Nature Tour

“STONY PLAIN - ONOWAY NATURE TOUR”
 

Would you like to learn more about the natural history and geology of North Central Alberta? 

Take the opportunity to get to know this beautiful region of Alberta by taking a nature tour starting at the Town of Stony Plain and ending at the Town of Onoway or fishing at Salter’s Lake.  

This tour will take you through the Glory Hills to Chickakoo Lake, Muir Lake, Kilini Creek Valley, Bilby Natural Area, Imrie Park, Devil’s Lake, the Town of Onoway, and Salter’s Lake.

Nature Tour

Head north out of Stony Plain on Highway 779 and turn East on Township Road 540 for 3.2 km to Muir Lake, which is in the Eastern portion of the Glory Hills area.

GLORY HILLS

The Glory Hills refers to an area west of Edmonton and North of Spruce Grove and Stony Plain.  The Glory Hills area is in a transition zone between the boreal and parkland ecosystems and contains species from both ecosystems.  This stretch of rolling hills covered with aspen parkland interspersed with many lakes is still largely forested but much of it is now being converted into acreages.  Highway 16, the Yellowhead Route, is the major road through the area, but numerous sideroads provide interesting drives.

In the last 2 million years a number of major continental glaciers advanced from the northeast and covered much of Alberta.  About 12,000 years ago the last great ice sheet began to melt and retreat northward.  Once covered by glaciers, the Glory Hills is an area where a great deal of glacial till was left behind.  Deposits of outwash sand and gravel, pitted deltaic silts, and lacustrine clay may be found in the region.  The forests are largely aspen with some balsam poplar, paper birch, and white spruce.  Wildlife includes porcupine, mink, weasels, red squirrel, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and red fox.

 

Photos by David Hryciuk

MUIR LAKE

The purpose of the Muir Lake Project is to help people understand how a healthy trout fishery relies on a healthy habitat.  People act as stewards in maintaining this healthy habitat.  This project celebrates the role of Albertans in protecting, maintaining and rebuilding this sports fishing habitat.

 
 

This lake is a “delayed harvest” fishery and fish smaller than 50 cm (20”) must be safely released.  Provincial regulations in effect:  - anglers may keep only 1 fish over 50 cm per day, artificial lures only (bait ban), and open to angling May 1 to Oct 31 each year.  Muir Lake offers a special fishing experience with a small foot print in peaceful surrounds.  Please refrain from using gasoline motors or exceeding the legislated limit of 12 km/h.  Fishing is allowed from the shore or from a pontoon or tube.   Aerators have been placed to prevent winter kill and combined with special regulations the lake is producing.

There is plenty of wild life around the lake with beaver, herons, osprey, ducks, loons and deer.

Amenities include parking, washrooms, small boat launch and excellent wildlife educational signage.  This is a day use area only with no campfires allowed and no motors allowed on the lake.

Muir Lake Park is operated by the County of Parkland.

For more information on Muir Lake’s unique fishery visit the Anglers’ Atlas 
 

CHICKAKOO LAKE RECREATIONAL AREA

Next stop is Chickakoo Lake Recreational Area, also located within the County of Parkland.   

From Highway 779 head west on Township Road 540 for 5 km then south on Range Road 13 and follow the signs.

Chickakoo Lake, which is part of Glory Hills, is a peaceful, well maintained day use recreational area. Amenities include large parking lot, washrooms, 14 km of well groomed trails, trail system maps and signage, boat ramp, picnic sites and wheelchair accessibility.

Wildlife includes mourning cloak butterflies, common loons, ducks including mallards, northern pintail, bufflehead, common goldeneye, beaver and muskrat.  Willow groves grow along the lake edge.

Chickakoo Lake Recreational Area is a beautiful place to hike, bike, fish for brook trout, skate on the lake, or cross-country ski.  Horses are allowed on the trail system during summer months but not during the winter season.  This is a day-use area only, no overnight camping or off road motorized vehicles.  Dogs must be on leash.




KILINI CREEK VALLEY

Kilini Creek starts around Smithfield, angles toward Onoway (crosses at the junction of Highway 16 and Highway 43), angles northeast and ends south and slightly east of Onoway at Devil’s Lake.  This fast-flowing, wide, shallow stream winds through extensive sedge meadows and drains various dams, the work of generations of beavers.  Kilini Creek flows all year round.

