Located 260 km north of Edmonton on the east side of Alberta's second largest lake, Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park (established 1966, 73 km2) is a landscape of contrasts.
Prevailing winds aided by major storms have produced some of the finest beaches in the province. Named after the Duke of DEVONSHIRE, who visited the area in 1920, Devonshire beach is popular for swimming, wind surfing and sand castle competitions. The beach in the south end of the park is separated from marshes and wetlands, part of the former lake bed, by a series of beach ridges and blowout dunes. Sand-tolerant plants such as BEARBERRY, rose, pin cherry and paper birch help to stabilize the dunes. Forests of jack pine grow on the beach ridges.
At the north end of the park the land rises sharply from the lake for 450 m to the summit of Martin Mountain. This abrupt topographic change and associated changes in moisture, temperature and drainage produce conditions for a diversity of forests. Balsam poplar with patches of ostrich fern (see FIDDLEHEAD GREENS) grow along stream courses at lower elevations. Balsam fir near the western limit of its range is common along with white spruce on moist sites. Lodgepole pine, a disjunct foothills tree, grows in coniferous woods near the summit of Martin Mountain. Among the 250 recorded plant species are devil's club and MOUNTAIN ASH typically found west of the ROCKY MOUNTAINS.
Moose, black bear, coyote, fisher and occasionally lynx, wolf, GRIZZLY BEAR and woodland caribou live in the park. Over 175 species of birds have been recorded, with new species added every year. The Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory started a banding program in 1993 to help track global trends in songbird numbers. In 1995 over 3500 songbirds of 68 different species were banded. New or rare species for the area include the Nashville and bay-breasted warblers, gray-checked thrush, rosy finch and western meadowlark.
LESSER SLAVE LAKE was a prominent hub during the fur trade with trading posts of both the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company. From 1907-14, steam-powered paddle wheelers transported passengers and freight on the lake until they were replaced by the railway. The park has a number of trails, a campground, group camp and a golf course.