I’ve been going to Waterton Lakes National Park since the early ‘50s. Not regularly, but often enough that each time I’m there, I vow to return much more frequently. It is, after all, less than an hour-and-a-half drive from Lethbridge. And, it truly is one of our most spectacular places. Peaceful, awe-inspiring, a great place to hike, canoe, spot flowers or birds or bears and, if you’re lucky, photograph them.
Or just soak it all in, as more than 400,000 visitors to the park do in their own ways each year.
When a board member of the Waterton Natural History Association asked if I’d be interested in sitting on the board, I jumped. The association is Waterton’s “premier advocate and promoter of the park’s evolution from natural phenomenon to international treasure,” according to its mission statement.
The WNHA partners with Parks Canada, helping out with a activities such as the Geocaching program. It offers a speakers program in the park during the summer and in Lethbridge this winter. It also provides a gathering place at the Heritage Centre for events such as the Waterton Wildflower Festival in June, organized by the Waterton Community Association.
Staff encourage visitors to the centre to sign the guest book and comment, if they’ve a mind to. This year from May 16 to September 25, pretty much daily, the centre attracted 24,027 visitors seeking information or books and souvenirs to buy. Of those, 1,187 signed the guest book. Some 800 shared their opinions about the park.
Many of the comments were short descriptors: beautiful, awesome, spectacular, cool, breath-taking, gorgeous, marvelloso (the Price family from Madrid, Spain), stunning – you get the picture.
Some went a step further to describe Waterton.
Wesley Adamo from Middle Green, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom, wrote, “An incredibly special place!”
“We skipped church to come here,” confessed Lee Mainprize from Claresholm. Waterton is forgiving.
“Greatest Place on Earth,” wrote Robert Borland of Savanagh, Ga.
“Six bears sighted today,” noted the Strives from Greencastle, Pa.
“Heaven on Earth,“ observed Rebecca Banks of Rossland, B.C.
“Honeymooned here in August, 1952. Great!” wrote Joyce Taylor of Calgary.
Diane Beaman of High River found Waterton to be “a blessed place to reacquaint one’s self to nature and to one’s self.”
“Better than Banff or Jasper, by far,” said the Sissons from Kingston, Ont.
As if I needed another reason to take the short drive more often, Jackie Wiens from just up the road at Pincher Creek called it “balm to the soul.”
Guest book signers came from five continents outside North America. Their addresses were in 25 different countries, from as far away as Australia, Malaysia, Turkey, South Africa, Poland and Venezuela.
The only comments that could be considered the least bit negative related to the weather. The wind was mentioned the most. Rain was noted a few times and snow once.
We’ll have to work on that.