When the glaciers began to melt about 12,000 years ago, the eastward drainage of large volumes of meltwater was impeded by the glacier mass, causing large glacial lakes to form.  When these lakes finally drained, post-glacial rivers caused severe flooding and left the ancient Onoway Valley, which is part of the Sturgeon River watershed.  In fact, the Glory Hills divides the Sturgeon River valley into two valleys.  These areas are full of gravel deposits deposited before glaciation, and directly or indirectly by glaciation.   

The Kilini Creek Valley is one of many sensitive areas being impacted by gravel mining.  A railway was built in 1913 to transport gravel from Township Road 540 along Kilini Creek to the Onoway/Devil’s Lake area, and was in operation until 1940. 

To give an idea of the extent of gravel in the area, where Township Road 540 crosses Range Road 20, on the west side of Range Road 20, there are eight (8) sections being mined.  There are approximately eighty (80) sections that have been identified for gravel extraction between Township Road 540 and the southern boundary of Onoway, from Highway 43 west to Kilini Creek. 

The effects of gravel mining include: changes to the landscape, creation of unstable areas, creeks mined out, and watersheds  impacted.  Effects of gravel mining can eventually impact aquifers, including alluvial aquifers that feed other aquifers, which in the end impacts water sources.  In the past dams have been built by gravel companies in order to have a water source for processing the gravel.  There are many un-reclaimed gravel mines that have been grandfathered.

The Onoway River Valley Conservation Association is working hard to bring attention to sensitive areas and the impacts of gravel mining.

LAKE EDEN NORTH PARACHUTE DROP ZONE

While in the area you might see sky divers above the Eden North Parachute School and Drop Zone.   Lake Eden is located on Range Road 20 west onto Township Road 540.  The Drop Zone closes for the winter season and reopens April 30th.

BILBY NATURAL AREA

The Bilby Natural Area encompasses 126 ha southeast of the Town of Onoway on the west side of Devil’s Lake.  

There are two official access points, one opening on the west side of Range Road 14, or just south of the railroad tracks on Range Road 15. 

The Bilby Natural Area focuses on education as its main purpose and is an excellent day use site for hiking and bird watching.  Kilini Creek is a major feature in the northwest part of the Natural Area.


 

The Bilby Natural Area includes gently rolling upland, largely covered by deciduous or mixedwood forest on well-drained soils and moister, more organic soils in small depressions.  The upland forests of aspen, balsam poplar, white spruce and scattered Alaska birch rise above shrubs such as hazel, Saskatoon, chokecherry, pin cherry and rose.  Red-osier, dogwood, honeysuckle, willows and various gosseberries and currents grow in wetter areas.  On coarser soils common bearberry and common blueberry occur.  Several orchids can be found on organic soils of the hollows.  Marshy areas are home to arrow-leaved coltsfoot, marsh marigold and other moisture loving plants.

Common woodland bird species, including red-winged blackbirds, crows and ravens can be seen and bald eagles fly overhead on their way to Devil’s Lake.  The area also provides good habitat for deer, moose and beaver. 

STURGEON RIVER VALLEY

The Sturgeon River is a 260 km long river that originates west of Isle Lake& east of Entwistle, passes through the Onoway area, turns northeast in St. Albert, then southeast near Gibbons, and enters the North Saskatchewan River near Fort Saskatchewan. 

This historical river provides essential riparian habitat for humans, plants and animals.  A healthy watershed provides many benefits, including provision of clean water, clean air, and productive soil, leading to a more sustainable economy and a better quality of life.  

The Town of Onoway is committed to maintaining and preserving the environmental integrity of the Sturgeon River Valley Watershed, particularly Onoway Creek as it flows through the Town of Onoway.

(Note: A watershed refers to an area of land where all of the water that is under it, or drains off of it, goes into the same place.)


 

For more information:  Sturgeon River Watershed Initiative   

TOWN OF ONOWAY

The Town of Onoway, located at the junction of Highway 37 and Highway 43, just west of  Devil’s Lake  and south of the Sturgeon River, is a great stopping point for lunch or to pick up everything you may need for your travels.  The Town of Onoway has several restaurants for that “home cooked” meal or stop for groceries and make your own picnic lunch.

