Beaverhill Lake Heritage Rangeland Natural Area

This natural area is internationally recognized for its wetlands and diverse bird populations; more than 270 species of birds have been reported. Beaverhill Lake was designated a RAMSAR site (wetland of international significance) in 1987.

Spring wildfire on Beaverhill Lake, ca Spring 2010 (LKershaw)
Spring wildfire on Beaverhill Lake, ca Spring 2010 (LKershaw)

Map of the Area

Any maps and map views are for general information only. Do not rely on them for navigation or to determine legal boundaries.

Other Information

1892. Beaver Hills has a long history of conservation as the area was designated as a forest reserve in 1892 in response to devastating fires around Beaverhill Lake. At that time, trees were essential for building and fuel. Part of the reserve was used as grazing land, with as many as 6,000 cattle herded down Highway 16 to the reserve each May and back home again in October [1, adapted].

Beaverhill Natural Area is the home of the Beaverhill Bird Observatory, a non-profit society established in 1984 to monitor migrating birds during May to October. It employs staff and volunteers to undertake research and monitoring during he field season and to operate an educational program during the winter.

Unfortunately, much of the shoreline vegetation and even as understory in the regenerating aspen forests is non-native as a result of earlier grazing and sowing regimens: creeping meadow foxtail (Alopecurus arundinaceus) and the non-native variant of Reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea), as well as Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) are rampant [2].

RAMSAR. Ninety years later, Beaverhill Lake was designated a RAMSAR site (wetland of international significance) in 1987 and is described as follows [3]:

A broad, shallow lake set in a rolling landscape containing many smaller water bodies, or “sloughs”. The vegetation includes emergent shoreline communities, forest, natural and cultivated grassland. An important breeding and staging area for various migratory waterbirds. … Spectacular numbers of birds occur particularly during fall migration, when over 200,000 Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans, etc.) gather. Notable concentrations (for the prairie region) of migratory shorebirds also occur.

Ramsar site no. 370. Most recent RIS information: 2001.

UNESCO BIOSPHERE. On March 19, 2016, the region surrounding Beaverhill Lake was designated as a biosphere by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This is a global recognition of a collective commitment by the communities within the region to celebrate and advance knowledge, culture, nature and economy together [4].

HR or NA or Both? Protected Areas have specific classifications two of which are ‘Heritage Rangeland’ and ‘Natural Area’. So which of these two is this NA? The answer appears to be both and in limbo [PC is undecided]. It Along with six other sites were it was given the NA designation in the late 1990s during the Special Places 2000 program. The rationale was that this was the ‘best fit’ for interim management until the legislation for the Heritage Rangeland class was proclaimed. Management of these sites is a takes a hybrid form between a NA and HR until legislation is in place [5].

Site Statistics

Site NameBeaverhill Lake Heritage Rangeland
Site TypeNatural Area
SubtypeOrder-in-council (OC)
Natural Region(s)Central Parkland
O.C. No. (Land Ref. Manual)451/99
PASite ID (Map Ref #)585
Site # (Parks Website)436
Total Area17533.57 ha. (43325.45 ac.)
Recreation Activitiesnone noted
Operated ByParks Division
Notes and Comments
Statistics and Details for Beaverhill Lake Heritage Rangeland


The following links are provided as a courtesy but are not verified or endorsed by SAPAA. Clicking on the link will cause you to leave the SAPAA website. Primary source of information is: Government of Alberta – Information & Facilities – Beaverhill Lake Heritage Rangeland Natural Area | Alberta Parks (accessed 2022-01-29).

  1. History of agriculture in Strathcona County: Early farming (
  2. P.Cotterill, pers. observation.
  3. Beaverhill Lake | Ramsar Sites Information Service (accessed 2022-01-29).
  4. Beaver Hills Biosphere: Home (accessed 2022-01-29).
  5. “Heritage Rangeland” natural areas – Open Government (

Further Reading

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