Categories > Places

4 Routes for Wildlife Viewing in the Athabasca Region

The Athabasca Region is nestled in the southern part of the mixed-wood boreal forest, providing excellent habitat for birds, mammals, amphibians, insects and more! This creates great opportunities for wildlife spotting, photography and viewing. Each season there is a varied cast of characters for you to see. Spring is a great time for returning migratory birds.

The Athabasca Region has viewing platforms and other infrastructure to help make your wildlife watching easier. So bring your binoculars or telephoto lens to glimpse some of the iconic species in the Athabasca Region.

Here are some routes to help you plan a wildlife-viewing adventure!

Tips for Successful Wildlife Viewing

  • The wildlife you might see depends on the seasons. Some birds may live here all year and others migrate here.
  • Some of these sites are more remote and may not be accessible by all people. Many viewing platforms have ramps, but getting to them may be a challenge.
  • Many of the roads are gravel, so be prepared for the driving conditions.
  • Don’t feed or harass wildlife and stay a safe distance away.
  • Keep your pet leashed. Dogs can scare wildlife.
  • Dress for the weather. Layers are best in our climate!
  • Be respectful of the habitat and leave no trace.
  • Have fun!

Here are some guides produced by Crooked Creek Conservancy and partners. They have some basic maps, lists of species and details on when and where to best view them.

Bird Guide  | Mammal Guide

South of Athabasca

A great wildlife watching day-trip or overnight from Edmonton!

Leave from Edmonton or St. Albert and drive north on Hwy to to Rochester. Turn into Rochester and follow Range Road 240A north out of the village. The viewpoint is about 7 km north. There is a sign to mark the entrance.

From there make your way north-west to Narrow Lake Campground. There are tables and fire-pits in the day use area and this would make a good spot to view, as it is adjacent to some areas birds and wildlife might hang out.

Depending on how long you want to spend, from here you could visit Cross Lake Provincial Park or head north to Baptiste Lake. Cross Lake has a viewing platform that is a bit of a hike in, but is an undisturbed area so viewing might be good!

When you arrive at the Baptiste Lake Campground, follow the road north a bit and you will see some picnic tables along the bank. This area is a little more secluded and away from the busy beach area.

When you are finished at Baptiste, head east on Hwy 2 to Athabasca for a delicious meal at one of our great restaurants or stay overnight. From Athabasca, its just 1.5 hours back to Edmonton.

Tawatinaw River Viewpoint

 

Narrow Lake

 

Baptiste Lake Day Use Area

 

North of Athabasca

North of Athabasca you can visit Calling Lake Provincial Park or access the river at a couple of points.

Travel north from Athabasca on Highway 813. The first place to access the river on this route is River Meadows RV Park. They are a private RV park, but have a day use area right on the river bank. Their site is also adjacent to a meander that  might be a great spot to view all sorts of wildlife. If you want to stop in for the day, please contact them here. Or better yet, if you are combining your wildlife viewing with camping, stay the night!

From here you can access the river at the other place on the river. give directions

From here, get back on Highway 813 and follow it north to Calling Lake. There are a few secluded spots along the lake bank where some birds and other wildlife might be hanging out.

Northwest of Athabasca

This route is a longer day trip or overnight stay.

From Athabasca, follow Highway 2 north.

Island Lake Campground

 

Chain Lakes Campground

Lawrence Lake Campground

 

Boyle Lakeland

White Earth Valley Natural Area

Long Lake Provincial Park

 

Boyle Fishing Pond

Hope Lake Campground

North Buck Lake Narrows

More Resources

Get Ready For Camping in the Athabasca Region

Spring is here, so it’s time to start planning your camping trips for 2024! If you’re looking to experience a Boreal getaway, take a look at the Athabasca Region!

The Athabasca Region is rich in camping opportunities for all tastes and skill sets. From fully serviced provincial campgrounds to RV parks to backcountry wilderness, you will find a special place to camp! There are more campgrounds than there are weekends in the summer!

Most camping opportunities now have online booking, so click the provided links to secure your spot. Most Athabasca Region campgrounds are open until the end of September, so take advantage of the amazing fall colours and generally mild weather.

