Volunteering in Waterton Lakes National Park © Parks Canada
Check back for updates on dates and locations or add your name to our volunteer events and updates email list.
To register as a volunteer for any of the following projects or events, phone 403 859-2224 or fill in the form indicating the name of the project you are interested in within the message box of the form.
Our 2017 dates will be posted by mid-April so you can sign up for specific projects and events during National Volunteer Week (April 23-29). See the volunteer projects and citizen science projects pages now for annual projects and events.
Volunteer season kick-off
May 27, 2017 (noon hour and early afternoon)
A blustery 40th Christmas Bird Count finds rarely-seen species
December 17, 2016
It was a cold, blustery day with high winds and wind chills. But it was sunny and the nine who were out found sheltered areas and some of the least likely to be seen species from the prior 39 years of the Waterton count. It was all smiles when we gathered in the afternoon to share sightings. There was thegood view of a Northern Pygmy Owl and the colourful Gray-Crowned Rosy Finches; both of which have only been recorded four times before in all the years of the count. A Northern Shrike was spotted out hunting and then during count week, there was the unusual sighting of a Great Blue Herron. Normally gone this time of year, Great Blue Herron, a single bird each time, have been recorded three times before on the count.
In total, we saw 14 species on count day; not the fewest species, which was 12 in 2013. The highest was 41 recorded the year before in 2012, which largely reflects just how different the weather can be this time of year in Waterton.
Volunteers and their antics made for a great appreciation luncheon
October 15, 2016
From a fun demonstration of “knapweed yoga” and walls decorated with photographs of volunteer activities, to highlights of success and many laughs over shared stories, this year’s luncheon was made a great success by all who attended. Great food and a sunny room with the view of Vimy Peak also helped top off the luncheon.
From young of age through still young at heart, Parks Canada is fortunate to have such a diversity of wonderful volunteers. Parks Canada looks forward to working with and thanking all volunteers again next year, including through hosting this annual appreciation luncheon. Plans are underway to hold the luncheon during the Waterton Wildlife Weekend, September 22-24, 2017.
Ride the Red Rock celebrates Parkway
October 1, 2016
Despite the early-morning rain, all 14 volunteers were there on time to cheerfully greet and help the 125 participants. This ever-popular event allows cyclists to enjoy the Red Rock Parkway while it was closed for the morning to motorized traffic. After an official opening by Superintendent Ifan Thomas of the newly-resurfaced parkway the gate arms swung up and the first wave of cyclists were on their way.
With their red caps and a smile, volunteers at the staging area (Pass Creek day-use area) and stations along the route provided cyclists with water and snacks. Six experienced bicycle mechanics from the Headwinds Cycling Club of Lethbridge provided indispensable technical support for the length of the 15 km parkway. Most participants cycled the whole parkway, some liking it so much, they did it more than once and one of the youngest cyclists did “the big dip” twice. Thanks to the teamwork of all the special event volunteers and park staff, it was a great event indeed.
Group volunteer projects control invasive knapweed
May through October, 2016
Thank you to all the groups that came out to the park to assist with restoration efforts by controlling invasive weed species. Eleven groups totalling 341 volunteers, including a volunteer from as far away as Athens, Ohio worked alongside Parks Canada staff to pull spotted knapweed. Our largest groups came from the Camp Columbus summer camps, spending an hour every week on the Blakiston Fan pulling weeds and learning about restoration initiatives in the park.
This opportunity is open to all organized groups. It is a great chance to come out to the park and help with important restoration work. Thank you once again for all the hard work that each group did in the park this year.
More gains for the salamander byway
September 25, 2016
Good news for amphibians. All the work volunteers did in spring held in place, allowing more time for additional habitat work this fall. Twenty-four volunteers completed gap closure along the entire byway network and did some habitat enhancement work on the edge of Linnet Lake. They laid brush dipping into the lake’s edge along most of the south shore, providing more diverse egg-laying habitat for next spring and shelter from predatory fish.
This byway system is used by long-toed salamanders and other amphibians on their annual fall trek from Linnet Lake to overwintering sites on the other side of the Waterton Village access road.
