Waterton Lakes is a gorgeous area where the praries and the Rocky Mountains meet. We visited in August 2017 and the air was smoky due to the bushfires, but there were still beautiful views to be had. In mid September, Waterton Lakes NP had its own fire that burnt out 38% of the park. The park is working hard to make areas safe again for wildlife and for visitors.
On our way into the park we checked out the Bison Paddock, where a herd is kept in a large enclosed space. Big enough for them to hide from the road that loops around the paddock. We did get a glimpse. Amazing to think that thousands roamed the Praries.
Every day at Great Bear Lodge you get plenty of opportunities to see bears. While we were there, our itinerary was breakfast, gear up, then bear spotting outing in the tinnies, lunch, post lunch mystery outing, early dinner, gear up, then back in the boats . We were really lucky that there was only one session where we didn’t see any bears. Though of course the first session, on the day that we arrived, was the only time we saw cubs – and it was also the only time we didn’t take a camera. The landscape is so beautiful, and I loved the inquisitive seals popping up their heads to see what was going on.
We arrived at Great Bear Lodge and after getting an initial briefing from owner Marg we checked out our rooms and the lodge interior. And in no time at all we were getting ready for our first outing. Pre-outing we had a bear safety briefing. No venturing off alone, stay on the floating lodge unless accompanied by a guide. No sudden moves, no loud noises. We were in not-quite-salmon-feeding season, so trips involve getting into tinnies and cruising the estuaries of Smith Inlet. This was both terrifying and exciting if you are an adventure wimp like me. There were only 10 guests during our stay, so it was two little boats heading out.
Bear spotting trips happen rain or shine, so it’s good to to have the right outfit. GBL has some serious gear for visitors – warm, camouflage onesie, oilskin pants and jacket, sou’wester (hat). Wear it all, if it’s raining you won’t feel a thing. So for the first trip out, after an early dinner, it was raining. We layered up, but decided not to take camera gear, not knowing what it might be like. Predictably, this was the only outing that we saw bear cubs. A magical experience and a great start to our bear lodge experience.
On a day trip from Harrison, thanks to our friends local intel, we checked out the Othello Tunnels, a park close to the town of Hope on Highway 3. In town we discovered that Hope and surrounds is where Rambo First Blood was filmed – they are celebrating the 35th anniversary soon. There was also a mountie in full kit roaming the streets, but I didn’t get a chance for a pic.
It was a lovely walk and the tunnels were impressive. We approached from the further entrance, which had cougar and bear sighting warnings – as is common almost everywhere in BC.
On the name: apparently the chief engineer was a Shakespeare fan. And when they first ran the train service they scheduled it at night so passengers couldn’t see the sheer drops either side.