July 2002

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Click to Learn More


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July represents nature’s busiest month. All of the animals are active, the plants are reaching their peak blooming times, and the birds are either on the nest or nearing the end of their nesting periods. Air temperatures reach their annual maximum, and the river levels begin to drop from their June highs. This is the best month for getting out and enjoying the best that the mountains offer. Our summers are far too short, and the recent warm temperatures offer a challenge for you to take advantage of them. This month’s Nature Forecast is dedicated to those people that experience the mountains first hand. It’s time to get off the couch and get hiking!

Alpine Extravaganza

Now that the temperatures have risen, the mountains are beginning to bloom. A late spring compresses the season, often resulting in more dramatic explosions of wildflowers. July is the peak month for flower watching throughout the mountains, but the best shows are often reserved for the alpine. As you climb high above the valley bottoms, you are treated to an outburst of colour that can make even the most jaded resident pause. The red paintbrush often takes on a deep purple colour, looking as if it had been freshly dipped into a paint can.  The western anemone quickly trades in its white flowers for a shaggy seed head―earning the pet name "hippie flower".  The alpine forget-me-not, a delicate blue flower, forms groups just large enough to make sure you not only didn't miss them, but have to pull out your camera to record them.  The tiny white saxifrages are sometimes hidden amongst the bright reds and blues of its neighbours, but their red spotted petals made them worth searching for. Other alpine flowers include the bracted lousewort, yellow paintbrush, and valerian. Great locations for alpine flowers include Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper National Park, Sunshine Meadows in Banff, and Buller and Burstall Passes in Kananaskis Country.

Upslope Animals

With the new growth in the high country, many of our local animals will follow the growth and move higher up the mountains. Grizzly bears that may have been forced into the valleys by snow, will now head higher upslope to search for new growth. Sheep and elk will also be attracted by some of the fresh spring plants blooming high above the valley bottom. This means that wildlife will be more difficult to spot along roadsides, but will require a more active approach, along with a good pair of binoculars.

Burgess Shale

The Burgess Shale is one of the great geological wonders of the mountains, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to this unique site should be on every hiker’s agenda. Located high above Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, these unique fossil beds represent one of palaeontology’s great wonders. Discovered in 1909, the fossils of the Burgess Shale have forced scientists to re-examine theories of evolution and the origins of life on Earth. Many of the site’s fossils are found nowhere else on the planet. Due to its extreme value and the rarity of its fossils, access is restricted to guided groups only. You can book your tour by contacting the Yoho-Burgess Shale Foundation at www.burgess-shale.bc.ca or by calling 1-800-343-3006. Click here to learn more

All material copyright Ward Cameron 2002