An enclave within the Whitemud Falls Wildland Provincial Park, this ER shares a border with the Clearwater River Provincial Park in Saskatchewan. 80 km east of Fort McMurray, the site is remote and accessible only via air or the Clearwater River.
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Map of the Area
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Whitemud Falls Wildland Park , Whitemud Falls Ecological Reserve and Saskatchewan’s Clearwater River Provincial Park occupy a steep sided and deeply incised stretch of the Clearwater River valley. Here the river has eroded the underlying Devonian limestone and dolomites, creating the falls and a variety of karst features such as stacks (or “flowerpots”; rare in Alberta east of the Rockies), gullies, fissures and caves.
Jack pine and aspen-dominated forests are the dominant vegetation. More than 130 bird, 4 bat, 14 furbearer, 6 carnivore, 3 ungulate, 3 amphibian and 1 snake species are found in the area.
Cold mineral springs with high salt content supply water to wetlands east of the falls. More than 20 rare, uncommon and disjunctive plant species have been recorded within the karst habitats of this area. Rare plants in the reserve include green spleenwort, purple cliff brake & Robert’s fern.
The Clearwater River from the Alberta-Saskatchewan border west to Ft. McMurray was designated a Canadian Heritage River in April 2004.
Overnight camping and open fires are prohibited in Ecological Reserves. There are no facilities on-site. There are no public roads in the Reserve. Access is by jet boat, canoe and (in suitable locations on the river) float plane. Travel within the Reserve is by foot only.
Five Distinct Habitats. A survey in 1987 identified five distinct terrestrial habitats within the reserve which support one or more rare or disjunct flora [2, 3].
- Erosional Bedrock: dry rock faces, cooler and wetter gullies, and shallow-sandy soils.
- Dry Sands Plains and Dunes: typically covered by jack pines.
- Sandy Veeners: more well drained than the sandy plains and supporting dry aspen.
- Wet and Poorly Drained Depressions: supporting labrador tea.
- Wet Mudflats, Banks. Found along the Clearwater River.
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 .
Clearwater is a descriptive name for the river (as well as the lake, mountain and pass). The name was likely selected to differentiate it from the more muddy Athabasca River into which it flows. The name is likely a translation from the original First Nations name. Other names for the river include Pelican and Lower Athabasca rivers .
|Site Name||Whitemud Falls|
|Site Type||Ecological Reserve|
|Natural Region(s)||Central Mixedwood|
|O.C. No. (Land Ref. Manual)||616/88|
|PASite ID (Map Ref #)||489|
|Site # (Parks Website)||414|
|Total Area||864.85 ha. (2137.00 ac.)|
|Recreation Activities||Canoeing/kayaking, 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 – Whitemud Falls Ecological Area | Alberta Parks (All links accessed on 2023-02-10).
- Information & Facilities – Whitemud Falls Wildland Provincial Park | Alberta Parks.
- Disjunctive population – Wikipedia.
- Rare and Disjunct Plants, from Whitemud Falls Ecological Reserve, Northeastern Alberta.
- History of Natural Areas and Ecological Reserves 1977-1994, SAPAA Newsletter No. 41.
- Aubrey, Merrily K., ed. Concise Place Names of Alberta. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2006, p. 69.
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