

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 by the Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park. Major sites in the Alberta-British Columbia foothills forests are the R.B. Miller Field Station of the University of Calgary (N50°39’ W114°39’), Gorge Creek Trailhead (N50°40’ W114°41’), Sandy McNabb trail system (N50°38’ W114°32’), and Visitor Centre (N50°38’ W114°30’).

Town Creek Natural Area (N52⁰54’ W114⁰21’) is 259 ha on Route 20 south of Winfield, featuring a moraine with black spruce fen vegetation.

Welch Creek Natural Area (N52⁰36’ W114⁰37’) is 65 ha south of Route 53 and west of Rimbey. There are black spruce-larch wetlands, patterned fen, and insectivorous plants on a tributary to the Medicine River.

Wildhorse Provincial Recreation Area (N50°46’ W114°42’) is a 16-ha campground at the intersection of Wildhorse, Threepoint, and Volcano trails, part of the Sheep Valley Trail system and accessible from Little Elbow Provincial Recreation Area.

Wild Horse Provincial Recreation Area (N51°39’ W115°21’) is a 5-ha site near the confluence of the Red Deer River and Panther Rivers southwest of Sundre, providing access to hiking trails to Bighorn Falls and Eagle Lake.

Wilson Creek Natural Area (N52⁰46’ W114⁰33’) is 65 ha west of Bluffton on Range Road 45. There are beaver pond complexes, white spruce forests, and colonial nesting colonies of great blue heron. The creek is a tributary of the Medicine River.

to be continued with the North Saskatchewan River, Athabasca River, and Peace River sites.