Elk Island National Park is located about 35 kilometers from the Albertan Capital City of Edmonton. Beautiful and full of lush greenery, this national park is home to the American bison. Situated in the Beaver-hills area, this conservation provides shelter for wintering herds of elk, bison and moose since times immemorial. And it doesn’t stop with wildlife, imagine beautiful nature at your door step, in a Canadian Capital city.
About the Elk Island National Park
Located: 48 kms from Edmonton City Centre
Entry Fee: 7.50 (per adult)
Elk Island National Park is open 24 hours a day all year around. Its main entrance, the south gate, is located approximately 48km from Edmonton’s city centre, via Highway 16 East (Yellowhead). Best time to visit is July to September to experience the Bison activity.
Bison and Bison Conservation at Elk Island National Park
Elk Island National Park has been preserving bison since 1907. The Canadian government bought close to 400 bison to Elk Island. With varied changes in the ecosystem, there were migrations and transfers of bison from Elk Island to other national parks. In 2007, the wood bison population in Elk Island National Park was estimated at 315.
The picture below is the bison loop. Here you can see bison in their natural habitat, moving across the national park.
Its a stunning scene in the summer time to witness such a natural activity, on top of an open jeep.
While crossing the loop, ensure you slow down your vehicles and stop, allow the bison to pass at their own pace.
Activities at the Elk Island National Park
There are lot of fun things to do in Alberta and exploring national parks is one of the joys, when you visit this province. There are winter and summer activities that you can do at the Elk Island National Park, such as camping, hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, wildlife gazing, golfing, kayaking/canoeing and mountain biking.
- Camping – Astotin Lake, located within the Elk Island National Park, has 64 un-serviced sites for RVs and tenting. The campsite has potable water, hot shower, (very clean) washrooms, firewood provided with fire permit, picnic shelters, etc. There is an option for “hike-in” camp site at the Oster Lake Back-country. You can request for equipped campsites as well at the Astotin Lake for your overnight stays
- Hiking – The park has over 80 kilometers of trails that you can explore and hike. Most trails have parking, washrooms and garbage facilities.
- Cycling & Canoeing – There are about 16+kms of bike loops in the park. You can bring in your bikes and enjoy the nature. Road cyclists are also welcomed here. There are beautiful lakes inside the National Park and you can rent them or bring your own canoe or kayak and enjoy a cool paddling session.
- Golfing – There is a 9 hole- Elk Island Golf Course that brings in nature and sports together. The golf course also has a little eatery (free re-fills for tea and coffee!)
- Wildlife– Of course, you will get to see bisons and elks, how about black bears, deers, wolves, coyotes and beavers? You can them all at the Elk Island National Park. Be sure to stop and let them pass by. Maintain a safe distance from wild animals at all times and do not attempt to feed them.
- Picnicking – Of course, don’t forget to just hang out. Grab your picnic basket and head to Astotin Lake, Beaver Bay or Tawayik Lake to have a enjoy some nature or family or alone time, your style!
- Stargazing – Within the boundaries of Elk Island National Park, lies the Beaver Hill – dark sky reserve. Beaver Hills and the nearby Astotin Lake is a wonderful location for stargazers and Northern Lights chasers. Be sure to check the season or northern lights forecast before hand. Learn more about Stargazing at the Beaver Hills here
Elk Island National Park – Things to know:
- Closest Airport: YEG – Edmonton International Airport
- Located 75 kms from the Airport.
- Entry fees apply. For an adult entry is $CAD 7.50 valid up to 24 hours. For more information on fees visit Parks Canada website here
- Camping, kayaking, bird watching are common activities
- Carry mosquito and bug repellents on visit
- Be mindful of wild animals and adhere to Parks Canada/Alberta Parks warnings
- Bison Conservation and Bison Loop
- Beaver Hills – Stargazing event that occurs every September
- Haskin Canoe – Full Moon and Sunset Tours (occurs on one Saturday, each month from June to October)
A very unique way to experience the beauty of the Elk Island National Park is taking a Sunset and Full Moon Tour. Conducted by Haskin Canoe, this is one of a kind experience. The tour lasts 2-2.5 hours, is subjected to weather restrictions, but is totally worth it to sign up for. Learn more Haskin Canoe’s tours here
Sunset Tour at Elk Island National Park
Isn’t it pretty? Imagine canoeing in the lake (Astotin) in the midst of nature – greenery, pelicans, bisons, beavers, with the bright sky making way to golden hues. Soak in all the wonderful time!
This picture above was taken at the Lake Astotin, Sandy Beach – on Elk Island National Park. Haskin Canoe rents canoes and kayaks at the beach during the day and on special evenings, there are Sunset and Full moon tours.
Take a look at their website to check out some amazing activities for yourself or your teams/groups.
Our Sunset Tour at Astotin Lake Elk Island National Park
For the sunset tour, bookings are made in advance. You can choose between a tandem canoe, kayak or a voyaguer canoe. These tours are conducted in the evenings and are subject to weather conditions. The price of the tour ranges from CAD$40 to CAD$100, depending on your choice of canoe/kayak.
For all tour schedules and prices from Haskin Canoe, please check here
For your tour, please ensure you bring bug spray, warm clothing including hat or torque, camera, extra clothing if you get wet, etc. Life vests are provided.
We were pretty excited for this tour. Last year, due to bad weather, these tours were cancelled and we could not participate. So in 2018, we made sure that we signed up for the first tour of the year (which was in June). That day, in the afternoon, the weather was still playing games (you know Alberta weather). But we were lucky and by evening, the skies cleared and made this tour possible.
We arrived late afternoon and our tour was supposed to start at 08:30 pm local time. We walked in to the shack where canoes and kayaks were kept, signed up the waiver form and received our life-vests. Salil and I chose the voyager canoe as it was our first time here. (We had done boating before, but this was different). So we went with the voyager and I am glad we did that. This allowed me to enjoy the nature and take some amazing shots as well!
The individual kayaks and the voyager canoe were led by Haskin Canoe team-lead/guide who also provided us with a brief history of the national park.
When we started the tour, it was still very bright at the deck. As paddled our way in to the deep waters and saw some lovely pelicans, woods, bisons, beaver lodges and more. The lake is not deep, in fact it is very swallow – deepest point is about 12 feet. You wont find any fishes in the lake.
We canoed for about 2 hours. By the time we reached the shore, it was dark and we could very well appreciate the beautiful sunset.
The Haskin Canoe Tour was definitely a unique experience. It was a lovely experience to canoe in the midst of beautiful nature and watch the sun go down. We highly recommend doing this tour if you are in Edmonton or planning to visit the Elk Island National Park.
This sunset will always be remembered.
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