Restoration planting progress
September 7, 2016
Volunteers helped reclaim old gravel borrow pits along the park’s entry roads. Using grass and flowering plant plugs grown from native seeds collected last year, volunteers and the Parks Canada restoration crews planted 1150 native grass and wildflower seedlings in the Pincher Creek Entrance Borrow Pit. Work was at times very slow because of the tough gravely terrain but volunteers and staff worked hard throughout the day and were able to get the job done. Another 2600 plugs were planted by staff at another site along Highway 5.
May to September, 2016
The nine members of the Adopt-a-Patch team worked diligently through the summer, clearing weeds (primarily spotted knapweed) from each of their patches while also enjoying the beauty of the park. Reports of animal sightings came from all the patches including deer, elk, bears, foxes, birds of prey and even a moose or two. One volunteer also observed orchids in some of the wet areas in her patch, alongside the invasive plants she was removing.
While knapweed is still present in the park, some patches are reporting a decrease in its occurrence, allowing volunteers to focus on other non-native invasive plants. Over 150 hours of work were contributed to the patches throughout the summer. Thank you to all for their indispensable work.
Native plant garden additions
May to September, 2016
Here in Waterton, we are lucky to have two native plant demonstration gardens. Again this year, volunteers focused on the one located behind the administrative building in the village. This beautiful garden is maintained by dedicated volunteers who do all the weeding, trimming and general maintenance, as well as assisting visitors with enjoying the garden. This year more labels were added to identify many of the plants that you can also find while hiking in the park.
Also need this year was the installation of a bee house to encourage native bees to take up residence. This and a white crown sparrow nesting in the garden were highlights for this year’s visitors and volunteers. Stop in at the garden next summer to learn some native plants and chat with our friendly volunteers.
From mid-May through mid-June, and again from mid-September through mid-October, you can also enjoy leaning native plants along the first part of both trail heads for the Crandell Lake trail from the Crandell Mountain Campground, where labels are affixed to the most noticeable wildflowers, trees and shrubs.
Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup finds less litter
August 27, 2016
It seems that visitors may be leaving (or losing to the wind) less litter. Conducted along the Upper Waterton Lake shoreline, this semi-annual cleanup collected one-quarter the amount of litter per kilometer than this past spring.
The Waterton winds made it challenging for the divers who searched for litter in Emerald Bay, but that didn’t dampen their enthusiasm or that of the nine shoreline volunteers. This was a joint Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup event hosted by Parks Canada and Awesome Adventures of Lethbridge, which organized the 21 divers and helpers. In total, 15.25 kilograms of litter were collected. Unusual finds included an orthodontic retainer (it looked new) and three five-dollar bills found at different locations along the shore. Nine lucky volunteers went home with prizes from the draw organized by Awesome Adventures. Thank you all for a great morning.
Suspense at Alpine Aquatic Insect BioBlitz
August 25 - 27, 2016
Oh the suspense! Waterton Lakes combined seven able-bodied and adventurous volunteers with park staff into small teams that hiked high up the peaks to streams feeding into alpine lakes to sample aquatic insects. Did this international BioBlitz with adjoining Glacier National Park find the rare Western Glacier (Zapada glacie) or Meltwater Lednian (Lednia tumana) Stoneflies? The analysis will be out next spring. These species are only found in the small, cold streams that come off snow patches, glaciers and springs to feed alpine lakes. Because of the nature of their habitat, there is concern that they may be affected by climate change.
Samples were collected from the small steams and trickles of water feeding into Crypt, Goat, Upper Carthew, Lineham and Bertha Lakes. Thank you to all participants, including the lead scientist Joe Giersch, USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, Glacier Field Station, who came to show us the sampling technique, loaned us the supplies needed and who will be doing the analysis, and to Barb Johnston, Ecologist Team Leader, Wildlife and Aquatics, Waterton Lakes National Park, who lead this BioBlitz in Waterton.
Wildflower and native grasses seed collection
June to August, 2016
Weather permitting, once a week, a total of 34 volunteers assisted our park’s two vegetation technicians with collecting seeds from native grasses and wildflowers. Over three months, 20 kilograms (pre-cleaning weight) of native seed were collected. Two of the largest collections were of Parry's oatgrass and awned wheatgrass.
The seeds are then sent to Glacier National Park’s native plant nursery for cleaning. Some are planted there to be grown into transplant plugs and the rest is saved for direct seeding. These transplant plugs and seeds come back to Waterton for use in restoration throughout the park.