When camping in the Athabasca Region, be sure to note weather conditions and fire bans and always have bear smart food storage. If you are using a watercraft, please clean it before and after use to prevent the spread of invasive species. If you use an ATV remember to keep your wheels out of water and stay on designated trails.

 

A view of Long Lake from Long Lake Provincial Park

Long Lake Provincial Park

 

Provincial Campgrounds

Provincial campgrounds in the Athabasca region vary in size and amenities. All have lake access, except Poacher’s Landing, which provides access to the Athabasca River. While most have water available, please bring potable drinking water. Some sites sell firewood.

The Region’s provincial parks are from 1.75 to 2.5 hours from Edmonton and 2.5 to 3 hours from Ft. McMurray.

 

Calling Lake Provincial Park

  • 35 minutes to Athabasca
  • Excellent opportunities for watercraft and fishing
  • Firewood for sale

Chain Lakes Provincial Recreation Area

  • First Come, First Serve (No advanced booking)
  • Unserviced sites with tables and firepits
  • Great for watercraft, fishing and hanging out on the sandy beach

Cross Lake Provincial Park

  • 40 minutes to Athabasca
  • Great hiking and wildlife observation
  • Showers and flush toilets
  • Sani dump for registered campers

Lawrence Lake Provincial Recreation Area

  • 30 minutes to Athabasca
  • Fishing, watercraft and bird watching
  • Easy access from Hwy 2

Long Lake Provincial Park

  • 15 minutes to Boyle
  • Many amenities including a concession, firewood for sale, flush toilets and showers
  • Great for watercraft and has a trail system that connects with the White Earth Valley Natural Area

North Buck Lake Provincial Park

  • 20 minutes to Boyle
  • Amenities include a beach, bike trails, a playground and firewood for sale
  • Excellent opportunities for watersports, fishing and birdwatching

Poacher’s Landing Provincial Recreation Area

  • 40 minutes to Athabasca and 40 minutes to Boyle
  • Boat launch into the Athabasca River and connected to the LaBiche River Wildland
  • Trails for hiking, ATVs and horses, unserviced lots and first come/first serve

 

View of the lake from Jackfish Lake Campground A small tent set up under some trees

Jackfish Lake Campground

 

Athabasca County Campgrounds

Athabasca County manages 9 campgrounds throughout the region. Set in the Boreal forest, all are on lakes and have access to the water. Some are as small as 3 campsites with basic amenities, while Forfar Recreation Park has 72 sites and more amenities. All County sites can be reserved online. Firewood is available at some sites, and others close by. Get supplies in Boyle or Athabasca, and take in one of the many events happening throughout the spring, summer and fall camping seasons.

There are seasonal sites available at Hope Lake and Forfar Recreational Area.  Fill out an application before Jan 31st of the upcoming camping year and pay a non-refundable $50 fee to apply.  You can find more information and the application at the County website: athabascacounty.com/seasonal-camping

Athabasca County campgrounds are around 2 to 2.5 hours from Edmonton and 3 to 3.5 hours from Ft. McMurray.

 

Baptiste Lake

  • 15 minutes to Athabasca
  • Tent sites only
  • Day-use area, playground, pier and boat launch

Forfar Recreation Park

  • 30 minutes to Athabasca
  • Group camping and ATV storage
  • Beach, swimming area, hiking trails and boat launch

Ghost Lake

  • 25 minutes to Athabasca
  • Boat launch for small boats only
  • Great fishing with a fish cleaning station

Hope Lake

  • 25 minutes to Boyle
  • Park office, firewood, ATV compound and cookhouse
  • Excellent for hiking, fishing and swimming

Island Lake

  • 25 minutes to Athabasca
  • Good fishing with a fish cleaning station
  • Birdwatching station and watersports

Jackfish Lake

  • 25 minutes to Athabasca
  • good fishing and fish cleaning station
  • Day-use area with beaches and swimming

Long Lake

  • 25 minutes to Athabasca
  • Only 3 sites, with a boat launch for small boats
  • Fishing, watersports and hiking trails

Narrow Lake

  • 30 minutes to Athabasca
  • Great fishing, with a boat launch for small boats
  • Day-use area and pier

North Buck Lake Narrows

  • 25 minutes to Boyle
  • Boat launch for small boats only
  • Great bird and wildlife watching on the birdwatching platform

 

River Meadows RV Park

 

Private Campgrounds and RV Parks

Mostly catering to seasonal RV campers, the Athabasca Region has several private campgrounds. Some are adjacent to other recreational offerings including golf, disc golf (fling and footgolf, too), hiking, water access, and more.  Some of these private operators offer online booking on their websites. Be sure to check the links for more information and rates.

