Hastings Lake Day (2022)

A break from a prolong cold snap offset or freezing rain allowed for a great day visiting Hastings Lake and its three natural areas (NA): Edgar T. Jones, Hasting Lakes Islands and Hastings Lake.

2022-01-15 Returning to Vehicles on RR204 with a view of Hastings Lake looking south (FPotter)
2022-01-15 Returning to Vehicles on RR204 with a view of Hastings Lake looking south (FPotter)

41 Minutes from Wayne (Wayne where, who? Gretzky, of course!)

Our put-in for this excursion was the cul-de-sac at the end of Range Road 204 on the north side of the lake. This point is a 41-minute drive from the Wayne Gretzky statue in Edmonton, from which I measure all of my distances.

Islands > Jones > Hastings Lake

Not to spoil the ending but, despite lots of snowmobile traffic and some ice fishing, the three Natural Areas showed very few signs of human activity. This was not an extensive survey by any stretch but, based on this sample, definitely good news.

HASTING LAKE ISLANDS. We left our vehicles on 204 and walked across the lake towards Edgar T. Jones NA. The south-easterly trek took us past some of the islands which make up Hastings Lake Islands NA. There is another group on the west side of the lake which we unfortunately did not get a chance to visit. The three or so islands we did survey showed considerable ungulate, coyote, mice and other faunal traffic but almost no human ingress.

EDGAR T. JONES is on the south-east corner of the lake. A well-used snowmobile track indicates that there is some usage. Fortunately nearly all of the tracks skirted this NA. Nearly, but not quite. There was evidence of a single snowmobile coming in from the west and then turning around in the small lake in the northwest section of the NA. The impact was minimal.

HASTINGS LAKE is on the west side of 204. Returning to our vehicles for lunch, we surveyed another island en route with similar conclusions – very little human activity. After hot tea and a sandwich, we explored Hastings Lake NA. While the Islands and E.T. Jones have Order-in-Council status, this NA only has a Protective Notation [1].

There is a short track that runs from 204 toward the lake. Likely this is from the days when this was a bush-party destination. Following the track from the southernmost gate, it met up with a well-defined snowmobile track along the riparian zone. Although we looked for a route, there was no obvious track north from the lake into the NA.

On the drive out, we noticed two tracks from 204 into the NA. One was about half way between the lake and the northern boundary. The second appeared to parallel the fence line with the landowner to the north.

Slush…Future Excursions

A bright, sunny, winter day made this an excellent outing. Winter is a good time to explore these areas: bogs are frozen and mosquitoes are waiting for spring. Despite the recent cold temperatures, on crossing the lake, we came across areas where the ice was slushy. There was evidence of ice-fishing but also various tracks suggesting the ice was more than thick enough to support our weight.

Perhaps there is a spring which is flooding these sections. A mystery and a good reason to exercise caution whenever going onto a frozen surface! Future excursions will include more exploration of all three NAs. Although there are few hiking trails, all three make for good ‘poking around’ and photography. In summary, the protected areas surrounding Hastings Lake seem to be doing well and were well worth a winter exploration.

References and Notes

  1. For more on this, see our discussion and definitions of Protected Areas.
  • 2022-01-15 Snowshoe Tracks in Edgar T. Jones NA (FPotter)
  • 2022-01-15 Area to the right of the trail is Edgar T. Jones NA (FPotter)
  • 2022-01-15 Descending out of Edgar T. Jones NA towards Hastings Lake (FPotter)
  • 2022-01-15 Sign on RR204 indicating Hastings Lake NA boundary. Foot traffic entering at this access point. (FPotter)
  • 2022-01-15 Nest (leave a comment if you can identify the previous tenants) ready for new arrivals in Hastings Lake NA (FPotter)
  • Hastings Lake NA - Following a Snowmobile track along the Riparian Zone (FPotter)
  • 2022-01-15 Willow 'Buds' hold promise of the life/spring to come in Hastings Lake NA (FPotter)

Carnwood Modeste January 2022 Site Visit

With steep ravines, much of the Carnwood Modeste Natural Area (NA) is inaccessible to all but the numerous white-tailed deer populations. This NA is within 20 km of 8-15 other natural areas including the well-known Coyote Lake Natural Area (see map below).

Carnwood-Modeste at the center of a yellow 20km circle with other natural areas in or near the circle.
Natural Areas within 20 km (yellow circle) of Carnwood Modeste Natural Area. Note the map is approximately 35 km x 19 km in dimension.

Winter Snowshoe

December 2021 and early January 2022 found Edmonton in a deep freeze so a short excursion was the ticket. Carnwood Modeste is a 90-minute drive from the Wayne Gretzky statue in Edmonton (from which I measure all distances). Roads were good including Range Road 53 south from Highway 39 to the NA.

