Waterton Lakes National Park is a land of serrated mountains, rolling prairies and mirror-like glacial lakes. Located in Alberta, Canada and directly north of Glacier National Park, Waterton is similar to its more familiar sister park and, in fact, the two are managed cooperatively as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. However, Waterton contains a more extensive road system, more prairie land and more easily found lowland wildlife than Glacier. In 1995, the Waterton-Glacier complex was designated as a World Heritage Site for the ecological diversity of the area. This diversity derives from the meeting of species from the Northwest, the northern forests, the prairies and the Rockies in the narrowest spot in the Rocky Mountain chain.
Waterton Lakes weather is typical Northern Rockies fare—it’s highly variable with more precipitation starting in fall and continuing on through spring. In the summer, mountain afternoon thunderstorms are common. Wind can be a serious problem at times. Dressing in layers is recommended, as even on hot days, the mornings and evenings can be considerably cooler.
One definitely won’t run out of photo opportunities in Waterton Lakes. There are lakes on the prairie with the mountains reflected in them, lush forests, towering mountains and abundant wildlife. Take a special look at Red Rock Parkway. This road starts close to Waterton Village and follows Blakiston Creek. You’ll find many landscape opportunities along the way, including the namesake Red Rock Canyon at the end of the road, and Lost Horse Creek, about midway. Lost Horse Creek looks a lot like Red Rock Canyon, but is much smaller. The main attraction here, at least in the fall, is the large number of bears feeding on berries along the road.
Other wildlife can be seen throughout the park. The elk are far less tolerant of people here than in Yellowstone, but if one is prepared to photograph them from a slightly longer distance, excellent images are possible.
The Akamina Parkway is an interesting location to photograph as well and travels through a more forested region of the park. Be prepared for forest birds and intriguing Cameron Lake at the end of the road. This lake appears to abruptly end in a mountain wall, creating a beautiful but somewhat unusual image.
Visiting Waterton any time of year is fruitful, depending on what you want to photograph. Winter requires skill, however, as all the trails traverse avalanche-prone areas, and the park recommends that you not take these trails unless you’re experienced at evaluating the risk. Autumn is an especially good time to travel to the park. The berries will be ripe along the roads and the bears will be fattening up for the winter.