Athabasca Acres RV Resort

  • 15 minutes east of Athabasca and 20 minutes to Boyle
  • Adjacent to a forested area with trails
  • Across the highway from the Amber Valley Cultural Centre

Athabasca Lions Campground

Blueberry Hill RV Park

  • 10 minutes to Athabasca
  • Seasonal RV park with some nightly camping
  • Adjacent to Athabasca Golf & Country Club

Boyle RV Park

  • Located right in the Village of Boyle
  • Close to the ball diamonds and historical walking trails

Chump Lake Campground

  • Close to Boyle, on Chump Lake
  • Beach and day-use area

Corrigal Lake (Round Lake) Campground

  • Close to Wandering River
  • Limited amenities
  • Access to lake for small watercraft

Highway 63 RV Park

  • Close to Wandering River
  • Full-service RV park

Katherine’s Kamping Korner

  • 15 minutes to Grassland
  • Sites have power, water and sewer and WiFi is free

view of trees and water feature at Rocky Lanes Fairways and Recreation Golf fairway at Riverbank Golf and RV Park

Left – Rocky Lane Fairways & Recreation | Right – Riverbank Golf & RV Park

 

Long Island RV Resort

  • 45 minutes to Athabasca
  • Serviced seasonal campground

Riverbank Golf & RV Park

  • 5 minutes to Wandering River
  • Mostly seasonal sites, but do have overflow sites
  • 9 Hole scenic golf course

River Meadows RV Park

Rocky Lane Fairways & Recreation

  • 10 minutes to Athabasca
  • Unserviced sites with firepits and picnic tables; firewood available
  • The golf course includes traditional golf, disc golf, fling golf and soccer golf

Shoreline Shore Resort

South Baptiste Cabins, RV & Camping

  • 15 minutes to Athabasca
  • Fully serviced campsites and shower/laundry facilities
  • Close to quadding trails and Baptiste Lake water access

 

Back Country Camping/Wilderness Areas

If you’re looking for your next great adventure, check out the backcountry camping in the Athabasca Regions wilderness areas! Experience the boreal forest up close and personal in some untouched forest areas.

These areas have limited amenities and are set in boreal forest areas including wetlands, small lakes and wildlife. Some areas may have limited cell coverage. Use caution during hunting and fire seasons. Many trails are ATV-friendly, but please stay on the provided trails to preserve our amazing forested areas.

 

George’s Point Walk-in/Boat-in Tenting

  • Located at Cross Lake Provincial Park
  • Hike the trail (7 km, check for conditions) or use your watercraft to cross the lake
  • Has some amenities like picnic tables, fire pits and toilets.

Hubert Lake Wildland

  • Random backcountry camping
  • ATV trails

La Biche River Wildland

  • Access from Poacher’s Landing
  • Undisturbed Boreal forest setting; random backcountry camping
  • Good for horseback riding, ATV

Otter-Orloff Lakes Wildland

  • Random backcountry camping
  • The access road can have seasonally poor conditions

Peace River Wilderness Trail

  • Part of the Trans Canada Trail
  • The staging area is 25 minutes north of Athabasca
  • Has some informal campsites with toilet facilities

 

 


Blueberry Hill RV Park

 

More Info

Sani-Dumps

Blueberry Hill, Forfar, Long Lake Provincial Park and Cross Lake Provincial Park have sani-dumps. Most private and provincial sites are for guest use only. Contact your host for details.

Public access:

Fishing Licences

Cheap Seat Sports

Canadian Tire Athabasca

Fire Bans

Please check here for current fire ban alerts.

Purchase Firewood

You can purchase firewood in multiple places in the County or Athabasca. Click here for listings. Many local gas stations and hardware stores sell bundled firewood.

 

 

Enjoy Your Trip

Whether you choose to RV or hike into the wilderness, you’ll experience the Boreal forest, lakes, rivers, wildlife and people of the region at their finest! You’ll want to return for your next camping getaway, and bring your friends too!

