Explore Alberta this May long weekend

The May long weekend signals the official start to spring in our province – but it also kicks off the Alberta Parks’ provincial camping season and offers other fun opportunities.

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While the weekend is traditionally time for many of us to head outside and explore natural areas, some areas of the province are still affected by wildfires and we all need to do our part to make sure we don’t add to an already challenging wildfire season. Make sure you have the most current information on fire bans in the province at http://beta.albertafirebans.ca/

The early spring has provided Alberta’s provincial parks, campgrounds, day use areas, museums, attractions and historic sites lots of time to make sure everything is visitor-ready for the first three-day, pre-summer weekend of 2016.

Stuff to know before you go

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  • Alberta’s 250 provincial campgrounds are ready to receive visitors for the 2016 season. Still looking for a campsite or a day use area? Check out AlbertaParks.ca
  • Visiting one of Alberta’s museums and historic sites is an excellent option this long weekend. Purchase an annual pass and explore all year long.
  • IMG_2102To protect Alberta’s lakes, mandatory watercraft inspections are in effect.
  • Be aware of liquor and fire bans. Liquor bans apply to nine provincial campgrounds this weekend.
  • Albertans share the landscape with wildlife, so be bear and cougar smart, especially if enjoying the backcountry.
  • Ensure you know the fishing regulations.
  • Be aware of regulations around motorized recreation and non-motorized use on public lands.
  • Before heading out, you may want to consider downloading some of the Government of Alberta apps like  Alberta Emergency Alert,  Alberta Wildfire and the new AQHI Canada air quality app, that will inform you of the latest conditions in and around the areas you may be looking to visit.

Get there safely

Whether destined for one of Alberta’s provincial parks, to the cabin, or a trip to visit family and friends, here are a few tips, reminders and information to help Albertans safely along their way.

To help make the weekend safe for everyone, Albertans can expect an increased presence of law enforcement officers patrolling roads, public lands and water bodies.

Free activities for Fort McMurray Evacuees

IMG_5350Until September 5, 2016, regular admission fees will be waived at provincially-owned historic sites and museums for evacuees of the Alberta wildfires.

Evacuees in Calgary and area can also visit  Bow Habitat Station without paying admission until September 5.

With so many things to do and experience in the province, the only question is where to start! Have a safe and happy May long weekend Alberta!

Dare to compare the rabbit and hare

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Snowshoe hare in the winter

It’s almost that time again! Peter Cottontail is about to hop to work and deliver all those Easter treats…but here at Environment and Parks, we thought it would be fun to get just a hare off topic.

Rabbits and hares. How many kinds do we have in the wild in our province? What are their similarities? What makes them different? What better way to find out then to just leap into the topic?

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Camping – A universal language of fun

Story by Brittany Nouwen – Alberta Parks Seasonal Interpreter

IMG_1864Alberta Parks staff, Catholic Social Services and four volunteers from the University of Alberta Outdoors Club teamed up to host 55 Syrian Refugees at the Long Lake Centre near Athabasca this past weekend.  Continue reading

Caught in the act!

Looking out for our land – thank you!

Environment and Parks staff asked the public’s assistance in identifying two men who were photographed dumping refuse on public lands.

In less than 24 hours, we had an overwhelming response. The link was shared across several platforms, resulting in information being forwarded to our compliance investigation staff.

As a reminder, leaving refuse behind on public lands is problematic for the environment and it deprives other Albertans from enjoying and using that space responsibly. As a rule of thumb for our environment – when in doubt, leave only footprints and take only pictures.

As Albertans, we have an important role in keeping our province’s public lands healthy and beautiful. If you witness misuse anywhere, at any time, please call the Environmental Hotline at 800-222-6514. If we all work together, we can put a stop to this kind of disrespectful behaviour.

Ready, Set, Camp!

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Regular campsite reservations can be made starting on Monday, February 22, 2016 at four different times – starting with the South Region.

No preference is given to either online or phone-in bookings (1-877-537-2757). Both methods have the same access with the same opening dates and times…so give us a call or get online!

Be prepared

  • AlbertaParks.ca is available year-round for advance planning. Before opening day, make sure you set up your user account. You need an account to reserve and pay for a campsite.  Having an account set up and being logged in prior to opening saves time so you’re more likely to get your preferred spot.
  • Research which campground and site(s) you prefer.
  • Read through the FAQS for individual campsites, comfort camping and group camping areas.

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Alberta’s Happy Hibernators: When Hibernators Rise and Shine!

This is the final part of a six part series on hibernators. You can find the first five parts on bearsbatsamphibiansreptiles and other small mammals here.

It feels like we are about halfway through our Alberta winter, a January thaw has given us a break from cold and snow and Canada’s weather predicting mammals are conflicted as to whether we will see an early spring or not. We’ve talked about who is sleeping and where, but when will our hibernators come out again? Do they all wake up at once? What do they typically do when they wake up – besides stretch?

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We Fish you a Happy New Year!

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Rainbow trout eggs are counted and put into a canister.

There were many moments of excitement and curiosity in 45 schools across Alberta last week. The 10,000 students involved in the Fish in Schools: Raise to Release (FinS) program received some new classmates – 65 rainbow trout eggs!

Having reached the eyed egg stage of their life cycle, the rainbow trout were transported from one of Alberta’s fish culture facilities to the classrooms.

The eggs were carefully packed in a thermos and placed in a cooler, before they were driven by staff member, picked up by volunteers, or even sent in the mail to some schools! Continue reading

Snow Study: Staying Safe in Avalanche Country

A small group is gathered around Public Safety Specialist Matt Mueller at the end of a day of Level One Avalanche Skills Training. He’s just demonstrated a “compression test” – cutting a column of snow to check the density of each layer: in this case loose, sugary crumbs underneath a solid cap of wind-packed crust. After explaining to us how easily snow like this can loosen and slide downhill, he lifts up the column – about 70 cm high and 30 cm square – and passes it around, a chunk of snow so heavy that one of the group staggers under its weight and falls over.

Demonstrating a compression test at Avalanche Awareness Day in 2014. Photo: Catharine Findlay.

Demonstrating a compression test at Avalanche Awareness Day in 2014. Photo: Catharine Findlay.

What does Matt and his group have to do with avalanche safety in our mountain parks? The first thing this demonstration drives home is that snow is heavier than you might think. “Imagine a whole slope of this coming down on top of you,” Mueller says. Second, there are many ways to learn more, be the most informed you can to keep yourself safer when you’re venturing into the backcountry in winter. Continue reading

Getting the Skinny on Fat Biking Alberta Parks’ Winter Trails

The first thing to know about winter biking – or fat biking – is that it’s harder than it looks. Keeping your tires on the trail takes some skill, but there’s the promise of a soft landing in a snowbank should you fall off. Past the learning curve, it’s fast-paced, a great workout and an excellent way to experience the outdoors!

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Spinning down one of the designated fat biking trails at Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park.

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Alberta’s Happy Hibernators: Mammals

This is part five of a six part series on hibernators. You can find the first four parts on bearsbatsamphibians and reptiles here.

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We’ve already taken a look at bears and how they spend their winter months. Small mammals also spend the winter in Alberta and survive by doing one of three things:

  • hibernating for the winter (deep hibernation);
  • going into torpor (light hibernation) for short periods and still needing to look for food; or
  • staying active all winter.

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