Waterton Lakes National Park

From Roaring Twenties to Tea on the Terrace

Upon the urging of a local rancher, the federal government in 1895 designated Waterton as a national park. It remained widely unknown until 1927, when a U.S. railway promoted it as a vacation destination for wealthy American drinkers looking to escape their own country's prohibition against alcohol.

The Great Northern Railway saw Alberta's abandonment of temperance in 1923 as an added attraction for visitors to Glacier National Park, just across the border in dry Montana. Even though it was nowhere near its railroad line, the company built the Prince of Wales Hotel at the Canadian end of Upper Waterton Lake and stocked it with genuine spirits from Canadian and British distillers. Tourists were boated aboard the M.V. International from Montana to Waterton for a legal drink or two, and a bed to sleep it off.

Today's visitors come to Waterton for the scenery and the wildlife -- it's perhaps the surest place to see bears in the wild -- and afternoon tea on the hotel terrace. You can still ride the original M.V. International, but only from its new home port on the Canadian side of the border.

Get Directions