To make sure you enjoy your trip to the maximum, be sure to bring appropriate gear and supplies, make a plan and plan to have fun. If you have any questions about camping in the Athabasca Region, email ted@athabascacounty.com

Share your Athabasca Region camping experience on social media using the hashtags #LiveLifeOutside and #VisitTheAthabascaRegion.

Thrift & Finds Crawl in Downtown Athabasca!

If you love thrifting and finding unique gifts and homeware, yummy coffee and treats, and delicious brunches and lunches, Athabasca has an afternoon of fun for you!

Downtown Athabasca is perfectly set up for an awesome “Thrift & Finds Crawl”. If you don’t know what a “thrift crawl” is, think pub crawl but with second-hand shopping! And here in Athabasca, you can visit some unique retailers along the way, too.

For this order of stops, you could park at the Riverfront, but there are other parking options where you could start your crawl. There’s parking on 51st Street and you could loop around from there.

Wear walking shoes, this crawl is about 3 km long. The Town of Athabasca is built on the Athabasca River Valley, so there are some hills. There are a lot of places for refreshments along the way if you need a break.

If you are looking for more thrift & finds opportunities, there are a few to drive to. You’ll never know what you’ll find, so it’s worth it.

Ready, Set, Crawl…

1. Paddymelon Gifts, Espresso & Eatery – 4911 – 49 Street

Starting from the Athabasca Riverfront Park, walk south (away from the river) on 49th Street. About halfway up the block, you’ll come to the first stop.

Paddymelon Gifts, Espresso & Eatery is a great place to start your crawl. Fuel up on one of their espresso drinks and an in-house baked treat, or a breakfast wrap! They have a daily lunch special and other delicious meal items.

Paddymelon isn’t just on the list as a fuel stop, but as a place to find unique home decor, candles, scarves, Canadian-made jewelry, baby gifts, books, and more!

www.facebook.com/PaddymelonGifts

2. A Little Bit of Everything – 4913-49 Street

Just a couple of doors down from Paddymelon is A Little Bit of Everything

A Little Bit of Everything is exactly that: some used, some new, some food, some clothing, some arts & crafts! They are a local favourite, always bringing in new and exciting items and crafts.

Facebook Page

3. Ella & Birch Collective – 4916 A 50 St

From A Little bit of Everything, continue walking south (back past Paddymelon) to the corner, turn right and walk over to 50th St. Turn right and walk down the east side of the block until you come to Ella & Birch. You can’t miss it… they always have an amazing window display.

Ella & Birch Collective is a boutique with a collection of clothing, accessories, soap and spa products made and designed by women in Canada! Comfy well-made clothing, handmade soap (the store smells amazing),  lovely jewelry and more.

www.ellaandbirch.ca

4. Bubel’s  – 4922 50 St

After leaving Ella & Birch, continue down the block (north) about 3 buildings down. There you will find Bubel’s department store.

Bubel’s is a family-owned and operated department store that harkens to the past. It carries clothing and footwear for the whole family! They also carry a unique selection of swimwear, toys, games, models, movies, CDs and vinyl records.

Facebook Page

5. Glas Floral Studio – 5003 50 Ave

From Bubel’s, continue walking towards the river. When you get to the corner you’ll see a newer building kitty corner. That’s where you’ll find Glas Floral Studio.

“Glas offers unique home decor curated from designers throughout Canada and the United States. Our preference lies with local, woman-owned companies and items with a story, quality of material and eco-friendly practices.”

Glas always has interesting and inspiring finds of all kinds. Their flower art is one of a kind, too.

www.glasfloral.com

6. Rhi-Defined New & Used –  5506 50 Ave

From a Glas Floral, you could walk to the Train Station. On the west side of the station is a walkway that leads to the Rotary Trail which follows the river. Walk west (away from downtown) on the Rotary Trail until it swings up and meets the highway again. Cross the highway there and you’ll see Rhi-Defined New & Used.

Rhi-Defined is a classic thrift store with a mix of furniture, household goods and clothing. They also have new jewelry, collectables and more.

Facebook Page

7. Riddle & Gift Shop at Athabasca Native Friendship Centre – 4919 53 St

From Rhi-Defined, walk along the highway back towards Downtown until you get to 53 ST. Turn right and the second building up is the ANFC.

