Camping at Elk Island National Park (Alberta)

Updated: Oct 11, 2020

This will be our second year camping on this September weekend. I am hoping to make it a birthday tradition. Last year we spent more time hiking and canoeing. And this year the focus was on a birthday picnic!


HIGHLIGHTS

  • The ducks flying in to Astotin Lake at the end of the day

  • Firelight conversations with Dan

  • Hanging out with my best friends

  • A fellow camper mistaking me for a park ranger



HOW WE CAMP

Dan & I are very basic campers, for the most part, especially if we are only going for 1-2 nights. Our camping box with the "kitchen" items was already ready to go. Plates, cutlery, matches, one pot and one cast iron skillet, coffee kit with kettle, etc...all the standards are in there. I built this before our last trip, and it worked really well. I keep it packed all the time now, and refresh any items just before we head out.


We borrowed a simple propane camp stove from a pal, filled a jug of city water, and Dan brings his own firestarter kit. Breakfasts are usually toast/bagels and eggs, and one dinner at least is mac & cheese with vegan sausage and green peppers.


Our tent is new from Canadian Tire. Our old tent was one of the items stolen from the van in July, and this new one was perfect. Aka it was in stock and under $200! I did buy a new mattress pad before we left (to replace my stolen one), but borrowed Dan's "new" sleeping bag (he used an older one he had held on to).


Camping gear can get expensive. A tent, one mattress pad and one sleeping bag alone cost over $500. But once you have those things, they will last for many years and many trips (in my experience...unless they get stolen ;-)


If you want to get started camping, but don't know how, or can't afford the initial investment, I would love to hear from you. One of my "Big Ideas" is a camping gear library, so I am always looking for input and feedback.




KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Just because there is a fence, it doesn't mean the animals aren't wild. It should go without saying, but don't get out of your vehicle and approach any animals you see in the park. And give them all a lot of space if you encounter them on the trail. There are bison, bears, deer and more in this space and they deserve our respect.


There are full washroom facilities at the Astotin Day Use area, and in the adjacent campground. The day use area includes a boat launch, playground, and an assortment of picnic tables and firepits. There is a lot of parking on site, and a few accessible stalls as well.


Camping reservations at all National Parks in Canada start in January. That is when I booked my tenting spot. As far as I know, there are no serviced sites in the Astotin campground, but I could be wrong. The Otentiks aren't available this year, thanks to COVID precautions.




We find that the best animal viewing times are dusk and morning. Watching - and listening to - the ducks fly into the lake area at dusk was a huge highlight of the trip and is completely mind blowing.


There are a lot of hiking, biking and water crafting options in the Park, for every skill level. The canoe rental is currently closed, but you can bring your own non-motorized craft. We have only visited a few of the trails in the Park, and I can't wait to explore more.


What else do you like to know before you head to an outdoors tourist spot?



TAKE ACTION

This is slightly adjacent to the post at hand, but I can’t write about camping in Alberta without writing about the current Alberta (UCP) government’s plan to delist and close many of our provincial parks, provincial recreation areas, and natural areas. I urge you to review the posts I've linked under "Further Reading" and then take action by:

  • writing to your MLA and the Minister of Parks (there is a tool here)

  • writing to your local newspaper

  • "adopting" a park or logging a visit via I Use Alberta Parks

  • talking to your friends and family about the future of Alberta Parks


I also encourage everyone who is traveling to national or provincial parks, to at the very least learn the names of the Indigenous folks who were pushed off that land in the name of “conservation” and “preservation of wildness” to create green tourist spaces for white settlers. This is my favourite website for that: Native Land.



FURTHER READING

Here are some of my past blogs about Elk Island Park. There are a lot of activities you can do within the Park, and it is a great option for folks in the city (Edmonton) to get out into nature without having to drive 200km.


Please familiarize yourself with any public park or day use space before going. Here is the official Parks Canada page for Elk Island National Park. On it you will find information about trail and road closures, park fees, etc.


And here are some sites that will help you learn about and then take action against the delisting and closure of Alberta parks.

I Use Alberta Parks

Defend Alberta Parks

Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society - Northern Alberta




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