Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve

This Ecological Reserve encompasses Plateau Mountain in southern Kananaskis Country and is in the Rocky Mountain Natural Region, Alpine and Subalpine Subregions. It is internationally recognized for its ice caves and a range of periglacial features known as “patterned ground.” It provides critical winter range for Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep.

Sorted stone circles with alpine vegetation near summit of Plateau Mountain, looking west -2021-06-23-(P Cotterill)
Sorted stone circles with alpine vegetation near summit of Plateau Mountain, looking west -2021-06-23-(P Cotterill)

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

The Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve consists of a nearly flat high-elevation plateau of some 2,323 ha featuring various vegetation communities from closed lodgepole pine-spruce forest at lower elevations through krummholz to alpine meadows and tundra. It is also internationally recognized for its ice cave, which contains ice crystals, curls, sheets and pillars. The ice crystals are so fragile that a temperature increase of one-degree Celsius can cause melting. A periglacial feature known as “patterned ground” is found on Plateau Mountain and includes active permafrost, sorted stone circles, polygons, steps and frost boils (Alberta Parks website, 2012).

UNGLACIATED. Due to its height (2,500 m), the plateau was not covered by ice during the last Ice Age and thus is a nunatak (​Inuktitut, “lonely peak”) [1]. The surface rocks were present 90,000 years ago when the Laurentide ice sheets began to expand and support lichens that are more than 100,000 years old (be careful where you step!) [2].

ICE CAVES. Until the 1970s, it was possible to explore one of the ice caves on the mountain. Unfortunately, the visitors caused not only disturbance but also melting of the delicate ice crystals. A special permit is now required to enter the cave [3].

Political Hay in 1987. 1987 was the designated Year of Wildlife Conservation in Canada by provincial and territorial wildlife ministers and their agencies. In Alberta, Wildlife ’87: Gaining Momentum was spearheaded by Cam Finlay, a well-known Alberta naturalist. More than a dozen new Natural Areas and several Ecological Reserves were designated during this period [4].

Site Statistics

Site NamePlateau Mountain
Site TypeEcological Reserve
SubtypeOrder-in-council (OC)
Natural Region(s)Alpine; Subalpine
O.C. No. (Land Ref. Manual)821/91
PASite ID (Map Ref #)60
Site # (Parks Website)407
Total Area2322.98 ha. (5740.08 ac.)
Recreation ActivitiesHiking – backcountry
Operated ByParks Division
Notes and Comments
Statistics and Details for Plateau Mountain


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 and Facilities Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve.

  1. Nunatak – The Canadian Encyclopedia (accessed 2022-04-15).
  2. Plateau Mountain ER – Friends of K-Country (accessed 2022-04-15).
  3. Plateau Mountain Ice Cave – Friends of K-Country (accessed 2022-04-15).
  4. History of Natural Areas and Ecological Reserves 1977-1994, SAPAA Newsletter No. 41 January 2022 pp. 3-4.

Further Reading

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