Great Canadian Parks / Alberta

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The Parks / Alberta / Waterton Lakes National Park

Surveying for cottage lots along the Cameron Creek delta began in 1910 and the following year, construction began on a livery stable and hotel. Canada's first National Park in Banff set the model for the provision of visitor facilities. By the early 1920's, Waterton Park, the town, could boast ¤Government Buildings, Post Office, Local and long-distance telephone, Hotel, Furnished cottages for rent, Restaurant, Rooming House and Garage, Dance Hall, two General Stores, RCMP Station, modern playgrounds for children' according to the Park Superintendent. Visitation steadily increased from 2,000 in 1911 to over 100,000 by the mid-1940's.


Many of the first tourists came from the United States. With the creation of Glacier National Park south of the border, interest in Waterton increased. The Great Northern Railway had begun transporting visitors to its glorious hotel in Glacier, and proposed bringing bus tours through Waterton and on to Jasper. To that end, in 1926 construction began on a luxury hotel. The Prince of Wales Hotel has become one of the most photographed buildings in the Rockies, its Swiss chalet-style edifice overlooking Upper Waterton Lake and one of the most breathtaking mountain vistas anywhere.


From a peak attendance of more than 600,000, Waterton Lakes National Park today receives about 350,000 visitors annually. There are boat rentals and stables, an 18-hole golf course, and a cruise to Goat Haunt Visitor Centre in Montana. And for the traditionalists, there are over 250 kilometres of hiking trails that range from short strolls to multi-day backpacking adventures.


Unlike Banff, Waterton's townsite has retained a small town character, and happily so. The year-round population peaked at 250; now it hovers around 80. The town maintains architectural design codes to ensure any re-building will stay in character. And the residents, many of whom are now third and fourth generation, are committed to peaceful co-existence with the wilderness.

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