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Canada's first designated wildlife refuge, Elk Island National Park lies alongside Lake Tawayik in Alberta. While it’s not one of the larger parks overall, spanning over 75 square miles. The park serves as an important conservation region for the American bison. The Yellowhead Highway goes straight through the park and leads to Edmonton, around 30 minutes away.
The park's flora is typical of a prairie landscape and includes native fescue grassland, boreal forest, and aspen parkland. The area is also rich in history, with hundreds of preserved archaeological sites from the area's indigenous cultures. In the early 1800s, the area saw overhunting and the near decimation of several wildlife species, including moose, elk, and beaver. Shortly thereafter, the area was used for timber, and in the early 1900s, a few wealthy investors requested that the area be protected and put forward a donation to establish present-day Elk Island National Park. Today, visitors can enjoy all sorts of exciting outdoor adventures, including wildlife watching, picnicking, hiking, and so much more.
A park as vast as Elk Island offers an abundance of activities that are suitable for the whole family. That includes exploring the pristine natural landscape and learning more about the park's animals and conservation efforts on an educational tour.
The extensive hiking trail network at Elk Island National Park offers a variety of routes for hikers of all fitness levels. The Shoreline Trail is the second shortest at only 3 kilometers long, and it offers excellent views of the lake’s islands. You may encounter beaver and waterfowl along this forested trail. The longest trail at just over 15 kilometers is the Wood Bison Trail, and you'll likely see moose, elk, and bison along the way.
Far removed from the noise and the lights of the cities, Elk Island National Park offers exquisite stargazing opportunities. The Milky Way is visible earlier and is often accompanied by seasonal meteor showers and the Northern Lights. Popular with families, this activity offers wonderful educational opportunities for children who are fascinated by the heavens and astronomy.
The park welcomes picnicking all year and offers sheltered and open picnic sites. The picnic areas are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, and guests are advised to arrive early if planning a picnic during the peak season.
This just scratches the surface of the recreational activities at Elk Island National Park. Boating, snowshoeing, golfing, geocaching, and more are all available to Elk Island National Park campers.
Elk Island National Park offers sites for tent and RV camping, as well as backcountry camping options. The campgrounds are located close to the Astotin Lake Area, which provides easy access to other amenities, like the soccer field, playground, golf course, and the beach.
Astotin Lake Campground is one of the most popular campgrounds. You'll find 75 gravel sites with picnic tables and fire rings here, in addition to a dump station, restrooms, showers, drinking water, and a communal shelter. Hookups aren't available, so keep this in mind on your search for an RV rental in Alberta.
Elk Island National Park also offers a unique experience for those not camping in an RV. Fully equipped tent sites come with everything guests need for a comfortable stay, including a tent, sleeping pads, camping chairs, a propane stove, and a lantern.
Canada's breathtaking landscape plays host to a wide variety of cultural attractions and outdoor activities, so you don't need to head home straight away once you're finished camping at Elk Island National Park. History buffs visiting in the summer will want to wander around the beautifully preserved buildings at the Ukranian Cultural Heritage Village near Edmonton. Plan to spend a couple of hours walking around this outdoor living history museum complete with staff members dressed in period clothing. Alternatively, book a wagon ride or check out the events schedule to see what's happening during your visit.
The Alberta Aviation Museum is ideal for youngsters and adults who are fascinated by aircraft. Exhibits include expertly restored warplanes housed in a former aircraft hangar that dates back to the 1940s. The museum is just down the road from the national park, making it a wonderful day trip excursion for families.
You'll find a variety of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, tourist retailers, and gas stations in nearby Edmonton if you need supplies or want to do a little shopping. Sherwood Park is a little closer to the park, while Calgary is further afield at just over three and a half hours away. You'll also find an array of other recreation areas and national parks within a day's drive, making it easy to extend your motorhome camping trip.