Science and History Day celebrated NPS centennial and park research
July 26, 2016
This highly-attended annual event was a great chance to hear the latest findings of scientists and historians working in and around the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. There were eight fascinating presentations ranging from salamanders to fishers (the furry ones) and some of the lesser-known history in the international peace park. Ifan Thomas, superintendent for Waterton Lakes National Park presented Eric Smith, deputy superintendent for Glacier National Park and all that park’s staff present with a gift recognizing the US National Park Service centennial.
Thanks to help from a dedicated volunteer, Melodey Wood, an assortment of refreshments were set out for the talkative crowd of 78 at the morning and afternoon breaks.
One of the best Knapweed Rodeos!
July 23, 2016
The 23rd annual Knapweed Rodeo was one of our best in years. Thank you to all the volunteers who came to help pull knapweed for the day. Local businesses (Alpine Stables, Bayshore Inn Resort and Spa and Tamarack Outdoor Outfitters) donated prizes for draws throughout the day. Alpine Stables again provided a great location for our free picnic lunch of beef-on-a-bun, veggie wraps and all the fixings.
There was fierce, friendly competition among the 29 volunteers for our three belt buckles and the new Heavy Hitter award, presented to the person or team who pulled the most knapweed.
A moth stole the show at the Butterfly Count
July 12, 2016
Two of Alberta’s leading experts (John Acorn and Ted Pike), three local experts (Mira Vanhala, Kim Pearson and Jen Carpenter), and 44 enthusiastic volunteers had fun and identified butterflies including Anicia checkerspot, pearl crescent, Melissa blue, blue copper, Christina sulphur, Milbert's tortoiseshell and Canadian tiger swallowtail. A white admiral was also seen but not captured by a volunteer. This annual catch and release count of butterflies provides the park with a snap-shot inventory of the species that occur here.
In the end, it was a moth that stole the show. Though it's not a butterfly, the sheep moth is significant in that it is very eye-catching and Waterton is the only area of Alberta where it is found. It is more common in Montana and BC.
Kootenai Brown gravesite fence painting
July 7, 2016
Weather-wise, it was a perfect day for painting the picket fence of the Brown family gravesite on the shores of Lower Waterton Lake. Three of us were able to scrape and paint the portion of fence that is the backdrop to the headstones in time for Parks Day and the July 18th, 100th anniversary of Kootenai Brown’s passing. John George “Kootenai” Brown (hired in 1901) was Waterton Lakes National Park’s first Government official; initially hired as fisheries inspector and then as the first superintendent. In 2006, the Waterton Natural History Association placed bronze grave-markers for Brown’s two wives, Olivia and Isabella, at the Brown family plot. They were the first settlers in what is now the park.
Scraping revealed that the fence has seen much better days, and replacing it with something requiring less maintenance is being discussed.
Volunteers do stellar job on Canada Day
July 1, 2016
Fifteen volunteers contributed to Waterton’s successful Canada Day celebrations, directing traffic, keeping everyone safe along the parade route and serving cake. Those on traffic control were quick on their feet when, oops, the parade took an unexpected different route. About 200 festive participants on brightly-decorated bicycles and some costumed on foot made up the body of the parade, with mounted park warden and RCMP bringing up the rear. At least 300 people joined the official ceremony on the grounds outside the community center.
Some unusual sightings at the 32nd Spring Bird Count
June 4-5, 2016
From hummingbirds to Sandhill Cranes, it was clear that the seventeen volunteers had a great weekend of birding this year. Participants from as close as Southern Alberta and as far as Ontario were able to record 120 species of birds, plus another five during count week. The average number through the years is 106 species.
No species were added to the overall list, but after an absence of more than 10 years, Horned Grebe, Merlin, Philadelphia Vireo and swifts were reported. Bullock’s Oriole and Philadelphia Vireo were seen for only the fourth time and Dusky Grouse for only the fifth time. On count days two species were missed for the first time ever – Rufous Hummingbird and Gray Jay! Two birds uncommon for the park, Blue Jay and White-throated Sparrow, were reported during count week. During the weekend, 17 species of mammals were also seen, the least common of them being a Pine Marten. Due to the Akamina Parkway closure for much-needed construction work, part of the park normally included in the count was not accessible. We will resume counting there in 2017.
