Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve

The area has long been important to Aboriginal people; several sundance lodges are located on the plains. The Kootenay Plains were visited by explorer David Thompson in the early 1800s.

Crossing the North Saskatchewan River, ca 2012 (PKershaw)
Crossing the North Saskatchewan River, ca. 2012 (PKershaw)

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

OVERVIEW. The Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve encompasses approximately 34 km2 of montane habitat in the North Saskatchewan River valley south of Abraham Lake. It is bordered to the east, west and north by the Bighorn backcountry area and to the south by the Siffleur Wilderness Area.

In the rain shadow of the surrounding mountains and influenced by the wide shape of the valley and persistent winds, the climate of the Kootenay Plains is relatively dry and warm. These favourable climatic conditions result in excellent habitat for wildlife and plant species [1].

ACCESS is via a walking trail to Siffleur Falls starting at the staging area, and a horse trail to Whiterabbit Creek. A narrow suspension bridge spans the North Saskatchewan River. Use of motorized vehicles in the Ecological Reserve is strictly prohibited.

VEGETATION ranges from dry grassland on sandy soils and open aspen forests to closed lodgepole pine and white spruce forests The dry grasslands are dominated by June grass, pasture sage, prairie groundsel and other grassland species. Limber pine occurs on exposed ridges and river banks, with Douglas fir present on west-facing slopes above the North Saskatchewan River [1].

14 MAMMAL SPECIES and two amphibian species have been recorded for the Reserve, which is important winter range for Elk, Mule Deer, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep and Moose.

65 BIRD SPECIES may occur in the area, including Mallard, Common Goldeneye, American Kestrel, Spotted Sandpiper, Great Horned Owl, Mountain and Boreal Chickadees, American Robin, Swainson’s Thrush, Mountain Bluebird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Western Meadowlark, Pine Siskin, Vesper Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow and White-winged Crossbill (Alberta Parks website, 2012).


The following information on trails is adapted from a June 2021 information sheet provided by the Government of Alberta. It is useful for historical reference and general guidance. It should not be considered current or used to plan activities [1, 2].

  • Siffleur Falls: This popular and scenic hike starts from the Siffleur Falls staging area leading hikers across the open plains and up the Siffleur gorge. This 4-km hike (one way) is of moderate difficulty. Stay on the main path and behind guard rails at all times to ensure your safety. It is possible to continue along this trail to the second and third falls.
  • Kinglet Lake: Trailhead and access point for the steep ascent up to Kinglet Lake or Tuff Puff trail.
  • Glacier: Suitable for hiking or mountain biking use. Glacier trail also provides access to the Bighorn Backcountry.
  • Siffleur Backcountry Access: A direct trail for backcountry hikers or campers heading into the Siffleur Wilderness Area.
  • Landslide Lake Interpretive Fire Trail: Located immediately west of the Kootenay Plains, this 2-km, looped trail winds through an area impacted by a recent prescribed burn forest fire.

Site Statistics

Site NameKootenay Plains (OC)
Site TypeEcological Reserve
SubtypeOrder-in-council (OC)
Natural Region(s)Subalpine; Montane
O.C. No. (Land Ref. Manual)546/95
PASite ID (Map Ref #)77
Site # (Parks Website)405
Total Area3438.66 ha. (8496.92 ac.)
Recreation ActivitiesBirding, Hiking – backcountry,Wildlife Viewing
Operated ByParks Division
Notes and Comments
Statistics and Details for Kootenay Plains (OC)

References, Further Reading and Links

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. The information above is based on: Information & Facilities – Kootenay Plains Ecological Area | Alberta Parks (2022-02-19).

  1. Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve guide, March 2011.
  2. Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve (tear sheet), June 2021.

Image Slideshow

  • Evidence of old fire in meadow between North Saskatchewan River and Highway 11, Kootenay Plains (BFord)
  • Escarpment showing the prescribed burn of 2009, Kootenay Plains (BFord)
  • The 2009 prescribed burn taken at a higher elevation, Kootenay Plains (BFord)
  • Bear scat on trail in Kootenay Plains (BFord)
  • Trail at edge of steep gorge, Kootenay Plains (BFord)
  • Rock graffiti at Siffleur Falls, Kootenay Plains (BFord)
  • Kootenay Plains, stewards collection of garbage (BFord)
  • Kootenay Plains seen from Icefield Walk
  • Kootenay Plains near Siffleur Bridge; makeshift picnic site
  • A beaver-created wetland in Kootenay Plains (BFord)
  • Descending into the meadow on the other side of Survey Hill (BFord)
  • Rock outcropping on way to Survey Hill, Kootenay Plains (BFord)
  • Siffleur Falls in Kootenay Plains (BFord)
  • Male Mountain Bluebird in Kootenay Plains (BFord)
  • Wood lilies in a meadow in Kootenay Plains BFord)
  • The five peaks of Ex Coelis, Kootenay Plains (BFord)
  • Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in Kootenay Plains (BFord)
  • Group looking at Survey Hill in Kootenay Plains (BFord)

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