Teach Through Educational Travel: Waterton Lakes National Park
Waterton Lakes National Park, in Alberta, Canada, is a triple bonus. Why? It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a Biosphere, and an International Peace Park. Add to that some incredible beauty, and you’ve got a destination that is extremely popular. The park was first created in 1895; the name derives from the Waterton chain of lakes in the area (named after a British naturalist, Squire Charles Waterson (1782-1865)).
The park is located along the southern Rocky Mountains Natural Region, where the Rockies meet the prairie. This unique location means that there are several ecological regions meeting up – the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the Pacific Northwest. There are 45 different habitat types in the park, and a huge variety of species. In fact, more than half of the plant species in Alberta can be found here in the park. The park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its distinctive climate, ecology, mountain-prairie environment, and deep glacial lakes. It is next door to Glacier National Park. The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was created in 1932, as a symbol of goodwill and peace between Canada and the USA.
- Read more about the UNESCO Designation here, and then check out a video of the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park here. What surprised you about the video? I loved hearing the glaciers release ancient air!
- Split into small groups and research the areas within this page. Each group should take one of the areas of learning (nature, history, peace park, national historic site, etc.), discover as much as you can, and then report back to the class at large about this incredible place.
- The park is well known for its beautiful hiking trails – and wildlife. Check out these amazing photos of the wildlife in Waterton Park. You will see Bald Eagles, bears, wolves, wild cats, small mammals, wolverines, marmots, birds, moose, wolves, and more.
- The biosphere is important to study, as well. Watch some of these videos from the Digital Storytelling Program from the University of Calgary. What do you do, in terms of environmental conservation efforts? What inspires you from these stories? How can you (as a class, and as an individual) do more?
- What can you see here? Besides nature, you can visit the Prince of Wales Hotel National Historic Site, and the Lineham Discover Well National Historic Site. Want a glimpse? You can see a webcam at Waterton Park. Read this article of one traveler’s experience at Waterton. If you went to Waterton, what would you like to see and do first?