Celebrating the past, embracing tomorrow’s possibilities


Waterton Lakes National Park protects 505 km2 of mountain and prairie, and represents a portion of the southern Rocky Mountains Natural Region, where some of the most ancient mountains in the Rockies abruptly meet the prairie. Tucked away in a quiet corner of southwest Alberta, Waterton Lakes National Park is a meeting place for people, culture, nature and history, resulting in a storied history and a richly diverse landscape.

The Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada Management Plan (2010) replaces the previous management plan, approved in 2000. The revised plan builds on the strengths of the previous plan, emphasizing improving ecological integrity, the visitor experience, as well as the important role as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park World Heritage Site. This plan outlines new strategic direction to better connect our visitors to this special place, and emphasizes the importance of working collaboratively with others to produce authentic, nature-based opportunities to experience Waterton’s distinctive prairie and mountain culture.

A copy of the 2010 Management Plan may be downloaded here (PDF, 2.12 MB).

Planning in partnership

The effective management of Waterton Lakes National Park (WLNP) requires close collaboration with other jurisdictions and regional stakeholders. In producing this plan, Parks Canada worked with regional residents, local residents and commercial stakeholders, the Aboriginal community, the Provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem Education Consortium, the Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association, the Crown Managers Partnership, Glacier National Park in Montana, and other Canadians via internet-based consultation.


Current situation:

  • The monitoring program for the Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada Management Plan (2000) identified these ecological issues: invasive, non-native plant and fish species competing with native species; rare grasslands in decline due to the absence of fire; and stable ungulate, bird and amphibian populations. Carnivores such as grizzly bears, wolves, cougars, wolverines and lynx range into other jurisdictions, making collaboration with other jurisdictions a necessity.
  • Continued research is required on the implication of climate change on both ecological conditions, as well as how it might affect how people view and use the park.

Key achievements:

  • WLNP is working with other jurisdictions to protect secure habitat at local and regional scales used by large predators, such as bears and wolves.
  • Work continues with Glacier National Park (USA) to restore native fescue grassland and threatened whitebark and limber pines; rehabilitate trampled canyon walls at Red Rock Canyon; and to establish native plant demonstration gardens in the community and at the Visitor Centre.
  • Under-road tunnels were installed to assist the migration of a threatened population of long-toed salamanders.
  • Non-native fish species are being managed to reduce risk to threatened native species such as bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout.
  • Prescribed fire is being reintroduced to Foothills Parkland areas of the park.
  • Significant actions are being taken to address invasive plant species.
  • Programs are underway to reduce wildlife habituation, particularly in the park community.

Action plan:

  • Monitoring programs and data collection, particularly around species at risk, and applied science will help to resolve conservation challenges through adaptive collaborative management.
  • The use of environmental technologies, such as renewable energy, recycling and water and energy conservation in public and private facilities, will be expanded, improved and demonstrated.
  • Ecological processes, including fire, will be managed so they continue to play their traditional role in shaping park ecosystems and in maintaining biological diversity.
  • The impacts of climate change on park ecosystems will be studied.
  • Lakes and streams will be assessed for aquatic restoration, allowing priorities to be set and restoration efforts to be implemented.
  • Research and programs relating to carnivores and ungulates will be enhanced, in cooperation with adjacent land management agencies and ranchers, to ensure the viability of these species in the shared ecosystem.

Visitor Experience

Current situation:

  • Annual visitation to Waterton Lakes peaked in the late 1990s at around 400,000, and today averages 380,000 visitors per year. Waterton’s 2005 visitor survey showed that while most visitors to the park are from Alberta, Waterton welcomes more American visitors (37%) than other mountain parks, reflecting the park’s location adjacent to the international boundary and Glacier National Park.
  • The park’s relative freedom from traffic, crowds and commercialization, combined with its huge diversity of plants and animals, provides a sense of seclusion and exclusivity. While there is strong interest in the services, information and accommodation available in the community of Waterton, the park is largely viewed by visitors as a place to relax and escape.

Key schievements:

  • WLNP is working to connect with new visitor market segments and improve our understanding of their motivations.
  • A multi-stakeholder group was established and created a Human Use Strategy.
  • Exhibits showcase the First Oil Well in Western Canada National Historic Site; the Blakiston Valley; conservation of neighbouring ranch lands by the Nature Conservancy of Canada; and the significance of Waterton Lakes National Park in a system of national parks and national historic sites.
  • Strategies to maintain and improve fall and winter experiences are under development.
  • More opportunities are being created for the Aboriginal community to tell their story in the park.
  • Investments are being made into park infrastructure to improve the experience of visitors.

Action plan:

  • More opportunities are being created for visitors to make inspiring connections to the park and Canada’s heritage.
  • WLNP will engage the public, regional tourism providers, Aboriginal people and stakeholders in authentic activities that contribute to the enjoyment, presentation, stewardship and protection of Waterton’s ecological and cultural resources.
  • New products and promotional activities will be developed with others to appeal to visitors who enjoy the following types of experiences:
    • Authentic experience and learning;
    • No-hassle travel in safe, scenic settings;
    • Rejuvenation and renewal in nature;
    • Freedom and exciting outdoor activity;
    • Exploration of personal/family history.
  • New interpretation and education programs will align with the three elements of Parks Canada’s mandate – protection of heritage resources, learning opportunities and visitor experience – to invite visitors to try new activities and broaden their national park experience.
  • WLNP will work cooperatively with commercial tourism providers to ensure a full understanding of the park’s total visitor population by sharing market information and to increase knowledge of the demographics, motivations and satisfaction levels of visitors.

Education and Outreach

Current situation:

  • Reaching a larger number of Canadians is critical to the future of our system of heritage places. To promote an ongoing dialogue and lifelong passion for parks and healthy landscapes, Parks Canada brings the stories of mountain and prairie culture, science, recreation and park management to people who may not otherwise have an opportunity to learn about or become involved in our national parks and national historic sites.
  • Parks Canada is also committed to broadening participation in park management, and to approaching problem-solving in ways that are innovative and rewarding for participants.

Key achievements:

  • WLNP is ensuring that resource and visitor management programs include communication strategies targeted at interested stakeholders and park visitors.
  • Park staff meet regularly with stakeholder groups to support and participate in their initiatives.
  • The park website is regularly updated with visitor experience, management and resource conservation information and stories.
  • Staff work with regional groups and agencies to present outreach programs that promote understanding of ecological issues and initiatives to residents of the Crown of the Continent ecosystem.
  • In-class programs in regional schools are being significantly expanded.
  • Interpretive and school group programs regularly include content relating to resource conservation and the role of national parks and other topics relating to Parks Canada’s mandate.

Action plan:

  • Awareness of and visitation to Waterton by a wider array of Canadians, particularly urban Canadians, new Canadians and youth, will be emphasized.
  • Products and programs that encourage and support families to make nature and outdoor experiences a part of their lives will be developed.
  • WLNP will actively consult with the Aboriginal community on how to honour and restore their cultural connection and enduring involvement with the park.
  • Communication and public education components will be developed for all ecological integrity strategies and actions.
  • The park will actively collaborate with heritage-based agencies, education authorities, schools and festival organizers to bring outreach education programming into small communities and larger urban centres in Western Canada.

Next steps

Parks Canada reports annually to the public on progress in implementing the park management plan. Every five years, Parks Canada reports on the condition of resource protection, visitor experience and public appreciation and understanding through the State of the Park Report.

For more information:
Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada, Box 200, Waterton Park, AB, Canada, T0K 2M0.
Phone: 403-859-2224.
Fax: 403-859-5152.