A group of five friends from a local bike club made the journey. We parked at the service road gate (at the north end of the property?) and hiked down to Modeste Creek, passing a well head on the property.

One Snowmobile and Dozens of Deer

Tracks of a single snowmobile were seen on the creek and climbing into the NA. Other than that, no other off-highway vehicle tracks were noted. The service road is effectively the only flat area in the NA with the remainder of the topography being steep ravines falling toward the creek. The thick white spruce forest provides excellent cover for the numerous deer whose tracks darted away from the road into bush.

Well-Posted and Pristine

Inspection from the road revealed a number of Natural Area signs. There were no signs of human or motorized tracks going into NA; the terrain likely serves to discourage both the hiker and the off-roader.

A Sideshow but not a Main Attraction

The NA is worth an hour’s visit if you are driving by, possibly by making a detour from Coyote Lake NA, about 25 km to the northwest, or from one of the 15 or so other areas within about 20 km of this NA. [It allowed us to have a good workout by snowshoe on this wintry day!?]

  • Carnwood Modeste Natural Area, 2022-01-03 site visit - note, we waited until she was almost over before telling her the gate was unlocked.
  • Carnwood Modeste Natural Area, 2022-01-03 site visit - service road from RR53 towards the creek (FPotter).
  • Carnwood Modeste Natural Area, 2022-01-03 site visit - pause on the service road (CWorld).
  • Carnwood Modeste Natural Area, 2022-01-03 site visit - well head above the creek (FPotter).
  • Carnwood-Modeste at the center of a yellow 20km circle with other natural areas in or near the circle.
  • Carnwood Modeste Natural Area, 2022-01-03 site visit - good signage on RR53 for the NA. (FPotter)

Alsike Bat Lake Natural Area

Alsike and Bat Lake are two separate quarter section protected areas that are part of the natural area of the same name. A winter visit brings mostly good news.

2021-12-20 Bat Lake 17 Looking South On The Lake (FPotter)
2021-12-20 Bat Lake 17 Looking South On The Lake (FPotter)

What No Photo?

As part of re-developing the SAPAA website we discovered that the Association did not have photos for these areas. Given their proximity to Edmonton (about a 1.5-hour drive from the Wayne Gretzky Statue in Edmonton, from which I measure all distances), this had to be remedied.

No Signage

Perhaps these areas have been years without an official steward (or never had one), but there were no evident signs marking either location. Bat Lake is easier to spot as there is oil and gas activity immediately visible from Range Road 43.

Bat Lake – a Nice Walk

A private road sign is posted on the chained but unlocked gate to the area. This is a good thing to discourage off-highway vehicles (OHV) and it seems to be working. Other than a 1–2-week-old truck track, the area was ours to explore. A bright blue winter sky, a temperature hovering in the mid-negative-teens and the crunch of snowshoes on new snow accompanied us on the trek.

While there were numerous tracks and scat indicating a local deer and coyote population, there were no other nature sightings of note. Distant cawing of the ubiquitous crows [ravens, Hubert?] were the only birds of note.

The lake itself is small, about 2 km in circumference (or 48-acres). It was well frozen with a large riparian area. The bank of the lake was steeper on the south side versus the northeast corner from which we accessed the lake via the service road. Once again, a lake lacking of snowmobile or OHV tracks on or near the lake was good to see.

Alsike – A Good Looking Drive By

Due to another commitment, we did not visit Alsike Lake but did drive the portion bordered on the east and north by Range Road 42 and Township Road 492 respectively. There were animal tracks leading into the protected area but no obvious sign of human or mechanical traffic. A small well site was noted on the northwest corner which could provide access but was not explored.

A Summer Visit?

Given the area’s proximity to Coyote Lake Natura Area (about 2 km due north), Coyote Lake and these two lakes would make a good summer road trip. SAPAA members, any interest?

The Site Report via Government of Alberta Steward Reporting form available here: 2021-12-20-BatLake.

  • 2021-12-20 BatLake Access Road (FPotter)
  • 2021-12-20 Bat Lake Access Road Climbing (FPotter)
  • 2021-12-20 Bat Lake 17 Looking South On The Lake (FPotter)
  • 2021-12-20 Bat Lake 12 Riparian Zone (FPotter)
  • 2021-12-20 Bat Lake Oil Field Equipment (FPotter)
  • 2021-12-20 Bat Lake 04 1st Gate (FPotter)
  • 2021-12-20 Bat Lake Power Lines FPotter
  • Snowshoers descending to Bat Lake 2021-12-20 FPotter

Summer 2021 Visit to Welch Creek Natural Area

  • Date of visit: Thursday, July 22, 2021
  • People: Patsy, Manna, Hubert
  • Duration: about 3 hrs (11:30 am – 2:30 pm)
  • Weather: overcast, ominous clouds to the west
  • Last hour: rainstorm, misty atmosphere

The only road access is at the SW corner of the NA reached by use of
Township Rd 514A and Range Road 52. From there an oilfield road runs to the centre of the western boundary of the NA (for details see the Google map).
Site receives few visitors; no trails; no disturbance other than the centre west oilfield installation.
Tony Blake of Red Deer is the Government-appointed Roving Steward for this and many other Natural Areas in Central Alberta.

