Three Days in Southern Alberta

Jackie Gartner of Lloydminster, Alberta, shares the amazing scenery, wildlife and historic sites encountered on her brief but awesome adventure.

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Alberta Staycation - Reesor Lake in Cypress Hills
Photo: Jackie Gartner
A stunning view of Reesor Lake in Cypress Hills.

Our Southern Alberta staycation

In the summer of 2019, my husband, Carman, and I headed off on a short Alberta staycation. We left on a Sunday, and the day before, I spotted a local sign here in Lloydminster that read, “This Will Be The Best Summer Ever”—and indeed it was!

We arrived at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, where we’d be camping, late Sunday afternoon. It was a bit of a drizzly evening but not enough to keep us in. We roamed around the park to view Horseshoe Canyon Viewpoint and Willow Creek Burn—magnificent vistas to say the least!

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Alberta staycation - Elkwater Lake Marina in Cypress Hills
Photo: Jackie Gartner
Colourful boats in Elkwater Lake Marina in Cypress Hills.

Reflections on Elkwater Lake

We always have a destination planned when we start out, but when we act on spur of the moment ideas, it usually turns out well, too—and this Alberta staycation was no exception.

I did have my heart set on spending a day travelling Highway 13 east into Saskatchewan, but Carman vetoed that idea, something I occasionally allow!

In the morning we visited the Elkwater Lake Marina, which we had all to ourselves—it was so peaceful with the lapping water and cool morning breeze. We then made our way to Reesor Lake, where we watched some pelicans float by before we decided to head west.

How many of these beautiful Canadian birds have you spotted on your travels?

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Farming in Southern Alberta
Photo: Jackie Gartner
The view along the highway in County of Forty Mile No. 8, Alberta.

Majestic scenery

As we drove, one of the things we were struck by was the amount of livestock roaming free in the area—none of the cattle were fenced in and just randomly crossed the highway. We especially had to watch out for the calves as they would suddenly turn and dart in the opposite direction. Further along, we reached County of Forty Mile No. 8; with its beautiful roads, majestic scenery and incredible wildlife, this lovely municipality will definitely be seeing us again.

Another highlight of the day was a visit to St. Anthony’s Church, which popped into view along the highway and was well worth a stop to check it out. We then passed a sign that read Etzikom Windmill Museum, which we’d never heard of before so we hung a quick left and visited it as well. It is such a fantastic museum—I recommend stopping in if you’re ever in the area. It’s much more than just windmills; this museum takes you back in time in a wonderful way with its great layout and friendly staff. We are “vehicle-loving” people so our visit ended on a perfect note with a wander through the old garage behind the gas pumps.

Discover more quirky museums across Canada.

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Southern Alberta - deer in Canmore Alberta
Photo: Jackie Gartner
This deer was spotted in Canmore, Alberta, near the “Engine” bridge.

Oh, deer!

We carried on towards our final destination of the day, a visit to Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park. Driving along, there were deer everywhere! It was a beautiful sight to see them crossing the road in front of us, but it was the granaries and fence lines set against the setting sun that really held my attention. At one point, I spotted some old buildings with a vintage Chevy truck parked beside them. Carman is used to me squealing when I see something I want to photograph, so we pulled over. He doesn’t always see what I see and this was one of those times—he was more interested in washing the bugs off the front of the truck, but we both climbed back in totally content with the unscheduled stop!

We finally arrived at Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park, which contains the greatest concentration of rock art on the North American Great Plains. The evening was still and warm so we climbed as far as we dared and saw some amazing stone etchings that we’d only read about before. The ride back to our campsite in Cypress Hills was just as enjoyable, and the evening ended perfectly when we followed a sign to Weir Bridge where we were greeted with an amazing sunset as we approached—it doesn’t get much better than that!

Here’s more Alberta scenery that’ll have you packing your bags.

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Southern Alberta - Lundbreck Falls
Photo: Jackie Gartner
A view of Lundbreck Falls.

Falling for Lundbreck

The following day took us through beautiful Lundbreck Falls and then on to Kananaskis Country. The falls are always a treat to see but we’ve never ventured to the other side opposite the highway so that is still on our list of places to explore.

There simply aren’t enough words to describe the beauty of Kananaskis Country. One interesting spot we stumbled upon was an outdoor hockey rink in Kananaskis Village. We spotted a light switch on a post, so I flipped the switch not expecting anything to happen when on came the rink lights! And yes, we turned the lights off when we left.

Check out more beautiful Canadian waterfalls

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Southern Alberta - yellow railway car
Photo: Jackie Gartner
A yellow railway car in Rowley, Alberta.

Ghost towns of Southern Alberta

At the end of our trip we drove into Rowley, Alberta, a tiny ghost town with about ten residents and some pretty amazing photo opportunities. Because of its pioneer-like architecture, the 1989 Canadian film Bye Bye Blues was filmed there. (Here are more movies you didn’t know were filmed in Canada.)

Our three-day Alberta staycation covered just a small portion of what our beautiful province has to offer; I look forward to every trip we take in our own back yard.

Next, take a photographic tour of these hauntingly beautiful Saskatchewan ghost towns.

Originally Published in Our Canada

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