Are you interested in a late-season photography road trip to one of the most extraordinary locations in Western Canada? Well, start packing and drive down to Waterton Lakes National Park. Located in the southwest corner of Alberta, Waterton is adjacent to Montana’s impressive Glacier National Park. This zone between prairie and mountains makes an ideal location to photograph wildlife. Fall and early winter provide a spectacular setting of snow-capped peaks, golden leaves and colourful rock layers dramatically set against a rolling grassland prairie.
One of the great scenic roads in the area is the Red Rock Parkway. This 15 kilometre drive to Red Rock Canyon can provide a wide variety of creatures to photograph. Black bear, elk, coyote and white-tailed deer can be seen on a regular basis and you’re sure to come face to face with Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Grizzly, moose and cougar can also been viewed, but are less common. Wildlife is everywhere in the park and in addition to the Red Rock Parkway, a walk along Blakiston Creek, or a drive on the Akamina Parkway, are sure to produce great photographic opportunities.
The Rocky Mountain elk mating season has begun and will last into November as huge herds of elk move into the grasslands. The elk rut is a spectacular display of behaviour that cannot be missed. Although the Waterton elk are not as tame as the ones you might find in other national parks, the sights and sounds of bugling bull elk still abound in this breathtaking landscape. During fall and winter mule deer can be photographed in and around the town of Waterton. The deer have taken up residence near the town in order to avoid cougars and other predators. For the wildlife photographer an obvious benefit is being able to photograph big bucks that are accustomed to having people around. One mule deer hotspot appears to be Waterton Avenue running along the shore of Upper Waterton Lake.
Waterton Lakes National Park is a low-key destination that has much to offer the photographer. The wildlife can appear docile, but never forget they’re wild animals trying to survive. When travelling on foot carry bear spray, and while photographing from your vehicle keep a safe distance from wildlife and respect other visitors and park staff.
I recommend a visit before the end of November. But, no matter when you find the time, Waterton’s wildlife bonanza can be enjoyed throughout the year and should be included in your future wild outdoor adventures.