EAST OF EDMONTON
East-central Alberta visitors enter the heritage district known as the Kalyna (pronounced kah-LEHN-ah) Country Ecomuseum, a multicultural area where visitors can see historical attractions in their original settings. Kalyna is a Ukrainian term for high bush cranberry. The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is one Kalyna Country destination that can easily take up the better part of a day. Interacting with the costumed interpreters at this open-air museum will make you feel like a time traveller.
Just three kilometres from here is the entrance, via the highway, to the only national park within a short drive of Edmonton. Elk Island National Park has a far-reaching natural and cultural heritage that includes spectacular views, self-guided trails, floating boardwalks, and old buildings. Part of the dark-sky network, the park has a designated area that is devoid of light to increase night sky visibility. In addition to improving conditions for astronomy aficionados, the dark-sky preserve benefits plants and animals that require uninterrupted nocturnal conditions to survive and thrive.
The parkland region falls between the dense mixed-wood boreal forest to the north and prairie grassland to the south. East of Edmonton, the parkland features many areas where birds and other animals enjoy shelter and abundant food supplies in natural settings. There are also places where visitors can enjoy wildlife watching and other outdoor recreation opportunities. Trembling aspen and balsam poplar are common here, as they favour richer soils where fires have occurred.
Watch for old farmhouses and barns, often standing alone in the middle of a field, or surrounded by a windbreak of mature trees. Sometimes near collapse, many of these picturesque buildings date back to the late 19th century. Smeltzer House in Sherwood Park is an example of 1920s brick architecture, and the Strathcona County Museum & Archives displays articles that early homesteaders made and used.
This region has become the land of giant statues, including the Vegreville Easter egg, the Mundare sausage, and Andrew’s mallard duck. Also unique in the area is Fort Saskatchewan’s live lawn mowers, a flock of sheep guided by a shepherd who ensures city grass is shorn to an appropriate level.
Central Rural East Alberta Museums (CREAM) comprise a group of museums in Kalyna Country that offer pioneer heritage displays, artifacts, demonstrations, and events. The Lamont County churches reveal stunning architecture and provide a glimpse into the spirituality that continues to sustain church members.