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(Photo courtesy of Tourism Jasper)
(Photo courtesy of Tourism Jasper)

Jasper National Park: Viewing wildlife from the front seat

Picture yourself sitting in the front seat of your RV while driving through the largest and most spectacular national parks in the majestic Canadian Rockies. As you travel along this modern highway your eyes will be in constant motion trying to see absolutely everything around you from the rugged mountain range to the abundant wildlife who call this park home.

Doesn’t it sound interesting? Believe me, it is and beautiful as well.

Jasper National Park is where you will find wilderness at it’s best with a wonderful backcountry trail system you probably won’t find anywhere else. Visitors come here from all over the world specifically to enjoy these trails. Bring your camera because there is a chance of seeing some of the rarest of North American animals including grizzly bears, caribou and wolves.

Protecting the natural landscapes, the natural habitats of the wildlife, the wildlife themselves and the wonderful uniquely diversified ecosystem is what Canada’s National Parks is all about. Established in 1907 Jasper National Park is more than 6,700 miles in size and a beautiful place to learn more of how the mountains were formed, how the forests grow and are managed, and how the first people here lived from the traditional Aboriginals to early explorers and right up to modern times. There’s a great deal of history here to entertain its guests for a very long time.

Although Jasper National Park draws visitors from all over the world each year it never seems crowded because of it’s size and it’s entirely possible to enjoy some wonderful quiet moments enjoying the natural beauty of the park.

Athabasca Falls (Photo courtesy of Tourism Jasper)
Athabasca Falls (Photo courtesy of Tourism Jasper)

Wildlife

Thousands of people come to Jasper National Park to see the wildlife and most are not disappointed. The park is home to more than 29 species of small animals, deer, moose, elk, caribou, beaver, sheep, mountain goats, wolves, coyote, cougars, black bears and of course grizzlies.

Bird watchers will appreciate the abundance of birds to view and of course the natural vegetation is being managed to preserve the ecological integrity of the park, not only for your enjoyment but to ensure its still there for generations to come. Remember the vegetation is also the source of food for many of the animals who live here.

Woodland Caribou

One of the rarest of mammals found in the park are the Woodland Caribou and are mostly found deep into the backcountry where only the most avid hiker probably will go. There are four herds left with approximately 150 caribou between them. If you do see one of these rare animals, you will be one of the lucky ones because they don’t often show their faces to humans.

Columbia Icefields

During the Ice Age, the mountains in Western Canada were covered in ice and today some of the remains of that period are the Columbia icefields, one of the largest icefields in the Canadian Rockies. Don’t miss seeing the spectacular Athabasca Glacier near the Icefields Centre and see how it flows like a sluggish river down the valley. This is one of the world’s only Icefields accessible by road.

If you are coming from south of Jasper, the Icefield Parkway is one of the most spectacular scenic drives in the Canadian Rockies.

(Photo courtesy of Tourism Jasper)
Glacier skywalk (Photo courtesy of Tourism Jasper)

Jasper

Originally an important supply depot for the North West Company, it was abandoned in 1884 when the fur trade declined and then reborn when the Dominion Government established Jasper Forest Park in 1907 and helped make it a thriving community today.

With a population of more than 5,500 people, Jasper is large enough to have all the amenities you may need for grocery shopping, banking, churches, recreation and government offices, but it is small enough you can explore the town on foot. Park your vehicle and take advantage of the walkability of the community. There’s a large parking lot where you can park for up to 72 hours and special RV parking near the Off-Leash Area and only a short walk to downtown. If you do park downtown, it’s only allowed for two hours, but all parking is free.

Watch for the moose and deer wandering through town as if they own the place – because they do. This is their habitat and are protected, but don’t approach them since they are still wild and completely unpredictable. They are definitely nice to watch, but only from a distance and with a telephoto lens.

Tours and Events

The park is enormous and there is so much to see sometimes its better to take a tour with a guide who is knowledgeable about the area and can explain everything in more detail. There are tours for every type of interest including helicopter tours, whitewater rafting, hiking, horseback riding, fishing and, if you are fortunate to be here during the winter, try heli-skiing, or dog sledding.

Those more inclined to explore on their own will appreciate the maps available for all of the trail systems and historic sites worth exploring. Although some of the trails are just for those hiking or walking there are many shared with mountain bikers, horseback riders, and of course the local animals.

(Photo courtesy of Tourism Jasper)
(Photo courtesy of Tourism Jasper)

Camping

RVers are fortunate because one of the best ways to really enjoy the park is to take advantage of the 1,700 campsites within the park. Many of the campgrounds are on the reservation system so book ahead of time if you don’t want to miss out on a perfect site. However, some of the campgrounds are on a first come, first serve basis and if you are there at the check-out time of 11 a.m., you have a good chance of picking a site you will be happy with. No overnight camping is allowed outside the designated campgrounds.

RVers will appreciate traveling through Jasper National Park because of it’s spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife, large campsites, sensational outdoor recreation and its natural beauty all enjoyed from the comfort of their RV. Don’t miss it.

Safety Within the Park

For your safety and the safety of the animals please:

  • Do not approach any wildlife — stay three bus lengths away from elk and 10 bus lengths away from bears.
  • Do not feed wildlife — it’s against the law!
  • Stay in your vehicle when you see wildlife while traveling on the roads.
  • Follow the posted speed limit and watch for wildlife so you can slow down, take a photo and move along.
  • Keep your campsite clean and don’t leave coolers, food of any type including dog food or even dishwater outside because it will attract animals.
  • Only use designated trails.
  • Make sure your campfire is out before you leave it unattended.

Resources

Jasper National Park: http://www.jaspernationalpark.com

Campgrounds: http://www.jaspernationalpark.com/jnpcamp.html

Parks Canada: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/jasper/index.aspx

Canada’s National Park System: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/docs/v-g/nation/nation1.aspx

Tours: http://www.jaspernationalpark.com/activities/guided-tours.html

About Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber is the editor of Let's RV and the editor of RV Daily Report. A Wisconsin native and father of three grown daughters, he is now based out of Arizona and travels the country in his Winnebago Adventurer motorhome interviewing industry professionals and interesting RVers alike. He can be reached at editor@letsrv.com

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