Today we made a little road trip to visit Waterton Lakes National Park in the southwest corner of Alberta in Canada. Waterton Lakes is connected to Glacier National Park, and today we took a boat tour from one park to the other and did a short hike in the northern reaches of Glacier in the Goat Haunt area. We had some lovely scenery and a couple of bear sightings in Canada.
Today, we planned to make a trip up to Waterton Lakes National Park just across the border in Canada. In my prior research, the one part of the park that appealed to me the most was Cameron Lake on the far west side. However, due to heavy June rains, the access road to get there is closed for repairs.
We went prepared for a boat tour and perhaps a short hike. I think we left around 11:30.
Shortly after turning on the Chief Mountain Highway, we quickly learned we had to watch out for free ranging cows.
They were standing near the road and in the road, so we made a note to be really careful coming back this evening.
Eventually we came to the border crossing.
With the single line and the border agent asking lots of questions, it took a bit longer than we expected. Second note to self - this border crossing closes at 10:00 p.m.
With our passports stamped, we went through and quickly entered a section of Waterton Lakes NP. We stopped to take a couple photos at an overlook.
Then we proceeded on toward Waterton Townsite which is the hub for park activities. We paid our entrance fee of $7.80 per person, and started looking for wildlife on the entrance road. A large mule deer buck crossed the road in front of us, but he was moving too quickly for a photo.
Once in town, we went directly to the marina and bought tickets for a Waterton Shoreline Cruise. We had just missed the 1:00 cruise, but that was okay. We booked spots on the 4:00 cruise to Goat Haunt, Montana with a return on the last tour of the day at 8:00 which would get us back to town by 9:00.
With time to kill, we took a few pictures. This is the tour boat passing in front of the Prince of Wales Hotel.
Here are a couple of other shots from the park-like marina area.
We walked around town a bit, and stopped for lunch at Zum's.
It was nice to sit on the patio and people-watch, although I couldn't exactly say we were raving about the place.
After lunch, we still had a lot of time before our boat tour, so we drove across the Red Rock Parkway. It's a somewhat narrow two-lane road that winds back nine miles (excuse me, we're in Canada - 15 kilometers) into a canyon.
Not far in, we saw a couple of cars stopped and Linda quickly spotted a Black Bear. It wasn't exactly close, but it was close enough to get a photo that I later cropped to bring in the subject.
It was a brief look as the bear soon disappeared behind a small ridge. Nice.
Moving on, I searched for other wildlife as we made our way back to Red Rock Canyon. We saw a young Bighorn Sheep by the side of the road where bunches of cars were parked. We didn't have time to make the short hike to Blackiston Falls and there was no parking left, so we just turned around and headed back out.
On the way out, there were several cars parked alongside the road in classic "bear jam" fashion. We squeezed off the road ourselves, and saw another Black Bear.
This one was a little more out in the open and a bit closer.
Linda said she saw a second bear in the brush. Well she was right. There was a second bear, and a third. Two tiny cubs bounded out of the bushes as mom got a bit too far away.
We watched the threesome for several minutes.
Linda took a two-minute video.
The playful cubs didn't seem to have a care in the world. As they slowly got beyond our view, we continued on back into town.
Later, upon closer review of the photos, I think the bear we sighted earlier and the mama bear were the same. We never saw the cubs the first time, but the markings on the bigger bear matched up.
Back at the marina, we waited to board "The International".
Once onboard, most folks chose the upper deck bench seats while we went down below to let everyone get settled. Then I popped out to take a few pictures during the one-hour journey to the southern end of the lake.
Eventually, we joined the others up on top, ....
and we listened to the young narrator tell us about the area history and the swath cut on both sides of the lake indicating the international border.
That was certainly an easy border crossing as we passed into Montana and Glacier National Park.
The scenic boat ride continued.
Same shot ... without the people.
We were hoping to see a Grizzly or two along the shoreline, but we didn't. Soon we arrived at Goat Haunt.
The boat docked in the lovely bay, a short walk from the Goat Haunt Ranger Station.
I just love the clear blue-green mountain lake water.
We were first off the boat .....
as we wanted to get to the ranger station first. The boat docks for 15 - 25 minutes and as long as you go no farther than the ranger station, you don't need a passport. However, if you aren't going back on the same boat, and are going to do some hiking, you have to have a passport and go through customs at the ranger station which serves as a workplace for both national park rangers and U.S. Customs.
Here are a couple more nice shots taken from the paved path around the end of the lake.
Soon, we were ready to be let back into the U.S. officially.
We were the only ones from our boat that were going to do some hiking and then return on the last boat of the evening at 8:00. But several others brought their passports to the customs agents just to get the Goat Haunt stamps. The custom agents then called it a night and went back on the boat with the others.
Originally, I had planned to do the five-mile round-trip hike to Kootenai Lakes which is known as excellent moose habitat. However, with our wonderful moose encounters the other day, we decided to stick to the shorter two-mile round-trip to Rainbow Falls.
We left our hiking boots in the Jeep, and were equipped more for a gentle stroll than a hike. I did, however, have my bear spray.
Bright yellow signs indicated a bear had been seen frequently in the Goat Haunt area. And since we were the only ones hiking this afternoon, we kept our eyes open and listened closely for the cracking of sticks in the woods. Linda was a little freaked out without all her normal survival gear, so she made lots of noise ... scaring my bears away.
Fortunately, we didn't surprise any bears.
The stream below the falls was almost covered in shadows, but it was still lovely.
After a short, steep climb we hadn't expected, the trail approached the falls with mountains in view.
When we finally reached the falls, they were more like a powerful, cascading rapid, and the viewpoint wasn't all that great. I took a photo, but it wasn't good enough to post. However, the stream above the falls was very photogenic.
We had lots of time before our boat ride back to Canada, so I asked Linda if she wanted to hang out at the falls for awhile. Without her security blanket of supplies, she wasn't up for quite that much solitude.
So we headed back, and she continued with a barrage of whistling and singing show tunes until we were back at the ranger station. As long as there were no circus bears in the woods, we would be fine.
With almost two hours before our ride came back for us, we weren't exactly sure what we were going to do. But there was a shelter with exhibits and books for ranger talks, so we each grabbed a book and sat looking out over the lake while reading about bears.
After about an hour, I was slouched down using my backpack for a cushion and yawning. Yep, I had myself a little nap out in the beautiful, quiet setting.
"The International" arrived on time and, after its brief docking, we boarded with the far smaller group that came out on the last tour of the day. Apparently, they got to see bears on their way out. Well, of course they did.
I'm not sure the boat tour was worth $40 a person. But the total experience was unique, so we won't hammer on the price too much.
We arrived back at the dock right at 9:00 and had an hour to cross the border. It was plenty of time, and the drive was very pretty with a big, full moon, and clouds shrouding the tops of the mountains.
We did the border thing again, and the agent reminded us to "watch out for cows". Oh yeah.
Not far into the U.S. on Chief Mountain Highway, we saw a large, black animal ambling along at a good pace just on the side of the road. I was pretty sure it wasn't a cow. Sure enough, it was a large Black Bear. It let us get just close enough for one good look before it vanished into the trees.
Driving on, we started seeing the cows again. Some were well off the road, and some were on the edge. And twice we encountered stubborn black ones standing right in the middle of the road. Had it not been for the late twilight and the full moon, that could have been a big problem.
Just be very careful if you drive across that road ... any time of the day or night.
We finally arrived home around 10:30. It was an enjoyable day trip up to Waterton Lakes and some of the scenery was beautiful. We certainly enjoyed the bear sightings. Perhaps, we'll stay there a few days next time we're in the area.