cypress2Alberta’s parks and protected areas are governed under three pieces of legislation:


Sites protected under legislation can range from developed recreation areas to natural, undisturbed wilderness. In the South Saskatchewan River Sub-Basin, there exists a provincial park, two natural areas, and a provincial recreation area.

Read more… about the classification for protected sites in Alberta.

Cypress Hills Provincial Park located 32 kilometres South-East of Medicine Hat, covers approximately 20,000 hectares of land (roughly 50,000 acres), and is the 3rd largest provincial park in Alberta. Under the Provincial Parks Act, the park was created to protect and preserve the natural heritage of the region, and to allow the use of the land for outdoor recreation and natural heritage appreciation. Activity must be compatible with environmental conservation. Elkwater Lake, Reesor Lake, and Spruce Coulee Reservoir all reside within the park.

Bullhead Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area is located east of the Cypress Hills Provincial Park. This provincial recreation area is small, covering only 4.4 hectares of land (11 acres). The reservoir itself covers 57.5 hectares (142 acres). Legislation for Provincial Recreation Areas allows the Bullshead Reservoir to support outdoor activity, and the reservoir is stocked with fish annually to support angling.

There are two Natural Areas are located in the South Saskatchewan River Sub-Basin. The Red Rock Coulee Natural Area, located South of Medicine Hat, covers 325 hectares of land (800 acres). The Prairie Coulee Natural Area is located along the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, east of CFB Suffield, and covers 1800 hectares of land (4400 acres). The legislation for natural areas protects these sites from disturbance, and as such, only allows for low impact recreational use, such as hiking.

Environmentally Significant Areas (ESA’s) were originally developed and used by municipalities, but were consolidated in 1997. Since then, industry, consultants, municipalities, Government Departments, and environmental non-government organizations have used ESA’s extensively. ESA’s are used as a source of information when making land use decisions. The Government of Alberta’s Tourist, Parks and Recreation Department uses ESA’s to determine priorities for conservation.

Provincial Grazing Reserves (PGR’s) are managed by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, and are primarily meant to provide summer pasture for farmers and ranchers on public land, allowing them to use their own land for crop and hay production. The land offers opportunities for recreational activities such as hiking, trail riding, and snowmobiling. Oil and gas wells are allowed on PGR’s, as are pipelines. The Seven Persons PGR, which covers 2,700 hectares (6,600 acres) of land, and the Bow Island PGR, which covers 16,000 hectares (39,000 acres), are located within the South Saskatchewan River Sub-Basin. The reserves are typically located on poor quality soil that is unsuitable for annual cropping.