New growth, new trails and a new appreciation, that’s what visitors at Waterton Lakes National Park said they felt when walking around the community.
“It’s beautiful out today, being able to walk around is great,” Jason Nate said while visiting the park with his son Caleb.
Parks Canada was forced to close portions of the Waterton Lakes National Park after the Kenow wildfire in 2017, and just as things were starting to return to normal, the COVID-19 pandemic spurred the delay of another season, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping visitors.
“We are seeing some very high peak periods of use, definitely weekends and almost any nice, sunny day sort of between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.,” Christy Gustavison with Parks Canada said.
The fire caused limited access to several spots in the park, but after a three-year wait, many of those popular sites have reopened to visitors.
“In the last few weeks we have opened Red Rock Parkway to motor vehicles, the popular Bears Hump trail has also reopened to use,” Gustavison said.
It was exciting news for the Torrance family. They visit Waterton every year and said the Bears Hump hike is a must.
“You can see walking up there all the new tree growth and flower growth, it’s going to be great in a couple years,” Nathan Torrance said.
Visitors say the rebuilt trails are just as good as before the fire.
Officials are reminding visitors that despite the parks reopening, some restrictions remain in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and even though you might be excited to dip your toes in the Red Rock Canyon water, you will have to wait your turn.
“If you do get to a site that’s busy and if you can’t find a parking spot, we ask that you go visit somewhere else in the park,” Gustavison said.
She added that if you can’t safely keep your distance, you are encouraged you to wear a mask.