At the Athabasca Native Friendship Centre, you can get 2 shopping experiences in one! Upstairs is their Gift Shop which has a beautiful selection of Indigenous-made gifts, jewellery and arts. Downstairs you’ll find Riddle, their second-hand store. Tons of clothing, household goods and more are available.

If you do the crawl on a Friday, they will sometimes be serving delicious homemade soup and bannock. Also a local favourite!

Riddle Facebook
ANFC Facebook

8. Lolly Pop Thrift Shop

When you exit the Friendship Centre, head back down to the highway. Continue east (towards downtown) until 51st ST. Turn right and go up the block about 5 buildings. You’ll find Lolly Pop Thrift Shop there.

Lolly Pop Thrift Shop has a great selection of used housewares, clothing and more. They pride themselves on having a neat and tidy space for you to do your best thrifting! Another family-owned business that delivers great service.

Facebook Page

9. Flowers by Christina

And finally, to your last stop, Flowers by Christina. Head back down to the highway from Lolly Pop and walk back to the main street (50th ST). Turn right and head to halfway up the block to find Flowers by Christina.

Flowers by Christina has a beautiful assortment of gifts and flowers for any budget. Home decor, food items and more, plus their gorgeous flowers.

Facebook Page

 

Take A Break

If you’re getting tired from carrying your haul, no worries, there are plenty of places for snacks, drinks and meals along your route. From convenience stores, fast food, food trucks, Chinese food, family dining and pubs, Downtown Athabasca has it!

Get something to go and enjoy it at the Riverfront Park. There are picnic tables and seating with river views for your convenience.

Take a look at our website listings for more info on where to eat/drink: www.visitathabasca.ca

 

Other Thrift & Finds in the Region

Country Bliss Treasures & Gifts – 5114  3 St, Boyle

“Welcome to Country Bliss! We are very excited to share some wonderful decor! Whether you’re searching for a piece of character to fill that special area of your home or need a heartwarming gift for your loved ones…..we have it!!”

Facebook Page

Second Time Round & More – 5800 Elm Dr, Boyle

Second Time Round has an amazing selection of thrift items, from clothing, household goods, furniture and more.

Remember, small towns have some of the best thrift items around!

Facebook Page

 

What will you find?

If you are looking for a day trip out of the city, or want to spend some time before an event in Athabasca, be sure to take on the Downtown Thrift & Finds Crawl. You’ll be sure to find some items that won’t be found anywhere else!

For more information about retail stores in  the Athabasca Region, check out our website: www.visitathabasca.ca/things-to-do/shopping/stores-boutiques

 

Experience the History of the Athabasca Region – Athabasca

People for millennia have recognized the Athabasca Region and the Athabasca River in particular, as a unique and important place. From Indigenous Peoples using the area for settlement and trade to the prospectors seeking a route to the Klondike, there is a rich history in the Athabasca area.

Here are some opportunities to experience History in the Town of Athabasca!

 

The Athabasca Regional Archives

The Athabasca Regional Archives is located adjacent to the Old Brick School in the south part of Downtown Athabasca. It shares a space with the Regional Library and is the main repository of historical information in Athabasca.

Experience History Athabasca Region at the Athabasca Regional ArchivesAt the Archives you can:

  • Examine Athabasca newspapers since 1908 on microfilm
  • Access the area’s homestead records on microfilm
  • Look through the photo collection
  • Look through the newspaper clipping file
  • Reminisce with Edwin Parr yearbooks
  • Browse through the collection of reference books and books by local authors
  • See Athabasca’s first printing press
  • View a large display of Athabasca Clay Products ceramics and other artifacts
  • View paintings by local artists
  • Explore an index of births and marriages from early newspapers
  • Research the obituaries, and
  • Ask any question you have about the people, places and times of the area.

 

If you are an art fan, several pieces of local art are also on display.

The Archives are open Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12 to 5:30 pm or by appointment: 780 675 2811.

Visit their website:  www.athabascaarchives.ca

 

The Athabasca History Walk

Experience History Athabasca Region - Start your Historical walk at Riverfront ParkThe best way to get into the history of the Town of Athabasca and the region is to take the Historical Walking tour. The Heritage Society in partnership with the Archives publishes a guide booklet with detailed descriptions of the landmarks and buildings.

