Cypress County covers the corner of Alberta southeast of CFB Suffield including around Medicine Hat and the Cypress Hills. Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, is a large park that protects unique environment that straddles the Alberta and Saskatchewan boundary. The Cypress Hills (actually covered with lodgepole pines, but misidentified by early Metis settlers) are the largest hills between Thunder Bay and the Rocky Mountains, some 680 metres higher than the surrounding prairie at Medicine Hat. The top 100 metres of these hills are believed one of the few spots in Western Canada untouched by the last Ice Age's glaciation. The parklands also protect a 6800 year-old Indian encampment archaeological site. When explorer John Palliser came upon them in 1850, he said that these were "a perfect oasis" following the parched prairie he crossed to the east. This area was also the location of the infamous Cypress Hills Massacre that prompted the Canadian government to establish the North West Mounted Police.
The Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park began as a forest reserve in 1906, that was expanded in 1910 to cover its present area of 1,300 square kilometres. In 1989, the Alberta and Saskatchewan governments created Canada's first and only Interprovincial Park.
The park is home to over 200 species of birds, and lots of large mammals, and 14 species of orchids. Elkwater Lake in the middle of the park, has beaches, boat ramps and marina docking for 70 boats. The park has 14 campgrounds with 548 campsites. The park also is home to Hidden Valley Ski Area, about 2 km south of the Elkwater town site, with a 1400 metre elevation served by a T-bar and quad chairlift. Cross-country skiers have access to 25 km of groomed trails (and 3 year-round campgrounds).
FoundLocally's Business listings for Cypress Hills
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
Box 12, Elkwater, AB, T0J 1C0
From Trans-Canada Highway #1 (Alberta), 32 km east of Medicine Hat, south on Highway 41 about 20 km.
From Trans-Canada Highway #1 (Saskatchewan), exit at Maple Creek, southwest 43 km on #271
(403) 893-3777; fax: (403) 893-3987, Reservations: (403) 893-3782
Part of Canada's only Interprovincial Park. 200 sq. Kilometers of forest and endangered fescue grassland are protected. This "oasis in the desert" is home of fauna and flora unique on the Prairies - a naturalists dream. Best wildlife viewing: fall and spring. Open year-round, 24 hours/day. No entrance fee to Park. (Camping fees apply)
Fort Walsh National Historic Site
Maple Creek, SK, S0N 1N0
(306) 662-2645 (Admin. Office), (306) 662-3590 (Historic Site), (306) 662-2711 (Fax)
This former North West Mounted Police/Royal Canadian Mounted Police post (circa 1878-83) was later used (1942-68) to breed horses for the force and the Musical Ride. Take a guided tour of the fort's buildings (furnished to 1880), the Fort Walsh townsite, two cemeteries and a reconstructed whiskey trading post (furnished to 1873),. Visitors can also explore the ridge along Battle Creek on self-guided trails and view exhibits in the Visitor Reception Centre. Picnic sites. Open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from Victoria Day long weekend to Labour Day. (After Labour Day call site for fall schedule). Admission: Adult $7.75, Senior $6.50, Youth $4.00, Family/Group $17.00. The heritage presentation is $2 extra per person.