Photo credit: Stephen Legault.

Photo credit: Stephen Legault.

THE CASTLE: a vital link

The Castle links Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park with Crowsnest Pass in the Eastern Slopes of the Canadian Rockies. This region is a jewel in the Crown of the Continent ecosystem that encompasses parts of Alberta, British Columbia, and Montana and sits at the heart of the Yellowstone to Yukon region.

The Castle Wildland Provincial Park and Castle Provincial Park together comprise more than 250,000 acres (100,000 hectares) of prime wildlife habitat in one of the most biologically rich landscapes in the country. 

The Castle links wildlife moving north and south through the Yellowstone to Yukon region. It joins protected areas like Waterton-Glacier with the Rocky Mountain Parks further north. 

As part of Alberta’s headwaters, it is the most significant basin in the Oldman River watershed, providing 30% of its waters. The Oldman joins with the Bow River to form the South Saskatchewan River and serves many downstream communities as it flows through Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

The Castle has significance for indigenous communities, including Piikani (Peigan), Nitsitapii (Blackfoot), Siksika, Kainaiwa (Blood), Ĩyãħé Nakoda (Stoney), Tsuut’ina and K'tunaxa First Nations. The Piikani locate their origin story in this landscape, and many people from these nations continue to use the area to pursue their traditional ways of life. 

The Castle also provides countless opportunities for different forms of quiet recreation, including hiking, camping, hunting, mountain biking and climbing.

For many Albertans, the Castle is a key connection to wilderness, wildlife and the sense of wonder that comes with being among trees and rivers. Albertans can be proud of the new parks created by the Alberta government in the Castle. 

The Castle area is home to more than 200 rare or at-risk species, including grizzly bears, wolverine, westslope cutthroat trout, and both limber and whitebark pine.

We have achieved amazing things in the Castle!

For more than 40 years, conservation groups have pressured Alberta’s governments to protect this region. In September 2015 Alberta announced the creation of a new Castle Provincial Park and expansion of the Castle Wildland Provincial Park.

On January 20, 2017, the Province announced that the Castle Parks had passed an order-in-council, officially setting the park boundaries and releasing a draft management plan, followed by a period of public consultation.

The current management plan covering both parks includes a three- to five-year phase-out of off-highway vehicle recreation in both parks, an important step to protect some of the region’s most ecologically sensitive areas, and outlines co-management potential with the Piikani Nation. 

In mid-July of 2019, the Government of Alberta quietly paused the planned OHV phase-out, stating that 132 km of trails would remain open, pending additional conversations with stakeholders.

What can you do?

The Castle Parks were created through the tireless efforts of Albertans who understood the ecological and recreational value of the land. We can do the same in the Bighorn and in Kananaskis Country. Let your voice be heard and speak up for our headwaters!

  • Write your MLA to let them know you support the current Castle Parks management plan.

  • Sign up for updates on headwaters conservation in the province.

  • Donate to Alberta headwaters conservation.

  • Speak up! Follow us on social media, and like, comment and share our news stories. Remember to use #loveyourheadwaters when you do.

  • Then, get out to the Castle and show some love for your headwaters. Hike, bike, camp and cherish this landscape. Visit local businesses and help make the conservation economy a reality in Alberta.

Photo credit: Stephen Legault.

Photo credit: Stephen Legault.