Holmes Crossing Sandhills Ecological Reserve and Holmes Crossing Recreation Area
Location: About 4 km southwest of Fort Assiniboine on Hwy 33; the reserve and recreation area border are on the south bank of the Athabasca River.
Info: Holmes Crossing is open to foot traffic only; equestrian use is prohibited. 780-9608170; 1-866-427-3582 (Parks Division Headquarters); 780-674-3331 (County of Barrhead).
Sand dunes cover about 26,000 square kilometres, or 0.27 percent, of Canada’s total area, and 45 percent of those dunes are in Alberta. Chinook winds blowing from the mountains concentrate most of the dunes in the western part of the province, on the open prairie. Stable sand dunes, low-lying wetlands, and rolling landscape define the Holmes Crossing Sandhills Ecological Reserve, an especially beautiful area along the Athabasca River valley. White spruce, aspen, and balsam poplar dominate the comparatively moist river valley, while Jack pine and aspen grow in pure stands or mixed-wood forests on the dunes. The reserve contains one of Canada’s few examples of transverse dunesthe result of abundant sediment and wind patterns that maintain the same general direction.
In this fantastic area for observing wildlife, you may spot deer and moose, especially along the river valley. Pay special attention to signs of bears in the area, and be sure to practise bear safety. Birds are plentiful, with the common nighthawk, solitary vireo, pine siskin, and purple finch frequenting the pinewoods. Also watch for the less frequently seen great grey owl, Cooper’s hawk, pileated woodpecker, and sandhill crane.
Encompassing 1,983 hectares, the reserve is a diverse and interesting site, providing opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, picnicking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, and gold panning. Next to the reserve, the Holmes Crossing Recreation Area has sheltered picnic sites, outdoor toilets, walking trails to springs, and a cooking shelter with a heating stove, which a creative cook could use to prepare a meal. Fun to visit in any season, you can cross-country ski, snowshoe, and snowmobile here in winter.
Holmes Crossing Recreation Area Map Photo Gallery
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