This is one of three areas making up ‘the Ghost’, the others being the South Ghost, and the Ghost-Waiparous PLUZ. Together, these areas mark a beautiful and rugged transition area from the Foothills into the Rockies, connecting to Banff National.
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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.
Ghost River Wilderness Area consists of rugged mountain terrain and glacier-carved valleys. Aylmer, Apparition, Oliver and Costigan mountains reach elevations of 2743 to 3353 metres. Below 2100 metres there are sub-alpine forests of Engelmann spruce, white spruce, fir and lodgepole pine; above 2100 metres are grasses, sedges and wildflowers. Many rare species of butterflies are found in the area. Wildlife includes bighorn sheep, deer, moose, cougar, bears and wolves. Hunting and fishing are prohibited.
1932, 1961, Today. Ghost River was one of the first eight provincial parks established in 1932 . It was upgraded to a Wilderness area in 1961 . Today, the WA is nearly surrounded on all four sides save for a narrow corridor on the Ghost River.
Rich with History. The first recorded visit was by Sir George Simpson, the governor of Hudson’s Bay Company, but the name “Ghost” wasn’t used to describe the area until Dr. James Hector, a surgeon, arrived with the Palliser Expedition. The name was in reference to a Stoney legend that talked of ghosts patrolling the riverbank searching for the skulls of defeated warriors after doing battle with the Cree. The skulls were then placed on the steep walls of nearby Devil’s Head Mountain to appease its spirit. Large flat-topped mountains, such as Devil’s Head, were believed to be inhabited by spirits and carried a high degree of respect within many First Nation communities, so regular offerings to the mountain were necessary. Due to its visibility and unique protruding peak, Devil’s Head was also a useful signpost. First Nations and Europeans alike used these highly visible mountains as a means of navigation. Additional stories also exist that place numerous First Nation grave-sites along the banks of the Ghost River and Dr. Hector even mentions that the forest atop Deadman Hill, located between the Ghost and Bow Rivers, is actually one big burial ground.
Nearby Heavy Use and Rampant Illegal Behaviour. Northeast of Ghost’s protected areas is the Ghost-Waiparous Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ which provides the provincial government with the ability to control unplanned motorized access and lawless behaviour. Unfortunately, heavy use and rampant illegal behaviour has led to the severe degradation of the area’s ecosystems and significant reduction in suitable wildlife habitat. In the 2014 South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, the provincial government committed to undertaking a sub-regional planning initiative to better manage linear disturbance within the area. Currently, many of the popular OHV trails – both designated and illegal – run along industrial seismic lines and cut lines, leading to the unforeseen, unregulated, and largely immeasurable degradation of the area’s sensitive habitats. 
[FP, ITALICS AS THESE ARE QUOTED AT LENGTH RATHER THAN REFERENCED]
|Site Name||Ghost River|
|Natural Region(s)||Alpine; Subalpine|
|O.C. No. (Land Ref. Manual)||NA|
|PASite ID (Map Ref #)||1101|
|Site # (Parks Website)||396|
|Total Area||15317.18 ha. (37848.75 ac.)|
|Recreation Activities||Camping – backcountry, Hiking – backcountry|
|Operated By||Parks Division|
|Notes and Comments|
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: Information & Facilities – Ghost River Wilderness Area | Alberta Parks (All links accessed on 2023-01-18).
- History of Natural Areas and Ecological Reserves 1977-1994, SAPAA Newsletter No. 41 January 2022 p. 3.
- Ghost River Wilderness Area – Wikipedia.
- Exploring in the Land of Ghosts (calgaryguardian.com).
- Ghost – Alberta Wilderness Association.
- Historic Photos of the Ghost River Wilderness Area (calgaryguardian.com).
- Devil’s Head, Ghost River, Can Rockies : Climbing, Hiking & Mountaineering: Summit Post.
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