When you're in need of a break from the bustle of the city, where's the place to go? How about Elk Island National Park! Just a 35 minute drive east of Edmonton, the aspen parkland is an outdoor enthusiast’s wonderland where you will find bison, moose, starry skies, and trails to hike. The park is most widely known for its bison and wildlife conservation efforts but we thought we’d fill you in on a few other things you can find there!
1) You Can View Bison Wearing Rain Boots
Last year, Elk Island National Park’s conservationists were noticing that the bison were straying away from their herds to avoid stepping in the spring puddles. Due to the bison’s aversion to getting their hooves excessively wet, the conservationists decided to combat the problem by fitting the bison with custom made protective rain boots. The revolutionary design includes patented comfort technologies, a complex moisture barrier, and a lugged rubber outsole designed for maximum grip. The wearer is afforded a truly luxurious experience that ensures full comfort, and traction. Fittings began in early January of this year with the hope that the bison would become accustomed to the shoe by the time the spring season came around. Elk Island National Park is the first national park to trial the protective boots. If the program is a success, come spring 2019, the park is hoping to outfit the bison in matching rain jackets. This is one sight you won't want to miss, so make sure you schedule in a visit once the snow melts.
2) The Sky is So Clear You Can See Galaxies
Elk Island National Park is part of the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, meaning it’s a stellar location for stargazing and viewing the aurora borealis. Bring a blanket, a basket full of late night snacks, (ahem, stock up on delicious food from local restaurants and bakeries - check out our massive list here) and gaze up at the starry sky where you’ll see star clusters, nebulae and galaxies.
3) It’s the Only Place in Canada Where You Can Get Stuck in A Bison Traffic Jam
This is one traffic jam that Google Maps can’t prepare you for! With hundreds of free roaming bison you just might catch a glimpse of a herd grazing in an open meadow, or stopped in the middle of the highway with steam rising from their wooly coats on a cool morning. If you show up at the right time of the day, with the protection of your vehicle, you can get up close and personal with the ungulates and if you roll down your window you are sure to hear the shuffles and grunts of the protected herd.
4) There's More Than Just Wildlife and Hiking
Think it's just bison watching and wandering? Think again. Elk Island has 80 kms of trails that you can bike, snowshoe or cross-country ski your way through, following in the herds' hoof prints. Want something a little slower paced? Grab a paddle and glide from islands to island on the 6.6 KM² Astotin Lake (rentals available), camp for the night in your own RV or kick-back with glamping at its finest in one of Elk Island's oTENTiks.
5) Elk and Bison Are Not The Only Wildlife You’ll Find at the Park
Elk Island provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in North America. Year round you’ll find moose, beaver, coyote, white-tailed deer, and porcupine. You might also catch a glimpse of a black bear or a timber wolf which have been known to roam within the park.
Avid bird watchers take note! There are over 250 bird species that can be seen in the park at various times during the year, the spring and fall migrations are the best times of the year to experience the vast diversity of bird life.