Elk Island National Park is east of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Elk Island National Park is a wildlife sanctuary, aspen parkland and boreal forest reserve. This unique and ecologically active park is Canada's first wildlife sanctuary. Elk Island National Park manages Plains Bison and Wood Bison conservation recovery herds and provides bison to other parks around the world. Currently, there is an initiative underway to establish a buffalo herd in the northern part of Banff National Park.
The hike begins from the north parking area of the Astotin Lake Area near Sandy Beach Campground where the trail ascends to outstanding views over Astotin Lake.
Lakeview trail, Elk Island National Park, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
The initial portion of the hike is on old, narrow pavement which leads to the trail kiosk. From lofty views above Astotin Lake, the trail descends gradually, on good trail, into dense wetland. The Lakeview Trail is a 3.5 KM (2¼ mile) hike over gentle terrain with access to a loop in the dense evergreen forest called Spruce Woods. Behind the trail kiosk, a sign on the cattle guard gate advises to be on the lookout for free range bison roaming in the area.
The official flower of the Province of Alberta is the Wild Rose. Plenty of the simple pink flowers are featured along this trail through a wide variety of terrain. Level trail crosses occasional boardwalks in the transition through lush marshland from one pond to another. Audible evidence indicates heavy animals, either moose or bison, are nearby but thick foliage conceals them.
Trail through Aspen forest is frequently interrupted by wetland terrain. Periodically, a glimpse of Astotin Lake peeks through dense forestation until we enter Spruce Woods where old viewing platforms have long been denied their vision by dense overgrown forest.
The trail passes a derelict viewing platform and more boardwalk over marshland before returning to the loop junction. The marshland is active with a variety of birds of many shapes, sizes and color. Seldom is seen this much wildlife in one small area. Along the return route, the trail offers a choice of paved trail. The original path is chosen for better views over Astotin Lake.
Scenic views over Astotin Lake share a mild cooling breeze on a rapidly warming day. There are several evenly spaced benches along the ridge summit with spectacular, relaxing vistas over the lake and the beautiful forested islands it hosts. The appearance of Sandy Beach is welcome.
The late lunch at picnic tables in the shade is joined by a variety of birds, several squirrels and one snowshoe hare. The south end of the Astotin Lake Recreation Area contains the Astotin Theatre, the Visitor Interpretation Centre and a well-appointed playground for the children. Two other trails begin from the south end of the Sandy Beach area. They are the short, but fascinating, Living Waters Boardwalk hiked the previous year and the longer Shoreline Trail to be hiked in the future.
Near the shady lunch spot at Astotin Lake there is a short trail leading up to the Ukrainian Pioneer Home. This pioneer cabin replica was constructed in 1951 to recognize Ukrainian immigrant pioneers who settled in this area. The Ukrainian Pioneer Home in Elk Island National Park is the first historic site dedicated to Ukrainian immigration to Canada. Ukrainian Pioneer Home is declared a Canadian Historic Place. Nearby is the outstanding Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village.
Elk Island Park was granted federal park status in 1913, followed by recognition as a National Park in 1930 when the National Parks Act passed. Elk Island National Park and Cooking Lake - Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area are part of a 300 square KM (187.5 square mile) area east of Edmonton, Alberta which is dedicated to maintaining dark sky. Many animals and plants benefit from maintenance of historic nocturnal patterns. They may be seriously compromised by light pollution. The study of the effects of darkness on biology is known as scotobiology. There are currently seven Dark Sky Preserves in Canada and three of them are in National Parks.
- Elk Island National Park (Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve)
- Fort Walsh National Historic Site (Cypress Hills Dark Sky Preserve) and
- Point Pelee National Park and Dark Sky Preserve.
Dark Sky Preserves are established to:
- increase visibility of the night sky
- promote protection of nocturnal habitat, and
- encourage public access to, and awareness of, the night sky.
Dark Sky Preserves are maintained by a variety of practices which include:
- downward directed lighting or sensor-triggered lighting
- the use of more efficient and effective lighting technology, and
- ensuring a balance between needs, safety, efficiency and reduction of light pollution.
Dark Sky Preserves information was obtained from the Elk Island National Park Visitor Centre. An informative brochure is available.
Photographs for the Lakeview Trail post were captured on July 15, 2014 in Elk Island National Park east of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.