Our Visit to Welch Creek Natural Area

Getting There…

July 22 this year, a day of unsettled summer weather, found three of us, in two separate vehicles, heading through green, pleasantly wooded foothills towards Welch Creek Natural Area, some 25 km west of Rimbey. None of us were familiar with the site. However, our curiosity had been piqued following an enquiry by a relative of one Corporal W.E. Welch, a World War II casualty, after whom (or his landowning family) the creek has been named.
After careful consultation of Google Maps and a couple of hours’ drive from Edmonton we were close to our destination; descending a hill to the low-lying creek lands we reached the end of a gravel road alongside a couple of acreage properties; about 100 m of muddy track were still ahead. We proceeded and parked in a clearing containing two oil installations.

Treed Fen

We’d done our research: Welch Creek Natural Area is a provincial protected area of approximately 65 hectares consisting mostly of forested fen and open sedge fen, the latter surrounding a narrow creek that squiggles across the area close to its eastern boundary.
After a little exploration of the wet, disturbed, sedgy area around the installations, and not finding any obvious trails, the three of us boldly breached the wall of fen forest rising to the east. Walking was, however, easy as the trees (much more tamarack than black spruce) are relatively widely spaced; the ground cover is a soft blanket of peatland mosses and low shrubs in the heather family, Labrador tea and cranberries. Much of the fen flora was familiar to us because of our knowledge of the rich fens of Wagner Natural Area just west of Edmonton. However, we remarked some differences: purple marsh cinquefoil, for instance, was present, and buckbean (past flowering) was common (it is confined to one small population in Wagner). We even came across an alpine bistort plant and a couple of specimens of mountain death camas, both very much more common in mountain tundra. Absent any obvious springs spewing calcareous groundwater and creating marl ponds, I would say that the treed fen of Welch Creek was somewhere between a rich fen and an intermediate one; its flora probably most resembles that of Crimson Lake Provincial Park.

Open Sedge Fen

Eastwards the fen forest gives way to an open expanse of sedge fen, sparsely dotted with diminutive conifers and bog birch. Here surface water meant that finding safe footing required a good deal more concentration. The creek itself was invisible in the distance and we had to trek north, making for a line of willows on slightly higher ground, to reach it. I was reminded of Kilini Creek Natural Area, northwest of Edmonton, were a similar expanse of wetland, too wet for tree growth, makes creek access difficult. We heard and watched a flock of sandhill cranes flying overhead, compounding our impression of open space and wilderness.

Returning…

Lowering skies eventually erupted into outright thunderstorm and we were relieved to reach the cutline marking the west end of the property and head south on a faster route back through the forest. Despite the rain we took the time to smell the tall, perfumed, white orchids whimsically named bog candles and examine hooded ladies’-tresses and two species of northern bog orchid.Getting Out…
Our adventure was not over. Leaving the Natural Area proved more difficult than getting there. The muddy track had now become a quagmire, and it took the efforts of three of us to get my non-four-wheel drive car back to the gravel road, its wheels packed solid with gumbo and vegetation. To cut a long story short, we learnt a valuable lesson about the hazards of mud, even if a car doesn’t actually get stuck. It took a visit to my local garage the next day to have the wheels properly hosed down and rebalanced before the car regained its normal stability on the road.

The Future…

We plan another visit to Welch Creek, hopefully under better weather conditions, and perhaps in the company of its Roving Steward, Tony Blake of Red Deer, to explore it further. We should check out the southern part of the area, which includes mixedwood and deciduous forest on more upland terrain. With such varied forest habitat, Welch Creek NA promises to yield an extensive species list, of birds as well as plants. An adventure for another day!

  • Round-leaved sundew leaves protrude from their bed of Sphagnum moss
  • Tall white bog orchid, or bog candles, in very wet treed fen along with buckbean and sedges.
  • Diverse forest floor in treed fen, with three-leaved false Solomon's seal, bog cranberry, bishop's-cap, arctic raspberry, sedges and mosses (M. Parseyan)
  • Flowers of marsh cinquefoil (Comarum palustre, family Rosaceae) in treed swamp (H. Taube)
  • Diverse array of lichens (mainly Cladonia species) on tamarack stump.
  • View showing sedge fen in foreground, forested fen and upland forest in the middle ground, low forested hills in the background
  • Muddy road into the Welch Creek Natural Area, the road passes through a mixed forest on a misty and wet day