Castle Provincial Park

3 things that make the Castle Parks special and why you should visit Castle Provincial Park

by Heather Davis, Owner and Guide, Uplift Adventures

When I first moved to Southern Alberta, I couldn’t believe what a hidden gem the Castle Parks region is. You will likely feel this way too when visiting Castle Provincial Park.

I moved here in 2014 to run the south section of the Backcountry Trails Flood Rehabilitation Program with Alberta Environment and Parks, so I was introduced to the Castle region instantly. At this time, Castle was part of a public land use zone and was not yet designated a provincial park. In the next few years, I was able to dive into the beauty of Castle by investing over $3 million in trail and land rehabilitation, work with a variety of dynamic stakeholders, and spend countless hours studying the contour lines of this region.

In 2017, Castle was redesignated as two provincial parks – Castle Provincial Park and Wildland Provincial Park – and the area transitioned to Alberta Parks management. I took a lot of pride in helping a new team become acquainted with this region and sharing what my team and I had accomplished over three years.

I helped Alberta Parks get started in Castle, ran their trail crew at the beginning, and helped them get set up to manage this region. Every time I see one of the many bridges, trails, or restoration projects that we worked on, I smile and reminisce back to when I first moved to this area. Castle Provincial Park and Wildland Provincial Park spoke to me with their unique mountain peaks, and when I became a professional guide and interpreter, I started to understand just what makes the Castle Parks special.

There are many distinctive characteristics that make this region so unique, but I’ve narrowed it down to my favourite three.

  1. They put the “rock” in Rocky Mountains

The Castle region is filled with remarkable geological features. When you are visiting Castle Provincial Park, try to find these spectacular rocks.

The mountains here are different from what you see in other parts of the Rocky Mountains. Iron-rich argillite makes the mountain tops glow red, and the alpenglow is spectacular. The Lewis Thrust exposes some of the oldest sedimentary rock and fossils in the Canadian Rockies. And let’s not forget the Purcell lava flow, which leaves behind evidence of magma sculpting the appearance of this rock. Other regions of the Castle are home to some of the best accessible caves in the world.

The entire region is incredibly diverse in geological features, from colourful rock formations to mountain-top windows peeking through to view the next valley over.

  1. Biodiversity for the win

A high biodiversity of flora exists in the South Canadian Rockies, as prairie, alpine, and montane flora happily co-exist, just as they have for thousands of years. The dynamic weather systems of eastern storms followed by high precipitation encourage this plant-life harmony, enhanced by the stark mountain-to-prairie transition in the landscape. When you are visiting Castle Provincial Park, try to find a new flower that you have never seen before.

A few key nunataks, the tops of a mountain or ridge that are above the ice sheet, in the area have allowed for seeds to survive during the glaciation period, which further enhances the biodiversity of the South Canadian Rockies. The uniqueness of this area is also due to the way the glaciers receded: Castle Parks is not far from the south edge of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which receded and exposed the mountains and land in the Castle region much sooner than other parts of the Canadian Rockies.

If you want to learn more about the Laurentide Ice Sheet, this animation does a great job of showing its evolution and gradual retreat.

  1. Wet and wild

Alberta’s headwaters consist only of spring-fed waters and precipitation, and that includes the Castle Parks. The parks are located on the headwaters of local tributaries, with no glaciers currently present. As the water flows west to east, it helps irrigate crops, ensures people have drinking water, and reduces drought.

The water quality and quantity in Southern Alberta should be a top priority for all Canadians, as the province plays an important role in ensuring our country has clean water. When you are visiting Castle Provincial Park, it is very important to remember to protect the headwaters.

The list of what makes the Castle Parks special is not limited to the geology, flora, and water found there. These three elements only scratch the surface of a complex, beautiful ecosystem that exists in the southwest corner of Alberta.

Do you want to explore beyond the surface of the Castle Parks? Uplift Adventures has guided hikes exploring its lush forest, dazzling views, and captivating history. Our two-day Castle Parks Discovery Weekend is your ultimate opportunity to explore this region in a fun, hands-on way. This package includes two guided day hikes and exclusive deals at local accommodations. Due to mountainous terrain, these hikes tend to be more challenging than beginner level and may include mountain summits.

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