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Elk Island National Park is less than an hour’s drive from Edmonton. A wilderness where herds of bison graze and deer and elk roam freely. This is the perfect spot to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The park offers many kilometres of walking trails and with more than 250 bird species it is a paradise for bird watchers.
Elk Island National Park was founded in 1906 as a nature reserve to protect the decreasing population of elk. In 1907, a pair of the last Plains Bison in the world were introduced into the park to protect the species. Four years later the park was officially added to the Parks Canada family. Now it is one of the most popular nature areas in Edmonton, perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway.
Every visitor to Elk Island National Park has one priority: to see the wild bison. The animals graze throughout the entire park and regularly block the roads, which may lead to some traffic jams. Although the animals look friendly, it is best to keep a respectful distance.
The park is also known for its many lakes. The largest one is Astotin Lake in the north. There are dozens of islands in this lake; the best way to explore these is to rent a canoe at the park and paddle around. Children will love the Living Waters Boardwalk: a 300 metre-long boardwalk through the water. On beautiful summer nights, the shores of Astotin Lake are a favourite barbecue spot for Edmonton locals. Around the lake you will find various picnic spots with fire baskets, toilets and tables that are available free of charge. Elk Island also boasts various camp grounds. There are camp grounds with and without amenities so can you make it as adventurous as you like.
Winter is also a fabulous time of year to explore the park. Edmonton winters bring plenty of snow, transforming Elk Island National Park into a cross-country skiing paradise. The hiking trails are perfect for walking across the park. The air in the park is unpolluted by city lights and is therefore great for stargazing. With luck you may even see the Northern Lights.