There are many stops on the walk, 29 in total. At some places along the way, there will be signs that give you a brief history and context.

The walk starts at the Athabasca Train Station, moves through Downtown and up to the Archives and Old Brick School, then you head back down to the Riverfront.

Take a look at some of the sites you’ll visit: Athabasca Historical Walking Tour Gallery

So, put on some comfortable shoes, fill up your water bottle and enjoy this self-guided tour of Athabasca History.

Athabasca Historical Walking Tour Guide Book

 

Athabasca Landing Trail

The route from Edmonton up to Athabasca Landing remains today as a walking trail, part of the Trans Canada trail.

“The Athabasca Landing Trail was built in 1876 by the Hudson’s Bay Company to improve transportation between Edmonton and northern communities. The trail was 100 miles in distance and linked the North Saskatchewan River with the Mackenzie River system, giving it the nickname “The 100 Mile Portage.”

In the late 1800s, the trail was Canada’s busiest northern route and played an important role in the development of northern Alberta, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Fur traders, gold rush miners and settlers all followed the trail north, and stopping houses sprang up to accommodate their need for overnight accommodation, meals and stabling of animals.

With the development of railways and roads in this region, the trail became less used. Parts of the trail are still used as roads or recreational trails; others are overgrown or on private land.” – www.athabascalandingtrail.com

Experience History Athabasca Region - Walk the Athabasca Landing Trail, part of the Trans Canada Trail network.

 

At the trailhead in Athabasca, there is a large parking lot, with public washrooms across the highway by the splash park.

As you walk along the trail that used to be the rail line, watch for signs of the trail’s past use… abandoned bridge foundations, machinery and tools. For the most part, it follows alongside the Tawatinaw River, providing great wildlife and nature viewing.

The trail is not continuous, as the old rail line now passes over private property and some bridge crossings are under repair. There are some really great sections that are still walkable: At Colinton going north, outside Rochester to the north, with great wildlife watching on the Tawatinaw River. The map at the Athabasca trailhead shows some of the other sections in the area that are walkable. Some sections are in heavily forested areas, so be wildlife smart.

 
 

Celebrate the Athabasca!

Coming up on July 13, 2023, is the “Celebrate the Athabasca!” event that will be welcoming a voyageur canoe brigade that is travelling the Athabasca River from Whitecourt to Fort Assiniboine to Athabasca to celebrate Fort Assiniboine’s 200th birthday!

“The main impetus for this Brigade is to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of Fort Assiniboine by the Hudson Bay Company under the direction of George Simpson the governor of the Hudson Bay Company as a major stopover in the historic Columbia Express connecting eastern Canada to the Oregon territory as part of the company’s continental fur trade. Since Canoe Brigades were the main way of linking all the various fur trading posts on the route it is only appropriate that we have a Modern Day Voyageur Canoe Brigade arrive at the present-day community of Fort Assiniboine on July 8th to help commemorate their Bicentennial celebrations. It should be noted that Fort Assiniboine held exceptional celebrations at the end of the 2017 Athabasca Brigade as part of Canada’s 150th to honour the paddlers who participated in that particular Brigade. Due to the success of that Brigade, besides the communities listed above, Woodlands County, Barrhead County, the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River and Athabasca County have all enthusiastically endorsed our Brigade and are planning celebrations recognizing our upcoming Brigade. Showcasing the recreational opportunities on this section of the Athabasca River is an integral part of our mandate in 2023.”

 

The Canadian Voyageur Brigade Society celebrates the history of Canadian rivers that were used as transportation routes during colonial exploration and the fur trade. They travel in traditional-style “big” canoes and wear period costumes. They promote learning about canoe travel and safety.

The Brigade will finish their journey in Athabasca, at the Riverfront Park. There will be dignitaries welcoming them ashore and entertainment.

Come out and experience a taste of the history of the Athabasca River by welcoming the Voyageurs!

Find out more about the Brigade here.

 

 

 

This is just a sample of the historical experiences in the Athabasca region. Watch for part 2 of this blog, where we will take a look at historical areas in the County and region such as Amber Valley, the Peace River Trail and a new museum in Calling Lake.

