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22 November 2010

From Waterton National Park to Frank Slide to Kaslo.

Waterton National Park - Frank Slide - Kaslo


The time has come to leave Waterton National Park. It is truly a spectacular place. Next time you are in Southern Alberta, make a point to visit, you will not be disappointed.

                                       View Waterton National Park to Frank Slide to Kaslo in a larger map

Frank Slide

We head out and set our sites on the town of Frank where Canada's most deadly slide happened "Frank Slide". "The town of Frank is in Southern Alberta on #3 highway about 24km from the British Columbia border.

In 1903 part of the village of Frank was covered by a rock slide.

Don't miss the Interpretive Centre, it is very interesting and so is the view from up there.

The Frank Slide happened at 4:10 in the morning on the 29th of April 1903. The side of Turtle Mountain let go and 82 million tonnes of limestone came down. At least 70-90 people perished.

Liz at the interpretive Centre

Frank Slide in 1903
The size of the Frank Slide is immense;  500 ft (150 m) deep, 1,400 ft (425 m) high and 3280 ft (1000 m) wide. The slide was like and avalanche of rocks and  took under 100 seconds, covering an area of 1.2 square miles or 3 square kilometers.

Frank Slide covering an area of 3 square kilometers
The cause of the slide was probably a combination of things. Turtle Mountain's unstable structure, the coal mining that was going on in the mountain, and the severe weather conditions.

Anders looks with amazement at Frank Slide
Turtle Mountain is still not very stable and is monitored for what more then likely will be another slide. It almost gives you an uncomfortable feeling. Liz's words, "get me out of here". You should not miss this part of Canadian History, it is really worth seeing.

Like in many disasters there are some miracles, and the Frank Slide also had a few, like the 17 coal miners managing to dig themselves out 14 hours after the slide, was one of them. For lots more information check out the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre website.

Liz said: "Get me out of here"

Crowsnest Pass

We get back in the truck and head west toward the Crowsnest pass and the British Columbia border beyond. Wonderful country to drive through. The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass has lots to offer and is like a mini recreation capital of South Western Alberta. Here we fuel up and give everything a good check up.

Searching the web where the name Crowsnest came from, I have not found a direct answer. It looks like it did come from the Crow First Nations. One story is that the Crow Natives had been steeling some horses from the Blackfoot First Nation. The Crow were hiding out in the pass (nest) and the Blackfoot found them in their nest or hiding spot and massacred them.

We are back in British Columbia, just outside Sparwood.

The Kootenay First Nation or the Ktunaxa name for the pass is "Yakyaqanqat" or "way through the mountains". They used the route long before the Europeans came, it was their way across the mountains to hunt buffalo or bison on the plains.

Some people think the name actually originated because of all the crows that are nesting in the trees in the region. Not sure if we ever will find out.

Sparwood, BC.

Next stop is Sparwood, in British Columbia. Sparwood is a small coal mining town that is going through a transition from a wealthy mining community to a community mix of retirement, recreation and tourism. Sparwood just like Crowsnest is recreation mecca.


Wow, that's a big truck. Makes my Dodge Ram look pretty small.

Sure would love to drive one ....

Sparwood has lots of attractions, like the largest truck in the world...... Liz sure got excited checking it out :)

Liz, just so excited, yeah sure.....
For more information on Sparwood, check out the "District of Sparwood" website.

Creston

It was time for some serious driving. Driving through some incredible country, we wish we could stop at every town and city but we do have a deadline.... sort of.  We drive through Fernie, following number 3 Highway into Cranbrook and finally we pull into Creston.
On the way to Creston, BC

We camped at Pair-A-Dice RV Park & Campground. We get a great pull-through site with full hook up. This campground is top notch, everything is clean and tidy. Liz put up a couple of loads of laundry, cleanest laundry room around. Would definitely stay here again.

Creston and the surrounding Creston Valley, 1740 ft above sea level, is such a beautiful and quaint place. This little town of 5000 people is right in the heart of the Kootenays, surrounded by the majestic Purcell and Selkirk mountain ranges. To the south is the USA and Idaho and to the north is the southern part of Kootenay Lake.
Creston Valley

Picking up some farm fresh eggs

Farming is a big part in the Creston Valley and more then 25,000 acres or 101 square kilometers have been reclaimed and protected by dykes. We only think that the Netherlands have dykes.... not so. But then again, 27% of the Netherlands are below sea level with one point being 23 ft below sea level.... Did someone say the sea levels were rising?

We took a small tour around the valley, picked up some farm fresh eggs and some fresh bread and we were set for the evening.

Kaslo

The following morning we got off to a late start, but we had lots of time. Our target this time was a campground just north of Kaslo, on the west side of Kootneay Lake

                                                                        View Creston to Kaslo in a larger map

We loved the scenic drive north along Kootneay Lake even in the rain. The ferry ride across the Kootenay Lake from Kootenay Bay to Balfour is free and very scenic. Once across the lake we continued north along the west-side of the lake. The road on both sides of the lake is in good condition but it is not a road to break speed records on. It winds along the lake: take it slow and enjoy the scenery.

The Purcell Mountains are hiding on the other side of Kootenay Lake

Kootenay Lake
Our end destination for the day was Schroeder Creek Resort just north of Kaslo. This part of the road is really windy, we are driving slow and Liz had white knuckles looking over the edges down to the water.

