Kananaskis CountryEncompassing 4250 km2 of diverse landscapes from glacier-capped mountains to broad valleys and rolling foothills, Kananaskis Country lies west of Calgary and south of the Trans-Canada Highway. It was created in 1977 to facilitate the development of infrastructure that supports a variety of recreation opportunities. Nodes of intensive development are interspersed with highly protected natural landscapes to maintain the wildland character of the mountain environment. There are 5 provincial PARKS within its boundaries with varying degrees of protection.
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (established 1977, 501 km2) preserves a landscape of glacier-capped peaks surrounding Kananaskis Lakes. Recreation opportunities include hiking, climbing, fishing, cross-country skiing, cycling and camping (summer and winter). One of Canada's finest visitor centres provides interpretation of the mountain environment and its history. William Watson Lodge provides opportunities for disabled persons and their families.
Bow Valley Provincial Park
Bow Valley Provincial Park (established 1959, 13 km2) protects a biologically rich montane environment. Forests of pine, spruce, fir and aspen are interspersed with grasslands, shrublands and wetlands. Over 500 species of flowering plants have been identified. The Many Springs area is popular for its numerous orchids. Birdlife is similarly diverse with 180 species recorded.
Elbow-Sheep Wildland Park
Elbow-Sheep Wildland Park (established 1996, 792 km2) provides opportunities for hiking, camping, trailriding and hunting in a backcountry setting. The park preserves critical habitat for bighorn sheep, elk, COUGAR, GRIZZLY BEAR and MOUNTAIN GOAT.
Wind Valley Natural Area
Wind Valley Natural Area (established 1995, 79 km2) preserves prime winter range of one of North America's largest herds of bighorn sheep.
Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve
Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve (established 1991, 23 km2) preserves alpine and subalpine landscapes. The flat plateau includes periglacial features more typical of arctic environments. Rare and disjunct plant species enhance the scientific value of this reserve.
Over 100 archaeological sites have been identified, the oldest dating to 11 000 years ago. The first confirmed European expedition was that of James Sinclair, who in 1841 led 15 families and their livestock over the mountains to settle in Washington, US. Since that time the area has been exploited for coal, timber, oil and natural gas, hydroelectricity and cattle ranching.
Development nodes include Kananaskis Village and the Nordic Centre, sites of the 1988 Winter OLYMPIC GAMES. Kananaskis Village has 3 hotels with associated conference, dining and sport facilities. The village overlooks a 36-hole golf course and is adjacent to the Nakiska downhill ski resort. Campgrounds throughout Kananaskis Country offer a range of facilities to cater to all interests.