Wilderness Experiences in the Athabasca Region

Photo: Grand Rapids Wilderness Adventures

Getting Wild

The Athabasca region is uniquely situated on the Alberta Boreal forest’s lower edge and bisected by the Athabasca River. There are many areas that boast untouched forests, pristine lakes, abundant wildlife and other natural features that offer travellers a taste of the Alberta wilderness.

Just an hour and a half north of Edmonton and 4.5 hours from Calgary, the Athabasca region makes for an easy wilderness getaway for all skill levels. Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities…

 

 

Grand Rapids Wilderness Adventures

One of the premiere wilderness experiences in the Athabasca region is heading down the Athabasca River by jet boat to the Grand Rapids Wilderness Adventures lodge. Your hosts, Darcy and Shirley Zelman will show you the rarely visited natural and historic sites on this stretch of the Athabasca River.

You’ll meet up in the town of Athabasca and travel for approximately 5 hours downriver, stopping to check out multiple sites. The first stop is an area with real old-growth forests where some of the trees are hundreds of years old and so big you can’t wrap your arms around them.

Next, you’ll stop to check out an abandoned Hudson’s Bay trading post. There are a lot of relics left behind displaying the history of the Athabasca River being an important transportation route in early Canada.

Don’t be surprised if there are stops to view the Boreal species that inhabit the area like wolves, bears, moose, deer and raptors to name a few, as the river valley has abundant and varied wildlife.

Your hosts will set you up in a cozy cabin and provide delicious meals to keep you energized for your adventure. You’ll be kept busy with opportunities to fish on the river or paddle around in a canoe.

One of the best features of this trip is the Grand Rapids themselves. A unique geological occurrence created these rapids:

The rapids are a result of river erosion of the 110-million-year-old sandstone of the Grand Rapids Formation. This formation, which forms the large, nearly vertical outcrop on the east side of the valley, is divided into three major sandstone layers. The lowermost level creates the rapids because it is filled with large, two-to-three-metre wide concretions that often contain pieces of petrified logs. These concretions were formed in a similar fashion to those at Red Rock Coulee. As the river erodes away the sand matrix, these huge concretions come loose and dam the river bed. – A Traveller’s Guide to Geological Wonders in Alberta by Ron Mussieux and Marilyn Nelson

GRWA offers a variety of packages. Be sure to book early, as this exclusive adventure fills up quickly.

 

Check out the videos produced by “Let’s Go Outdoors” on their experience with Grand Rapids Wilderness Adventures:

Episode 1: https://youtu.be/eSDvmqSC2go
Episode 2: https://youtu.be/K491X3ih0lo
Episode 3: https://youtu.be/KnT5X1DdZaI

Grand Rapids Wilderness Adventures Online:

www.athabasca-river.com
www.facebook.com/Athabasca.River

 

 

The La Biche River Wildland

Just to the northeast of the town of Athabasca lies the La Biche River Wildland. This pristine natural area is only accessible through Poachers Landing.

There are over 17,000 hectares of undisturbed Boreal forest:

La Biche River Wildland Park protects an undisturbed native boreal forest landscape that consists of wetlands and dense forests of poplar, aspen, spruce, birch and fir. The area provides habitat for black bears, lynxes, wolverines, woodland caribou, moose and beaver. – Alberta Parks

There are no formal campgrounds here, other than at Poachers Landing, but backcountry camping is allowed all year long. Other activities include OHV use (please stay on trails to protect this sensitive area), horseback riding, hiking, boating, snowshoeing and more. Special permits are required for fishing, hunting, guiding and other activities.

The Poacher’s Landing campground has 6 unserviced sites and is a first come, first served campsite. There is a boat launch into the Athabasca River, a cookhouse and restrooms. It opens on May 20 and closes on September 20.

https://albertaparks.ca/parks/north/la-biche-river-wpp/information-facilities/

 

 

The Peace River Wilderness Trail

map of the Peace River TrailPart of the Trans Canada Trail includes the Peace River Wilderness trail that runs from just north of Athabasca to northeast of Smith, AB. This route was first used by the Indigenous peoples of the area. With the advance of colonial traders, settlers and the gold rush, Euro-Canadian explorers used this trail as a route north.

