We gathered at the Galt Museum to start the tour to Waterton and were joined by Wendy Aitkens our museum curator who joined us to talk about the different historical things that we could see from the bus. Waterton is a a unique site because in this area the prairie goes right up to the mountains without a buffer of foothills. The area's first permanent, non-Aboriginal, settlers arrived in the 1870s although the town site was not surveyed until 1910. Waterton Park is a part of an International Peace Park with the American Glacier National Park. Glacier Park is celebrating its centennial this year.
Our first stop was the Prince of Whales Hotel which opened in 1927 and is now a national historic site. Just like our museum it has some ghost stories in its history. The most interesting thing that I learned on the tour of the hotel was that the horizontal beam visible in the photo below are to keep Big Horned Sheep from ramming their heads through the glass, especially in the winter when the hotel is closed.
Our next stop was Cameron Falls which is the site of the oldest rock in the Canadian Rocky Mountain Range. The Precambrian rock is over 1.5 billion years old, and is visible right near the falls.We watched a herd of deer run down the hill from the top of the falls. This baby deer got separated from the herd and started crying for its mom. Our next stop was for lunch upstairs at the Waterton Lakes Resort where we ate on a patio with a view of the mountains. Park interpreter Juanita joined us to talk about park history, and we learned about the history of the park which was founded in 1895, and is the site of the first producing oil well in Alberta. I learned that some lake trout can be up to 100 years old!
Our next stop was the Waterton Wildflower Festival where we explored the exhibits on display and then went on a guided wildflower walk with a wonderful interpreter! We talked about the different native plants, and the changes in park vegetation including the introduction of non-native plants.
Another thing I found interesting on the wildflower tour was the efforts to save some historical plants. This whitebark pine tree, for example, is a part of a research project that is attempting to save the endangered species.
I also learned on this tour that the park is named after the Waterton Lakes chain which was named during the Palliser Expedition by Lieutenant Blakiston in honour of a British naturalist Squire Charles Waterton.