Iconic Prince of Wales Hotel guards Emerald Bay in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada.
The Prince of Wales Hotel stands stalwart above Emerald Bay overlooking Waterton Village and the length of Upper Waterton Lake, which crosses the Canada-USA border at Boundary Bay, about two thirds of the way south on the lake. The Prince of Wales Hotel is a widely recognized, international symbol of historic proportion.
The hotel was constructed in 1927 by the Great Northern Railway to lure American tourists north of the border during prohibition. The hotel was named after the Prince of Wales, at that time, who later assumed the throne as King Edward VIII of England. His abdication of the throne in 1936 to marry an American woman is one of the great love stories of all time. To the best of knowledge, King Edward VIII never actually stayed at the hotel.
Prince of Wales Hotel, in a Swiss motif similar to the Many Glacier Hotel to the south in Glacier National Park, has 86 rooms and an impressive 30 foot bell tower. The hotel contains heavy steel cables, integrated into the structure and anchored into the ground, which are designed to withstand frequently encountered heavy winds.
The hot weather of the first three days in Waterton Lakes National Park has surrendered overnight to rain and much cooler temperatures. Skies are heavily overcast and early morning drizzle calls for rain gear. Surrounding mountains are largely hidden in low cloud ceilings and Upper Waterton Lake is incredibly beautiful in an entirely different way.
Waterton Village, across Emerald Bay and below the Prince of Wales Hotel, is bustling as usual in the summer months. Faint evidence of public address systems waft across the bay as they herd people onto morning boat cruises.
There is time after a hearty breakfast at Zum's Eatery and before driving west on the Akamina Parkway for the planned activities of the day. The forecast has skies clearing later in the day, however it is of little consequence with plans which can be achieved under inclement weather and the gear to make it possible and comfortable.
Based on the view south along Upper Waterton Lake, the weather will not be improving soon, so there is time to take a quick tour of the inside of the historic hotel.
The front door, on the north side is made of heavy carved wood and contains stain glass windows. Inside, the registration desk is on the right, and the gift shop, containing many unique and local items, is around the corner to the left. Huge vertical wooden poles support the ceiling above four floors of wooden balconies surrounding the periphery of the dining area. A massive iron chandelier hangs from the ceiling and central tables on old wooden floors reside in the presence of the large stone fireplace to the left on this trip back in time to better, more civilized and simpler days.
The view south from the dining room showcases Upper Waterton Lake. Every afternoon, a traditional English afternoon tea is served in this dining room for a memorable and unique experience. Tea and crumpets.
The hotel has an ambiance of aristocracy mixed with adventurer. People come from all over the world to stay here. The Prince of Wales Hotel has a captivating presence and an interesting history. This place has character of the kind that deserves to be preserved.