Spectacular wilderness area with interesting native flora and fauna and views of the Athabasca River. Moose, elk, deer, wolves, black bears and most boreal mammals are abundant. Bald eagles and other raptors make their permanent home in this area. The trail itself was part of one of the principal routes attempted by gold seekers headed to the Klondike in 1898-99 and was a primary settlement path followed by pioneering farming families to the Peace River country until approximately 1920 when it was superseded by the railway. Remnant historical sites located along the trail include gravesites and the Tomato Creek stopping house (developed by the Goodwins in 1910), portrayed in the movie, “Silence of the North.” – http://www.albertatrailnet.com/

The trail follows the Athabasca River through some old-growth Boreal forest. Expect wildlife like bears, wolves, moose, deer, and other Boreal species. It is approximately 60 km from trailhead to trailhead. Permitted uses include hiking, cross-country skiing, bicycles, horses, snowmobiles, and all-terrain vehicles.

The southern trailhead is approximately 30 km north of the Town of Athabasca. There is some parking at each trailhead, and there are three unserviced campsites along the route. Please pack out all garbage and stay on the marked trail. Be bear smart when storing food.

http://www.albertatrailnet.com/for-trail-users/trans-canada-trail/fact-sheets/peace-river-wilderness-trail/ 

 

 

White Earth Valley Natural Area

If back-country camping isn’t your speed, the White Earth Natural Area provides a Boreal wilderness experience with the comfort of a campground nearby in Long Lake Provincial Park. It is located about 110 km north of Edmonton on Highway 831, which is accessible from Highway 63 North. It’s about 20 km south of the village of Boyle, where you can stock up on supplies.

The White Earth Trail is 17 km long.  The path winds through a wide variety of rich habitats, where an abundance of diverse plants and wildlife thrive.  It’s accessible from adjacent Long Lake Provincial Park during operating season (May to October), with parking at the trailhead.  The trail can also be accessed year-round from Township Road 621 at the southern end of the Natural Area. – Alberta Parks

The White Earth Valley NA is adjacent to thousands of hectares of undisturbed Boreal forest which promotes great habitat for many Boreal species, including bears and wolves. Use caution around wildlife and be bear-smart with food storage.

https://www.albertaparks.ca/parks/north/white-earth-valley-na/

 

 

Hubert Lake Wildland Provincial Park

The Hubert Lake Wildland Provincial Park is about an hour southwest of Athabasca and about 2 hours northwest of Edmonton. The Hubert Lake WPP offers kilometres of trails through a central mixed-wood boreal landscape. The Athabasca River is on the west border and the Pembina River is on the east.

Hubert Lake Wildland Park consists of a sand dune complex and numerous small lakes and wetlands. Jack pine is the dominant tree species on the dunes. Itervening depressions support black spruce and larch, with open fens in wetter areas. The park is an important nesting area for great blue herons and sandhill cranes. A small caribou herd wanders in and out of the park.

Backcountry camping is allowed, with two unofficial sites on the map. OHVs are permitted on designated trails only. Off-trail use is prohibited.

Learn more here:  https://www.albertaparks.ca/parks/north/hubert-lake-wpp/

 

 

Otter-Orloff Lakes Wildland Provincial Park

The Otter-Orloff Lakes Wildland Provincial Park is about an hour north of Athabasca, 2.5 hours north of Edmonton and 3 hours southwest of Fort McMurray.

The “road” to Orloff Lake only goes a portion of the way. In dry weather, this road is good but dead ends near Rock Island Forestry Tower. When the road is wet, it can be very slick and muddy. The remaining trail into Orloff Lake is approximately 4 km, accessible by ATV or foot only. This trail can be in very poor condition when wet. In dry conditions, it is a fair trail at best (lots of mud holes and trail braiding). Only the last 400 meters of this trail is within the park. There has been no trail maintenance.

Wetlands and forests in this park support a variety of wildlife. Lakes contain walleye, pike, perch and lake whitefish and are important habitat for beaver, muskrat and waterfowl. Orloff Lake has a great blue heron colony. Younger forests in the park contain white spruce and aspen. Mature forests contain birch and balsam poplar. White spruce and balsam fir dominate old growth stands. Black spruce and larch occur in wet areas.

Random backcountry camping is allowed. Learn more about permitted activities here: https://www.albertaparks.ca/parks/north/otter-orloff-lakes-wpp/

 

If you have questions about wilderness experiences in the Athabasca region or anything else Athabasca Region Tourism-related contact us here.