Historic Photos of Waterton Lakes, Alberta

Waterton Lakes National Park

The prairies meet the Rockies in Waterton Lakes National Park. The park was first established on May 30, 1895, making it Canada’s fourth national park. Waterton is celebrating its 125th birthday this year. The park was originally named Waterton Lakes Forest Park Reserve and only covered an area of 140 square-kilometres around the lakes. In 1911 the name was changed to Waterton Lakes Dominion Park after the creation of the Dominion Parks Branch. Finally, in 1930 with the passing of the Canada National Parks Act, the park’s name was changed again to what we know it today. The size of the park has also changed over the years. It now encompasses an area of 505 square-kilometres. Although the park is only celebrating 125 years, the area had been used much longer. The earliest archaeological evidence of human habitation, namely hunting and gathering, dates back more than 10,000 years. In honour of this special milestone please enjoy a collection of some of the earliest photographs from the Waterton Lakes area.

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Tourists at Waterton Park, Alberta, 1892

Waterton Lakes National Park sits within the traditional territory of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) peoples. They refer to the area as Paahtomahksikimi (pronounced Paw-toe-MOCK-sick-ih-mee), which translates to ‘Inner Sacred Lake within the Mountains’. The park’s current name is derived from the chain of lakes, originally named by Lieutenant Blakiston, who was a member of the Palliser Expedition, and honours Squire Charles Waterton, a British naturalist.

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Colonel James Macleod family’s camp near Waterton Lakes, Alberta, 1890-1893

One of the earliest settlers to the area was John George ‘Kootenai’ Brown. He became the park’s first game guardian and fisheries inspector, and later the first park official back in 1911.

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Boating on Waterton Lakes, Alberta, 1890-1893

Along with Glacier National Park in Montana, Waterton Lakes National Park is part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The cross-border park was created in 1932 as a symbol of peace and goodwill between Canada and the United States.

Cameron Falls, near Waterton, Alberta, 1890-1893

One of Waterton’s most recognizable landmarks is the Prince of Wales Hotel. Although no Prince of Wales has ever actually visited the hotel, it was named after the popular Edward VIII, who was the Prince of Wales. The hotel was built by the Great Northern Railway and its doors first opened in the summer of 1927. In 1993 the hotel was recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada.

Rocky Mountain Development Company camp, Waterton area, Alberta, 1902

In honour of the 125th celebration, Parks Canada put together a list of their 125 favourite facts about Waterton Lakes National Park. You can also start planning your Waterton escape by visiting the My Waterton website.

View of South Kootenay Pass, Waterton Park, Alberta, 1883-1884
Kootenai Lourst lake, Waterton Park, Alberta, 1883
The ‘Gertrude’ on west shore of Waterton Lake, Alberta, 1900s
Group gathered for ceremony, Waterton area, Alberta. Possibly making arrangements for Peace Park. Ernie Haug, second from left. Henry Williams, United States ranger, 4th from left, 1900-1930
Western Oil and Company well at Waterton Park, Alberta, 1905-1919
Members of fishing expedition, Waterton Lakes, Alberta, 1907
Harry Steller on first bridge across Pass Creek, Waterton area, Alberta, 1912-1913
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“Kootenai” Brown’s cabin, Lower Waterton Lakes, Alberta, 1883
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Survey camp near Rocky Mountains, Waterton, Alberta, 1874
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Waterton and Rocky Mountains, Alberta, 1874
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Waterton Lakes, Alberta, 1874
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Waterton Lakes and Rocky Mountains, Alberta, 1874
Cameron Falls near Waterton, Alberta, 1874
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Looking west from St. Mary River near Waterton, Alberta, 1874

If you liked this post you might also enjoy these similar stories about different national parks and national historic sites in Western Canada: Roger’s Pass, Jasper National Park, and Lake Louise.

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Red Rock Canyon, Waterton Park, Alberta, 1874

The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives. Additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on each photo. There is also the option to purchase a high resolution copy. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.

Tyler Dixon
About Tyler Dixon 138 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.