Waterton Lakes National Park
"Majestic" is No Cliche in Waterton
A National Geographic Society survey found that Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and the surrounding region is one of North America’s “great unspoiled places.” The park enjoys two UNESCO designations: a World Heritage Site; and a Biosphere Reserve. It is also part of the world’s first International Peace Park, along with Glacier National Park in Montana. It is also the centerpiece of a "Crown of the Continent" project from the National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations.
Most of the 500,000+ people who visit Waterton every year are drawn by the park's natural beauty. But more than that, this is Alberta’s national park...an uncrowded place that is authentic...a place where experiences are personal. There’s no multinational coffee shop on every corner, just a small village, deep blue lakes, abundant wildlife, mountains that vault right out of the prairie, and an exhaustive range of outdoor recreation for both hard-core adventurers and more passive pursuits.
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.