Virtual Field Trip of The

Castle Crown Wilderness

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The Castle Wilderness as defined by the Castle Crown Wilderness Association comprises approximately 1040 square kilometres of mountains, foothills, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, forests and grasslands in southwestern Alberta (click to see map). This region extends northward from Waterton Lakes National Park nearly to the Crowsnest pass, with the Continental Divide as its western border.  The surficial appearance of the region is the result of frequent high intensity Chinook winds that become concentrated in this area.  However this wind effects some areas far more than others resulting in this area being that of great contrast and flux from one kilometer to the next.

The Front Range Canyons on the east side of the area show the most sculping by Chinook Winds.  In this harsh environment grass lands extend to elevations normally dominated by forests, and trees are of krumholz type, stunted and grissled by the wind.  In this area many microclimates abound resulting in a remarkable diversity of forest and plants acting like oases in this harsh environment.

The South and West Castle Valleys of the Castle Wilderness are much more lush than their tributaries to the south east.  In winter this difference is highlighted when in the West castle valley you can ski on a 15ft snow pack (1999), yet  in the Drywood creek area in the southeast you can easily go hiking up grassy valleys practically free of snow. In the areas experiencing high precipitation there is a lusher alpine vegetation, supported on spongy old growth soils, numerous alpine and subalpine wetlands, and around 33 high alpine lakes.

The scenery of this area is typically the result of successive waves of Cordilleran glaciation, creating large U-shaped valleys, serene cirque bowls, striking horns, and beautiful waterfalls cascading from hanging valleys.

Despite this apparent abundance of prime recreation potential this area is sparsely used by vacationers as compared to similar areas in Alberta's Rocky Mountains.  The main reason why many do not recreate in this area have to do with the lack of defined trails, adequate guidebooks, and amenities (e.g. outhouses).  However to those who do visit this remote section of southwestern Alberta do so just for that reason.  This area is an explorers paradise, inviting all with good map reading skills and route finding knowledge to enter the drainage's of the Castle Wilderness.

Enter and Enjoy!