Elk Island National Park Popular Haven for Tourists

Elk Island National Park Popular Haven for Tourists

Michelle Pinon
News Advertiser

Elk Island National Park, (EINP) is only a stone’s throw from Lamont and a haven for local residents as well as tourists from all over the world.

Not too many years ago it was considered a “hidden gem” but that’s no longer the case as more than 360,000 tourists flock to EINP every year to explore everything it has to offer.

EINP Promotions Officer Regan Coyne said, “In 2020 ENIP had over 214,000 visitors in June, July, and August alone. Compared to the July and August visitation in 2019, EINP saw almost 40,000 more visitors this year compared to last.

As well, 2020 saw 4 percent (16,000) more visitors than 2019, despite recording no visitors in April and May. This is an 81 percent (180K) increase since 2012.

Even though we are just at the start of tourist season this year, staff have already had to turn away visitors. According to Coyne, “On Saturday May 22, 118 vehicles were diverted from entering EINP and on Sunday May 23, 634 vehicles were diverted from entering EINP.”

She added that, “Parks Canada has many tools to effectively manage increased visitation. This year, with COVID-19, Parks Canada is following the advice of public health officials regarding physical distancing and hygiene. Part of the planning for our busy season this year includes determining safe traffic levels in the park, and implementing traffic limits should the park reach its vehicle capacity thresholds.

This year we have a traffic management plan in place that includes real-time modelling of inbound and outbound traffic which is analyzed against past years’ data, on-the-ground observations and recent visitation trends.

Visitation has been consistently very busy on weekends during the summer. Parks Canada encourages visitors to travel midweek, or earlier or later in the day to minimize congestion and enjoy a quieter experience.

Parks Canada also has a communication plan in place to alert visitors with timely traffic information and travel updates, including using our website and social media.

Visitation has been consistently very busy on weekends during the summer. Parks Canada encourages visitors to travel midweek, or earlier or later in the day to minimize congestion and enjoy a quieter experience.

The Astotin Lake Day Use Area and trail head parking lots along the parkway are quite busy and fill up by 11 am on weekends. Visitors should expect popular areas like the Astotin Lake day use area and the park’s major trailheads to be busy into the early evening hours. Continue to practice physical distancing in these areas and consider visiting earlier or later in the day to enjoy a more tranquil experience.

If you arrive at a parking lot and find it is full, do not park on roadway shoulders or off-road. Visitors are asked to enjoy another area of the park and come back at a less busy hour.

Parks Canada wants to ensure the best possible experience for visitors coming to Elk Island National Park. We expect to be very busy this year. Before you travel, plan ahead by consulting our website and social media sites ahead of time. Consider travelling mid-week, earlier or later in the day or during the shoulder seasons.

To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, visitors should prepare for a visit before departing:

  • Check weather and road conditions
  • Learn what to do if encountering wildlife
  • File a trip plan with friends or family
  • Verify transportation is road ready and has a full tank of gas

To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, visitors should come prepared with basic items, including:

  • Food, water and equipment to be self-sufficient
  • Weather appropriate clothing
  • Navigation and communication devices
  • First-aid kit
  • Visitor Guide and map
  • Flashlight
  • Sun protection
  • Insect repellent

*Some activities require additional gear. Visit adventuresmart.ca for more information on safe enjoyment of the outdoors and recommended equipment*

Visitor safety is of the utmost importance for Parks Canada. A lot of fun can be had playing in nature, but natural hazards will exist in this environment. Visitors should know that all areas are unsupervised: park users should know their limits and be self-sufficient. Children should be supervised at all times.

 Parks Canada has experienced record-setting demand for early reservations in 2021. On opening day, April 13, 2021, there were 1,377 reservations made for Elk Island National Park using the Parks Canada Reservation System. Currently Astotin campground is fully booked for reservations weekends but does still have space to camp during the week.

This summer visitor services at Elk Island National Park will be much the same as last summer and comply with COVID-19 safety restrictions. Astotin Campground is open for reservations, day use areas are available, and interpretive programs will be offered on a scheduled basis.

The Visitor Information Centre and the Astotin Theater remain closed for summer of 2021. Visitors can get information at the kiosk at Astotin Lake campground, as well, curbside pick-up is available for souvenirs. Area closures can fluctuate over the summer season in any national park. All large events in Elk Island National Park are suspended until further notice.

Over the winter, there have been improvements made to the trail system by incorporating a new stacked loop trail at Moss Lake, and improvements to overall wayfinding on trails.

An interpretative exhibit was installed throughout the Astotin Lake area. The exhibit includes 23 installations that take into account the unique stories of Elk Island, celebrating Indigenous culture and languages, and the wonderful ecological features of the Park.

Elk Island recently completed a new stage in the Astotin Lake Area. When conditions allow, the stage will be used for interpretative programming and signature events at Elk Island.

This spring and summer Elk Island will continue to make investments in trails improvements. Work will include trail bed rehabilitation to constructed trails, structural replacements such as bridges, boardwalks, trail head kiosks and wayfinding signage. Revitalization and repairs of trails is crucial in meeting visitor use, and increasing overall experience and sustainability. Visitors should check the trail conditions and important bulletin webpages to stay up to date on any area closures and to plan their visit accordingly.

Elk Island will also proceed with constructing new trailhead privies at some locations.

Elk Island is committed to enhancing accessibility into picnicking opportunities in the Astotin Day Use Area. This spring and summer Elk Island will create an area in the Astotin Day Use Area that focuses on picnicking and supporting accessibility.