[COMPLEX] Rumsey Ecological Reserve and Natural Area

Rumsey Natural Area and Rumsey Ecological Reserve are located about 80 km southeast of Red Deer. They protect the largest remaining tract of aspen parkland in Canada.


Rumsey Ecoological Reserve, ca. 2017, (G. Romanchuk)
Rumsey Ecoological Reserve, ca. 2017, (G. Romanchuk)

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

Largest Remaining Tract of Aspen Parkland in Canada is protected by the Rumsey Ecological Reserve. Spanning the It spans the transition between the Grassland Natural Region to the south and the Central Parkland Subregion of the Parkland Natural Region. Much of the reserve consists of hummocky moraine (knob and kettle) topography. In wet years, the kettles fill with water and the resulting pothole country becomes some of the most productive waterfowl habitat in North America.

There are no public roads in the ER and travel is restricted to foot only. The NA may be under a grazing lease requiring permission to access.

Extent of Northern and Southern Ranges are found within the NA and ER. The area contains several flat-topped hills. There are extensive woodlands along the northern boundary, as well as numerous wetlands throughout the centre of the reserve. The most common upland vegetation is rough fescue. Wildlife species include White-tailed deer, Porcupine, Muskrats, and Chorus and Northern Leopard Frogs. Grassland birds found here include Sprague’s Pipit, Upland Sandpiper & Baird’s Sparrow. Aspen woodlands are home to Red-eyed Vireo and Northern Oriole while wetland areas suppot Mallards and Killdeer.

… a Rumsey of Any Other Name. The ER and NA lie within a larger ecosystem. The extended area is also known as the Rumsey Block, Rumsey Parkland or Rumsey Wildland [1]. In 1911, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) built a winter railway camp in the area. It was named for Reginald Rumsey, a senior official with the Canadian Bank of Commerce, a key backer of the CNoR. The subsequent village of Rumsey was dissolved in 1994 [2].

AWA’s Rumsey Area of Concern.Map; Alberta Wilderness Association.
AWA’s Rumsey Area of Concern.Map; Alberta Wilderness Association.

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 including these two [3].

Rumsey History. Humans have been altering this area from the first Aboriginal colonists. The First Nations used fire to direct and control the movement of bison. The area was homesteaded concurrent with the loss of the bison and other large wildlife. In 1895, the Imperial Ranching Company started open-range ranching. Oil and gas activity commenced in the 1950s, and has resulted in over 200 natural gas well sites and pipelines, in various stages of operation and reclamation [4].

Oil Extraction Controversy. Despite its NA designation, oil and gas leases continued to be sold on the site and saw an increase in oil and gas development, a This strange state of affairs which continued for 16 years but ended in 2012 [5].

Site Statistics

Site NameRumsey (ER)
Site TypeEcological Reserve
SubtypeOrder-in-council (OC)
Natural Region(s)Central Parkland
O.C. No. (Land Ref. Manual)511/90
PASite ID (Map Ref #)36
Site # (Parks Website)462
Total Area3431.86 ha. (8480.00 ac.)
Recreation ActivitiesBirding, Hiking – backcountry, Wildlife viewing
Operated ByParks Division
Notes and Comments
Statistics and Details for Rumsey (ER) Ecological Reserve
Rumsey ER Site Map (Government of Alberta)
Rumsey ER Site Map (Government of Alberta)
Site NameRumsey (NA)
Site TypeNatural Area
SubtypeOrder-in-council (OC)
Natural Region(s)Central Parkland
O.C. No. (Land Ref. Manual)390/96
PASite ID (Map Ref #)576
Site # (Parks Website)462
Total Area14922.20 ha. (36873.16 ac.)
Recreation Activitiesnone noted
Operated ByParks Division
Notes and Comments
Statistics and Details for Rumsey (NA) Natural Area
Rumsey NA Site Map (Government of Alberta)
Rumsey NA Site Map (Government of Alberta)


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 are: Information & Facilities – Rumsey Natural Area | Alberta Parks and Information & Facilities – Rumsey Ecological Area | Alberta Parks (All links accessed on 2023-01-22).

  1. Rumsey – Alberta Wilderness Association
  2. Aubrey, Merrily K., ed. Concise Place Names of Alberta. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2006, p. 280.
  3. History of Natural Areas and Ecological Reserves 1977-1994, SAPAA Newsletter No. 41 January 2022, pp. 3-4.
  4. Rough fescue (Festuca hallii) ecology and… | ERA, pp. 1, 9.
  5. Sixteen Years after Being “Protected” Rumsey Natural Area Sees a Halt to New Oil and Gas Access – Alberta Wilderness Association.

Further Reading

Editing, Review and Silence Procedure

  1. FRANK: Publish page
  2. HUBERT/PATSY: Assign page for editing by update tbd in the Title (4-
  3. Review for readability and alignment to SAPAA organizational reputation.
  4. Best available image
  5. Review for accuracy including:
    1. Correct map and site statistics
    2. Area size is correct
    3. Standards (e.g. use of hyphens, spelling, etc.)
    4. References are accessible and and notes match
  6. Review for formatting, e.g.: Centered captions, No empty blocks
  7. TEAM: Last walk through
    1. Any final discussion or notes
    2. Remove [name] from title
    3. Add to log book for silence procedure
    4. Delete these notes.

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