On a warm summer’s day in Waterton Lakes National Park, a stroll in an alpine meadow or beside a glacial lake can reveal a tapestry of swaying color or a single bright botanical gem nestled amid tree roots. Home to more than 50 of Canada’s rarest flowers, the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Peace Park that protects 30 flower species found nowhere else in the world.
Wildflower Festival in Waterton
I’m here for the annual Waterton Wildflower Festival that takes place each June. Over the course of nine days, the unique floral bounty in this quiet region of the Canadian Rocky Mountains is on display. The friendly town of Waterton is hosting more than 80 workshops on photography and art, guided walks on plant identification and park ecosystems, family programs and lunchtime and evening photographic presentations. For the adventurous, there is a Wildflowers by Horseback course, with regular stops along the way to view plants up close.
To gain a real appreciation of wildflowers and the places where they thrive, I’ve joined a guided flower walk led by an expert in the field. As my group explores prairie and forest, seeking the rare and beautiful, I’m learning about plant ecology and about the birds that live here. A flash of iridescent blue catches my eye. Just ahead, above the shoreline of Linnet Lake, a kingfisher readies for a dive. We stop for a while to admire the bird’s skill and beauty. Back on the trail, I’m thrilled to see the rarest plant in the park, the Waterton moonwort. This is the only place on Earth that it grows.
Afternoon Tea with a View
After a morning of activity, I take afternoon tea in the gracious surrounds of the Prince of Wales Hotel. Retaining its 1920s charm, this grand property boasts bone china, staff wearing crisp uniforms and a vast window in the salon overlooking a breathtaking view of Upper Waterton Lake cradled in the arms of the Rockies.
Waterton Lake Cruise
An annual favorite for me is the scenic cruise that runs the length of Upper Waterton Lake. From the vantage point onboard the classic 1927 vessel M.V. International, the Rocky Mountain peaks tower over you on either side, crowned in diamonds and mantles of snow. You may spot deer or elk coming down to the lakeshore to drink. After seeing bear grass on a guided walk in the alpine meadow, I’m hoping to spot a real bear from the safety of the boat. That would be a tale for high tea.
- Boat Cruises