Areas of Waterton Lakes National Park remain closed due to safety hazards and infrastructure damage from the Kenow Wildfire. Visit our What's open page for an up-to-date list of open areas.
Safety is Parks Canada's top priority. Visitors to Waterton Lakes National Park must adhere to area closures and remain vigilant of potential hazards.
For information about safety while enjoying Waterton Lakes National Park, explore the topics below.
For general information on how to stay safe when enjoying the outdoors, visit AdventureSmart.ca.
Safety after the Kenow Wildfire
Areas of the park that are open are safe to visit.
Visitors to national parks need to be aware of the potential for natural hazards. The risk of natural hazards can be reduced by being well informed and prepared. It is important to know that some areas of the park that are open currently were burned by the wildfire. Please review the following information to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:
The Kenow Wildfire may have affected water quality in the backcountry. Visitors travelling in the backcountry should treat drinking water gathered from burned areas, or pack in potable water. Water turbidity and microbial pathogens (potentially increased due to the wildfire) are examples of contaminants that need to be addressed through treatment. These contaminants can be addressed with two steps:
- Filtering backcountry water with a microbial water filter that meets a third party standard such as P231
- Disinfection with chlorine tablets if the filter pore size is 0.02 microns or larger.
As conditions dry out this summer, there will be loose ash and dirt in the park. Strong winds will transport this ash and dirt and could cause air quality and visibility issues.
Visit Air Quality Health Index for updates on air quality and smoke visibility.
In fire-affected areas, reduced shade due to the burning of the forest canopy will make hiking and walking on hot and sunny days more strenuous. Due to the lack of a canopy, hiking trails will be more slippery in rainy weather.
Rock fall, steep slopes and debris
Rock that was once held in place by vegetation is now loose and more unstable. Take care when travelling over steep slopes and rocky areas and reduce your overhead hazard to steep slopes and cliffs where fallen trees or loose rocks may roll downhill. Increased rock or debris fall hazard can be expected during rainy or windy weather. Also, watch out for hazards from damaged or destroyed infrastructure like steel, nails, and glass.
Any trails that are open have been assessed for hazard trees and the risks appropriately mitigated. Travel quickly and spread your group out to reduce exposure time. Avoid burnt forests during windy, rainy, or snowy conditions. Travel off trail carries increased risk from falling trees. Hazard trees have not been assessed or cleared in off-trail areas.
Due to safety hazards and infrastructure damage resulting from the Kenow Wildfire, some roads in Waterton Lakes National Park remain closed. Visit our What's open in 2018 page for an up-to-date list of open areas.
For information about road conditions outside of Waterton Lakes National Park, visit:
- Alberta 511 web site or call (toll-free): 1-855-391-9743 (outside Alberta); 5-1-1 (within Alberta).
Following the wildfire, animals may behave unpredictably, including entering the townsite in search of food. For your safety and the safety of the animals, never approach, feed or entice wildlife. Dispose of garbage only in bear-proof bins located throughout the townsite in order to avoid attracting wildlife. Report all wildlife observations / encounters by calling 1-888-WARDENS (1-888-927-3367).
Rock climbing and scrambling
Boulders and cliffs were exposed to extreme temperatures during the wildfire, causing some rock surfaces to become brittle. Rocks and climbing areas that were once solid may now have increased rockfall hazard and insecure hand and foot holds. All rock climbing anchors and bolts need to be treated with extreme caution. Trees should no longer be considered as secure anchor options.
In case of emergency: Dial 911
- State that you are calling from Waterton Lakes National Park.
- Remember, cell phones are not always reliable in the backcountry
To report park offences, wildlife concerns or visitor safety issues phone: 1-888-WARDENS (1-888-927-3367). Toll free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Parks Canada is undertaking the necessary assessments, analysis and planning to develop a long-term approach for Waterton Lakes. We are working to restore the national park experience in a manner that is safe for our many hundreds of thousands of annual visitors and fully consistent with the ecological objectives for the park.