The Kenow Wildfire left destruction in its wake in September 2017, when it ripped through Waterton Lakes National Park. Nearly a year later, crews are working to restore the beautiful landscape so many in southern Alberta love.
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Restoration efforts are yielding positive results in the park with the opening of more than 50 kilometres of trail that were previously closed.
“This is a good opportunity for people to see how regrowth is already taking place,” Waterton Lakes Communications Officer John Stoesser said. “The ecological renewal is already happening. It’s nice to see the green plants growing back. The plants and animals have dealt with fire here before and are renewing themselves accordingly.”
Stoesser says crews have been working hard to remove trees from pathways, rebuild infrastructure on trails and assess burned areas of the forest.
Visitation numbers are down from 2017, but Waterton Lakes is seeing similar numbers to recent years.
“The park is busy still. We’re seeing visitor levels around the 2014-2015 levels,” Stoesser said. “That’s about 20 per cent higher than any year before 2014-2015. We’re probably tracking to see anywhere from high 400,000’s to 500,000 visitors this year.”
Forty large animals died in the Kenow fire, but the park says the population is healthy and visitors are actually more likely to see bears roaming.
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It’s quite a sight in the park this summer; wildflowers are blooming all over open fields, contrasted with mass amounts of scorched trees throughout the area. There are signs of beauty and destruction all within the same view.
“It’s very humbling and amazing to see how much destruction there can be and yet they managed to save the town,” Nan Leininger, a tourist from North Carolina, said.
The park has a much different look then it did before the fire, but tourists still see the allure of Waterton.
“It’s breathtakingly beautiful,” one said. “We love the contrast driving in off the prairies and farms and then you get into this mountain region. It’s just such a beautiful contrast.”