September 11, 2004

Sleeping With Elk in Jasper

We left Prince George early in the morning and cruised east on the Yellowhead (Highway 16) toward Jasper. It was overcast with occasional rain.

Being avid streamkeepers, we stopped several times along the way to check out rivers and creeks including the Willow River, Bowron River, Slim Creek and the Milk River.

As we approached the intersection of highways 16 and 5, I recalled that there was a salmon viewing area in Valemount, about 20km south of our course. We decided to check it out, and discovered that we'd missed a chinook salmon run by a week or so. They had arrived a couple of weeks early and we saw only one carcass.

Swift Creek is billed as the home of the world's longest chinook salmon run -- the fish travel 1,280km from the Pacific Ocean up the Fraser River and to the creek to spawn. Apparently they average about 18km a day. Amazing.

Retracing our course back to the 16, we continued east to Mt. Robson Provincial Park where we stopped for a tailgate lunch and a visit to the information center.

It's hard to believe that the icy blue torrent one sees in the north is the same Fraser River that is a brown, silt-filled working channel back home in Burnaby.

We arrived in Jasper around dinner time, and headed for the Whistlers campground, the only one that was open due to the "strategic services withdrawal" underway by national park staff negotiating for better wages. Park staff were uniformly friendly and helpful throughout our trip.

As we registered at the campground, we were warned to be on the lookout for elk, as it was the mating season and the males could be aggressive.


We set up camp, got a fire going and were cooking dinner when a group of female elk appeared, three mature and three yearlings, slowly moving along while munching on grass and shrubs. Not long after a male with an impressive rack appeared, obviously the leader of the harem.


We were a bit nervous while the male was around, but eventually he trotted off, and the females bedded down less than 10 meters from our tent! We thought that eventually they would move on, but on our last bathroom run for the night, we discovered they were still sleeping there.

Posted by Paul at September 11, 2004 10:33 PM