Last weekend I was in Edmonton, so we decided to drive to Elk Island National Park in the hopes of seeing some bison. It was my first time visiting the park.
We entered the park through Yellowhead Highway and saw some bison from the main road. They were a distance away from highway so it wasn’t possible to get a good photo, but it was exciting to see them so quickly!
We entered through the South Gate. There is an admission fee of $8.50 for Adults or $16.75 for the Family/Group pass. Click here to see more information about fees on the Parks Canada website. We decided to hike around Oster Lake, so we parked at the Tawayik Lake day use parking lot. We accidentally took the wrong trail from our initial plan, which was the Shirley Lake trail that circles around Oster, Paul and Spruce Island lakes. Instead, we took a closed road eastward towards the lake, what we initially thought was the correct trail.
We strolled along the road for around 40 minutes, accompanied by Sage, an excited, stick-collecting border collie. Dogs are permitted in the park but must be kept on leash at all times. As bison, elk, deer, and many other species of wildlife live in Elk Island, it is possible to encounter them along the trail. For the safety of your pets and the animals in the park, please keep your dogs on leash.
We walked for approximately 3.7 km before we reached a junction with a smaller footpath. We took this trail towards Oster Lake where it intersected with the Shirley Lakes trail. From there we hiked towards the Oster Lake backcountry campground to get a view of the frozen lake. Then we took the Shirley lake trail back towards the parking lot. The overall trip took us just over 2 hours.
Although we did not encounter any large animals during our walk, we found plenty of signs. There were tracks from deer and larger ungulates, possibly elk or bison. We saw possible evidence of beavers as we passed boggy areas. Small birds and squirrels made appearances, but overall we found more signs than we saw real animals. The park notes that animals are more active around dawn and dusk, so if you are looking to see wildlife, you may want to come earlier or later during the day. As we were hiking with a dog, less wildlife encounters were preferred. The park was still a wonderful place to get out into nature and way from the city. And we saw bison again on the way back to Edmonton!