By Katie Sowden, Alberta Environment and Parks
Alberta is home to magnificent landscapes that are waiting to be explored, including six UNESCO World Heritage Sites—more than any other state or province in North America. We are proud of our conservation and cultural heritage, as UNESCO celebrates 50 years of recognizing outstanding natural and cultural sites with universal importance worldwide, Albertans are invited to experience and celebrate these special places.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
In addition to its spectacular badlands scenery, Dinosaur Provincial Park protects some of the most important fossil discoveries ever made. Well known as one of the richest dinosaur fossil locations in the world, dozens of prehistoric species have been discovered at the park. The exceptional abundance and diversity of fossils include dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous Period along with other ancient plants and animals including turtles, crocodiles, fish, birds, ferns and more.
The unique landforms of Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi resulted from the dynamic interaction of geology, climate and time. The coulees and hoodoos in the Milk River valley were formed as sedimentary rocks were exposed by a massive volume of meltwater eroding the soft sandstone after the last ice age, 85 million years ago. Located in the heart of Traditional Blackfoot Territory, this is where ancient stories took place and where ancestors left engravings and paintings on the sandstone walls of the valley. This sacred landscape is an example of the history, longevity, and resilience of the traditions of the Blackfoot people.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
In southwest Alberta, the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump area spans 1,470 acres and demonstrates the Blackfoot People’s history of communal bison hunting. Due to the excellent degree of preservation, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump allows scientists to trace bison jumping from its earliest beginnings. Using their unique knowledge of the landscape and animal behaviour, Blackfoot people chased their prey over a precipice, later utilizing the carcasses in the camp below.
Some of Alberta’s UNESCO sites are also part of the national parks system, including:
Wood Buffalo National Park
Covering 44,807 square kilometres, Wood Buffalo National Park is Canada’s largest national park. Home to North America’s largest population of wild bison and the natural nesting place of the whooping crane, the park is a celebration of the northern boreal wilderness. The world’s largest inland delta sits at the mouth of the Peace and Athabasca rivers, and visitors can take advantage of a dark sky preserve for a spectacular view of the northern lights.
The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks
The interprovincial group of parks, including Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho, Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber parks form a striking mountain landscape. On Alberta’s side, picture-perfect scenery and rich history come together with rocky peaks, turquoise lakes and crashing waterfalls. Endless outdoor adventures await in the Banff and Jasper National Parks.
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
In 1932, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta and Glacier National Park in Montana combined to form the world’s first international peace park. Nestled in the far southwest corner of Alberta, Waterton Lakes National Park offers outstanding scenery, including prairie, forest, alpine and glacial features. Majestic mountain views and exceptional hiking trails are bursting with diverse flora and fauna where the rolling prairies collide with the stunning Rocky Mountains.