Arriving in Kaslo

Schroeder Creek Resort, north of Kaslo on Highway 31

Anders checking out the boats in the marina

We arrived just after lunch at Schroder Creek Resort and got a site with full hook up. This resort has a lot of people that come here year after year. Fishing and happy hour must be popular. Some visitors even have decks built around their trailers. The resort also has a marina.

We have of course pictures in our Picasa Webalbum, you can scroll through the pictures or watch the slide show.

Next blog, is "Kaslo to Vernon"

Cheers,

Liz and Anders

11 November 2010

Red Rock Canyon & Bison Paddock in Waterton National Park

Red Rock Canyon and Bison Paddock

If you read our previous blog you know that Waterton National Park is huge, 505 km² or 203 mi². That is actually bigger then 192 of the smallest countries in the world (just thought you needed to know that)

Waterton National Park a Biosphere Reserve

Waterton Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also an International Peace Park, and a Biosphere Reserve. No other park in the world has these three designations. Waterton Biosphere Reserve as it is officially called, was designated in 1979 under what is called the internationally recognized "Man and the Biosphere program" of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), that sure is a mouthful. Biosphere Reserves are designed to promote and demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature.

Two black bears looking for food in Waterton National Park crossing Red Rock Parkway



Biosphere reserves ideally consist of two components:

  • A core protected area which is relatively undisturbed. This provides a "benchmark" or ecological standard for comparison purposes with altered landscapes.
  • A zone of cooperation adjacent to the core where a variety of resource uses take place.
Waterton National Park - Fall Colours

Lots of deer right in the town of Waterton

The Waterton biosphere reserve covers prairie grasslands, aspen grove forests, sub alpine forests, alpine tundra and meadows, cliffs, lakes and freshwater wetlands as well as disturbed, heavily grazed land in the prairies.

On our next side trip, after a coffee re-fill we headed for the Bison Paddocks. Just a short distance north of Waterton Lakes Nation Park town-site on Highway 6 is the Waterton Bison Paddock.

Buffalo or Bison Paddock in Waterton National Park

This is where a protected herd of rare Plains bison are kept for viewing as a reminder of their legacy as well as in attempt to aid in increasing their population size and advance their species.

Buffalo Paddock in Waterton National Park, Where Prairie Meets the Rocky Mountains

Huge Bison (also called Buffalo) herds once roamed the plains of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Their numbers estimated were between 30-70 million (I guess we never know, will we) in the 17th century. This animal has a keen sense of smell and can distinguish smells from 3km away.The numbers dwindle steadily due to over hunting, and also a steady loss of habitat. Close to the end of the 19th century there were just very few of them left. Bison are now listed on the province's endangered list.

Bison resting 

Bison in Waterton National Park

Back in the 17-1800 the Bison used traditional migration routes across the prairies. These migration routes are still visible from the air as deep, worn paths.

Bison are now farmed in many parts of Canada, like these in Saskatchewan.

The Bison get spooked very easily and stampede.

It's like thunder when the herd takes off

Remarkably, a handful of “wood bison”, a regional variant of the species with a range that once included the forested regions of northern Alberta, northwest Saskatchewan, parts of the Yukon and southern Northwest Territories, managed to survive the slaughters by the early settlers.

Plains Bison Roaming.
Plains Bison

So what's the difference between the Wood Bison and Plains Bison? The Plains Bison is lighter in colour than the Wood Bison. The Wood Bison is taller, has longer legs, is heavier, but it is less stockily built than the Plains Bison.

Red Rock Canyon

Next on our list is the Red Rock Canyon. A 14 km drive west on Red Rock Parkway takes us to the Red Rock Canyon. Red Rock Parkway is a paved two lane road in good condition. It is however narrow and has many curves.

Red Rock Parkway following Blakiston Creek

The road follows Blakiston Creek, named for Lt. Thomas Blakiston of the Palliser Expedition in 1858, the stream is also often referred to as Pass Creek as it originates near the South Kootenay Pass.

The Blakiston Valley History
The fauna in the Blakiston Valley is incredible

The fauna in the Blakiston Valley is incredible

I think these are juniper berries (it's actually not a berry, but a female seed cone).

I think these are buffalo berries

Nature at it's best

More berries

With lots of wild life in the area, this is not a place for breaking speed records. We have been told that near the end of October until the beginning of May the road is closed to motor vehicles. This is to provide cycling, hiking, and cross-country skiing experiences without having to worry about vehicles on the road.

The landscape is wonderful

A hike is a must once you reach the Red Rock Canyon

I would say you need an absolute minimum of 2-4 hrs to see just a small portion. You could easy spend a whole day with several wonderful hikes. Arriving at the Canyon, we could not help noticing the striking colors of the bedrock layers.

Anders enjoying every minute by the little creek

Liz look in amazement at the colours

The layers of red, green and white coloured rock offer a brilliant contrast to each other and the lush surroundings.

Different layers of red and green-white minerals
No doubt this is Red Rock Canyon
Liz taking in the sights

There are several short self-guided hikes in the canyon that explain some of the ancient history of mountainous native civilizations, as well as the unique formation of Red Rock Canyon. If you  go to the Waterton National Park, this is a must see.
Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

There is so much more to see and do in the park. For more information on the park, go to the park website More pictures on our Picasa Web Album.

Our next blog will be: From Waterton,to Frank Slide, to Kaslo, BC

Cheers,

Liz & Anders