Patches renewed and new ones claimed
May 28, 2016
Seven volunteers were out to participate in the Adopt-a-Patch orientation and adopt or renew their piece of the park. We worked on one of the patches in the ever-scenic Blakiston Fan and revelled in the wildflowers and the chance to see soaring birds of prey while pulling spotted knapweed.
We worked towards the Waterton River from the 300-meter-wide swath along the park access road where the restoration crew recently sprayed individual spotted knapweed plants as part of the work to contain this invasive weed.
Also available for adoption are patches along the Chief Mountain Highway extending south from the Belly River Campground, each consisting of the roadside for a 1 km. Lois has retired from her patch there, which she maintained for the past six years. It was adopted by another volunteer, bringing our 2016 Adopt-a-Patch team thus far to eight volunteers.
Native plant gardening in full swing
May 28, 2016
The park’s lead volunteer gardener, Lois and return gardener, Gina hosted an orientation for new volunteers. Together, the volunteers are well on the way through the spring clean-up and getting the International Peace Park Garden ready for the Waterton Wildflower Festival, June 19-24.
They also installed a dozen new plant labels with the scientific name and the French and English common names. We still have room for a few more garden volunteers in 2016 at Parks Canada’s only native plant demonstration garden. The garden is located between the park administration building and the marina parking area, near the peace park monument.
New and long-timers meet at Volunteer Kick-Off
May 28, 2016
For our 400-plus volunteers, this year’s volunteer season officially kicked-off with an informal lunch get-together at the Waterton Community Hall. Lunch included a short audio-visual presentation giving an overview of progress made by volunteers last year and of this year’s projects. New volunteers, long-time volunteers and those from near and further away (Calgary being the furthest) had a grand time meeting each other and sharing stories.
Although some volunteer projects have already been completed this year, the majority of the volunteer activity is late May through September. For many, the Volunteer Kick-Off is one of only two organized chances to meet other volunteers due to their differing volunteer projects through the seasons. Volunteers will have another opportunity to meet others at the volunteer appreciation luncheon in early October.
April 30, 2016
Spring cleaning has never been more scenic or so much fun, thanks to our enthusiastic volunteers. Offshore divers organized by Awesome Adventures and 35 shoreline volunteers combed 5 km of beaches and offshore waters for litter and all that has fallen overboard through the years. Their clean-sweep of popular Waterton Lakes shores retrieved 184 kgs as a part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Waterlogged shoes, a mop and a large piece of tubing were the most unusual items. Pieces of foam and cigarette butts were the most common.
Leopard frog exclosure project
April 20, 2016
On short notice, 5 volunteers leaped into action to help create 15 new northern leopard frog egg mass exclosures. Using materials such as pool noodles, hardware cloth, buckets and mosquito netting, our volunteers helped to build these devices that will aid in the reintroduction of northern leopard frogs to Waterton Lakes National Park.
The northern leopard frog was last observed in Waterton Lakes National Park in 1980. Parks Canada staff will relocate northern leopard frog egg masses from thriving populations to sites within WLNP this spring, in an effort to establish self-sustaining populations of this species at risk. These exclosures will protect the eggs and hatchlings from predators, before they’re released. Thank you to all the volunteers who participated in this event and to the Parks Canada staff who lent their expertise. We wouldn’t have been able to make this many exclosures on such short notice without you!
Salamander byway maintenance
March 11, 2016
Our thirteen volunteers spent the morning getting the salamander byway ready for the upcoming migration. Every spring, long-toed salamanders make the journey from Salamander Hill down across the Waterton village access road to Linnet Lake to breed. This infrastructure consists of low fencing directing the salamanders (and other amphibians and reptiles) to four specially-constructed underpasses so they can pass safely under the road to the lake. Volunteers worked diligently along the fences and around the tunnel entrances to make sure that there were no gaps or holes through which the migrating amphibians could slip and wind up on the road. By noon the byway structure was salamander tight and ready for the coming migration.
A big thank you to all the hard-working volunteers and to Kim Pearson for lending her expertise. We will do the same again in fall in preparation for the salamanders' reverse migration to winter on Salamander Hill.