Nature Preservation Parks in Lethbridge
There are four designated nature preservation parks in the City of Lethbridge. These parks contribute to the aesthetics of our community by retaining or enhancing natural features, mature landscapes and native vegetation while also providing natural areas for wildlife habitats. These parks are ideal for the exercise and nature enthusiasts, photography or those simply looking to escape the city.
There are a few rules associated with a designated nature preservation area:
- Bikes or dogs are not allowed
- Picking or removing vegetation is not allowed
- Fires and camping are not permitted
Discover three unique ecosystems in this 196-acre park: the prairie, the coulees and the floodplain. Catch a glimpse of many native plants and wildlife as you explore the
self-guided trails. Make sure to visit the Helen Schuler Nature Centre, which is open year round.
This 78-acre Nature Reserve is found along the west side of the Oldman River. The wetlands are protected because of the unique cottonwood forest, oxbow pond and wetland. A two-kilometer walking path, with interpretive signs about local species, circles the pond. This is an excellent spot for watching birds and other wildlife species!
This 255 hectare park is a tranquil preservation area, sheltered on one side by coulee cliffs and bordered on the other side by the Oldman River. The park is only accessible by a 2.5 kilometre walking trail leading through the coulees from the lower parking lot where you will find public washrooms and a picnic site. Nature and exercise enthusiasts alike have plenty of opportunity to see a multitude of plants and animals as they enjoy a casual stroll or a vigorous hike through the park.
Named for its extensive cottonwood forest this park includes grasslands, coulees, and forests. It also provides a natural habitat for many prairie species including the Prairie Rattlesnake. There is a small parking lot on the upper bench with a shale trail that leads down to the lower river valley. The trail heading down to the river bottom is fairly steep so be prepared for a hike.
Ecosystems in Lethbridge
Lethbridge is located within the grasslands natural region of Alberta. Throughout the grasslands the dominant vegetation is grass; the terrain is flat or slightly rolling. Lethbridge has a semi-arid climate receiving an average of 30-40 cm of precipitation annually. Spending time in the wide-open spaces of the grasslands region will reveal a diversity of living things that have adapted to the relatively harsh conditions of the area. It is estimated that only 40 per cent of Alberta's native grasslands remain, mainly located in the South-East area of the province.
What is a coulee? Coulees are the steep-sided, v-shaped valleys found along the river throughout Lethbridge. In Southern Alberta, coulees were formed when the last glaciers retreated from our area. Since that time, the coulees have been eroded by water and wind. Coulees are a sanctuary for wildlife and home to hundreds of native plant species.
Floodplain & Cottonwood Forest
Lethbridge's Cottonwood Park is located at the convergence of the Oldman River and the St. Mary's River. This area is a great place to explore the cottonwood forest. Did you know? Cottonwoods are the only native tree species found in the Lethbridge area. There are three species of cottonwood that grow in our river valley:
- balsam poplar
- narrowleaf cottonwood
- plains cottonwood
The Oldman River valley, from Brocket to Lethbridge, is unique. This is the only place in the world where these three species interbreed to produce hybrids! Hybrid forests support a wider variety of insect and bird species.
Be sure to Explore
Many different kinds of animals can be found in Lethbridge throughout the year. During the winter months, white-tailed deer, mule deer, cottontail rabbits, porcupines and coyotes are commonly seen. Over 300 species of birds can be seen in the Lethbridge area!
The Nature Centre has been recording local plant and wildlife sightings since 1990. Nature Centre sightings are available online at the
. If you would like to report a sighting or are interested in more information,
Self-Guided Interpretive Trails
The Lethbridge Nature Reserve Park is home to three self-guided interpretive trails that are available daily from dawn until dusk. These include:
- Nature Quest
- Oxbow Loop
- Coulee Climb
Make sure you grab a brochure from the trail head signs before you head out on the trails to explore the unique features of the park.
CPR High Level Bridge
The CPR High Level Bridge is the longest and highest of its kind in the world. The bridge stretches for 1.6 kilometres and towers 96 metres over the Oldman River valley. Completed in 1909, the bridge is still used every day by CP Rail. There are great vantage points of the High Level Bridge around the Helen Schuler Nature Centre.