On the road to Edmonton, Alberta
International Travel

Canada is a vast country filled with a variety of natural wonders and its National Parks do not disappoint. When traveling west across the country on the way to Edmonton, Alberta, you just might pass Elk Island National Park.

If that does happen to be the case, take time out of your trip and stop in. Elk Island offers an incredible experience that’s different from other parks in the region. And it’s one that is more than worth making a point of checking out.

Finding Elk Island

Trumpeter Swans, Elk Island National Park

UNITED STATES – 2001/01/01: USA, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, Trumpeter Swans On Madison River, Winter Scene. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Most people spot Elk Island National Park for the first time while traveling to or from Edmonton on Highway 16, aka the Yellowhead Highway. This is one of the main routes through Canada and it actually runs right through a portion of the park. As such, it’s hard to miss.

Being that close to one of the biggest cities in Western Canada makes this a prime place to spend time. A lot of Canada’s National Parks are quite remote, meaning it can be difficult to access them. That’s definitely not the case with Elk Island, an incredible Parks Canada experience.

Honestly, it’s one of the easiest National Parks to navigate your way to in Canada. That being said, being accessible has not made it any less impressive. It’s not the biggest park in the country but it more than makes up for it by being unique.

What sets Elk Island apart

Finding natural prairie of any kind is becoming incredibly difficult. The northern prairies ecosystem protected in Elk Island National Park, which is a mix of natural and non-native grasses, is rarer and rarer. And that goes double for the herd of Plains Bison that live within its borders.

On top of that, Elk Island is home to stunning Boreal Forest which is home to the densest population of hoofed mammals in the country. That includes the aforementioned Plains Bison as well as moose, lynx, beaver, deer, and many more species.

Given the name, it should come as no surprise that this park is home to an exceedingly healthy population of elk. What is surprising is that both Black Bears and Timber Wolves have appeared with some regularity in the park, though don’t count on spotting them if you’re there.

Another big deal in the park is bird watching. There are more than 250 species of birds that call Elk Island home. This is a superb place to spot birds like Great Blue Herons, Trumpeter Swans, Red-Necked Grebes, and American Bitterns.

Conservation is the name of the game

Bison, Elk Island National Park

WA – WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES – 2009/09/19: Bison grazing at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park near Eatonville in Washington State, USA. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The bounty of wildlife in Elk Island National Park is not to be underestimated. Conserving these species is the main reason it was established in the first place. And spotting them in the wild is a huge reason why many people stop by.

Ultimately, enjoying the bounty of the natural world is the main reason to go there. There’s plenty of options for hiking, canoeing, or even just enjoying the beaches of Astotin Lake. But this is place is about being outside and being present in it.

If you’re looking for another world, Edmonton is 10 minutes away and has all the urban experiences you could ever want, like West Edmonton Mall. But Elk Island National Park is about appreciating nature and everything it has to offer. Just enjoy it.

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