Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

In 1932, the United States and Canada joined together to create the world’s first International Peace Park: Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (WGIPP).

At the time of inscription, the Peace Park commemorated the peace and goodwill our two nations share. Today, Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park use peace and goodwill to work towards shared management: protecting the water, plants and animals that are found in the WGIPP. You will find the Waterton–Glacier International Peace Park an oasis of solitude and tranquility, a powerful setting for personal reflection on peace.

People have always been at the forefront of the WGIPP. Beginning in 1911, Waterton’s first park official, John G. "Kootenai" Brown, forged a friendship with Henry "Death on the Trail" Reynolds, an American Ranger from Goat Haunt, MT. Upon meetings and visits with one another the two men discussed the idea of joining Waterton and Glacier. Both men felt that the upper Waterton valley, which is intersected by the Canada/US border, could not and should not be divided.

"The unheralded line that separates Canada and the United States is the longest unfortified border in the world today, and perhaps in all of history. It says to mankind: Let not the cartographers rule, elevate nature and human friendship."

Stewart L. Udall U.S. Secretary of the Interior, 1967

Brown and Reynolds recognized both parks share the same geology, climate, wildlife and ecology, and should be managed as one protected area. Reynolds had a memorable quote on the matter when he said: "The geology recognizes no boundaries, and as the lake lay... no man-made boundary could cleave the waters apart."  Although both men would pass away a few years later, their idea of joining Waterton Lakes and Glacier national parks would live on. The idea of an international peace park would eventually be re-ignited in the 1930s by the Alberta and Montana Rotary Clubs.

Some Facts About the Waterton-Glacier IPP

  • Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (IPP) is 4556 sq km (1,720 sq miles) in size.
  • Canada and the U.S.A. have the longest undefended border in the world (5,525 miles/ 8,892 km.).
  • John George 'Kootenai' Brown and Ranger Henry 'Death on the Trail' Reynolds (Goat Haunt Ranger) were among the first proponents of the idea that the two parks should be joined. According to Rev. Middleton, Ranger Reynolds felt: "It would be better to accept nature's creation by removing the boundary line and acknowledge one park, one lake in its own territory."
    Peace Park Pavilion Peace Park Pavilion © Parks Canada
  • In 1932, American legislation approved a bill to create the IPP, and it was signed into law by President Herbert Hoover on May 2. On June 16, 1932, the Canadian bill was proclaimed. Prime Minister R. B. Bennett stated that the two parks are, "to be known as one international peace park for the purpose of indicating that a boundary line passes through the park and divides two great countries and two great peoples who have lived in peace for many years and who, we all hope, will continue ever to live in terms of amity, goodwill and peace."
  • In 1947, two stone cairns, one on each side of the international boundary, were erected. They were funded by Rotarians in Alberta and Montana. A small tin container filled with mementos of the time was placed in the cement foundation of both cairns. The cairns were dedicated on August 2 with a "hands across the border" handshake ceremony that has become an enduring Waterton-Glacier IPP tradition (although carried out in various locations over the years).
  • In 1978, the first International Peace Park Hike was held. It is led by a US Park Ranger and a Canadian Park Interpreter. Hikers begin in Waterton; follow the Lakeshore Trail; lunch at the international boundary where a 'hands-across-the-border' ceremony is held; continue along to Goat Haunt; then take the MV International back to the Waterton community.
  • Waterton opened a Peace Park Pavilion on the lakeshore near the marina on June 18, 1982 (the 50th anniversary of the IPP).
  • Waterton-Glacier was the world's first peace park. There are now over 170 peace parks worldwide.
  • There has been an Aboriginal presence in the region going back 12,000 years. Places in both parks hold deep significance for First Nations people.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

UNESCO World Heritage Site

UNESCO designated the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park as a World Heritage Site on December 6th, 1995.

A World Heritage Site is a place (such as a forest, mountain, lake, desert, monument, building or city) of special cultural or physical significance to the world.

To be listed, sites must be of universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. The protection, management, authenticity and integrity of the sites are also an important consideration.

The criteria for the Waterton-Glacier IPP designation are:

Statement of Significance:

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park has a distinctive climate, physiographic setting, mountain-prairie interface, and tri-ocean hydrographical divide. It is an area of significant scenic values with abundant and diverse flora and fauna.

Criteria:

(vii) Both national parks were originally designated by their respective nations because of their superlative mountain scenery, their high topographic relief, glacial landforms, and abundant diversity of wildlife and wildflowers.

(ix) The property occupies a pivotal position in the Western Cordillera of North America resulting in the evolution of plant communities and ecological complexes that occur nowhere else in the world. Maritime weather systems unimpeded by mountain ranges to the north and south allow plants and animals characteristic of the Pacific Northwest to extend to and across the continental divide in the park. To the east, prairie communities nestle against the mountains with no intervening foothills, producing an interface of prairie, montane and alpine communities. The international peace park includes the headwaters of three major watersheds draining through significantly different biomes to different oceans. The biogeographical significance of this tri-ocean divide is increased by the many vegetated connections between the headwaters. The net effect is to create a unique assemblage and high diversity of flora and fauna concentrated in a small area.