To find out the story of the founding, settlement, and development of this area of North Central Alberta, visit the Onoway Museum.  The museum, located at the corner of 49th Street and Lac Ste Anne Trail North, is operated by the Onoway and District Historical Guild.  The Museum is open September to June (Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.); July and August (Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).  Admission is free and donations are appreciated.

The Town of Onoway is bisected by the Lac Ste. Anne trail.  This historical trail was the route that traders, Natives, pack trains and settlers used in the 1800s.

The Town of Onoway is committed to environmental sustainability and has established programs and services that support that commitment.  The “Stony Plain – Onoway Nature Tour” is a project the Town of Onoway considers important not only from a tourism perspective, but also as a way of letting people learn more about the geography and natural history of the Onoway area.

BURIED ONOWAY VALLEY

The Town of Onoway sits directly above the Buried Onoway Valley, which runs under Lake Isle and Lac. Ste. Anne, passes under Onoway, flows towards Calahoo, and then turns southwest to join the Beverly Channel west of St. Albert.  

The location and orientation of the Buried Onoway Valley is a direct influence of glaciation.  The Buried Onoway Valley is filled with abundant sand and gravel deposits which were deposited by stream action before the burial of the valley by glacial and post-glacial sediments.

The Buried Onoway Valley is also an example of a buried-valley aquifer - underground layers of porous rock or sand that allows the movement of water between layers of non-porous rock, such as gravel.  It  is the major source of groundwater for domestic consumption within the Onoway region.

IMRIE PARK

Imrie Park is located on the shores of Devils’ Lake, 5 km east of Onoway on Highway 37 and south on Range Road 15.  This 216 acre park features a trail system and natural habitat viewing area in addition to camping, day use and group use facilities.

In 1988, Mary Louise Imrie, Edmonton’s first woman architect, gifted 216 acres to the Province of Alberta to be developed and maintained as a campground, recreation and conservation area.  The Alberta Sport, Recreation, Parks and Wildlife Foundation (ASRPWF) is the owner of Imrie Park on behalf of the Province of Alberta and the park is managed by The Onoway and District Fish and Games Association and Gun Club.

Amenities:  15 campsites (for reservations 780-405-6176), day use area, cook house, enclosed picnic shelter, power, but no running water, foot access only, wildlife viewing blind overlooking neighbouring Devil’s Lake, groomed trails for hikers and cross-country skiers.

 
 

DEVIL’S LAKE ( Matchayaw Lake)

Devil’s Lake is located east of Onoway, off Highways 37.   The community of Bilby is located on the south shore.  Devil’s Lake is a small lake in the Sturgeon River Watershed.  The Sturgeon River enters Devil’s Lake from the northwest and exits from the north shore.  The Lake was originally named Matchayaw Lake (meaning Devil’s Lake) by the area’s Indigenous people.

Recently, a lake planning proposal was developed to ensure the protection for the natural environment, sustainable agriculture and parkland development.  A recent proposal was developed to restore wetlands, riparian corridors, and establish a conservation area.

Sport fishing in Devil’s Lake includes burbot, northern pike, walleye, whitefish, and yellow perch.

SALTERS’ LAKE

Salters’ Lake, located just 1 km south of the Town of Onoway and west of Range Road 21 is an excellent lake for fishing.  The lake is stocked annually with rainbow trout, and is open to the public for fishing all year.  Alberta fishing regulations apply.  The lake is aerated in order to support the fish population.  Onoway Fish & Game Club operates and maintains the facility.  Boats are allowed on the lake, electric motors only.  Boat launch and pier are available for public use.


 

References:

Sturgeon River Watershed Initiative  

A Nature Guide to Alberta, Provincial Museum of Alberta Publication No. 5

Nature Walks & Sunday Drives ‘Round Edmonton, Edmonton Natural History Club

Lac Ste. Anne County, Regional Ground Water Assessment (revised Nov 1999)

Conservation of unique Glory Hills close at hand , H. Brooymans, Edmonton Journal.com (Dec 12, 2010)

A Profile of Bilby Natural Area, Stewards of Alberta’s Protected Areas Association, Newsletter No. 23 Sept. 2010 :

Parkland County website

The Anglers Atlas website

RESEARCH & WRITING BY HACIENDA CONSULTING:  marydtthomas@gmail.com