Our first camping trip of 2016 took place at Brewers Campground in Aspen Beach Provincial Park in central Alberta. Aspen Beach is located approximately 185km north of Calgary between the communities of Bentley and Gull Lake. The park sits on the southwest corner of Gull Lake, a large body of water covering some eighty square kilometers and is home to Northern Pike, Walleye, and Lake Whitefish.
|Brewer's Campground in Aspen Beach Provincial Park|
Aspen Beach Provincial Park was established in 1932, making it one of the earliest in the Alberta Parks system. The park is home to two campgrounds (Lakeview being the second), which contain 572 total campsites. The park also features amenities such as sandy beaches, day-use areas, boat launches, flush toilets, showers, playgrounds, horseshoe pits, a concession stand, and a group camping area.
Obviously the lake is a big draw for many guests. Its warm water is a nice change over glacier-fed mountain lakes, making water-based recreation a popular choice. Opportunities for power boating, sailing, swimming, fishing, windsurfing, canoeing, and of course stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) are plentiful. Even though it was rainy and wet for a good portion of the weekend we took advantage of some afternoon sunshine to get out on our paddleboards and enjoy the lakeshore scenery.
|GoPro paddlecam is back in action!|
|Ashley and Christine taking advantage of a break in the rainy weather|
|A huge beaver lodge in the marshy area of the lake. We didn't see any of the residents though!|
Aspen Beach would be a popular place for birdwatchers as well. We saw a large variety of species over the course of the weekend. Waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, and the lake's namesake gulls were all plentiful. The interpretive boardwalk trail was a fantastic place to spot many of the resident birds and other wildlife.
One of the interpretive signs reads...
Another sign states...
Unfortunately the sun didn't last forever and the clouds rolled in around dinnertime. It rained on and off for the next few hours, but that didn't stop us from cooking dinner outside.
In the evening the rain stopped so we headed out for an evening paddle. The wind had calmed down, making the lake's surface almost glassy. We paddled along the western shoreline and were treated to views of the setting sun behind storm clouds and an exciting wildlife encounter!
|Interpretive boardwalk trail|
|The boardwalk runs through this marsh with nice views of the lake beyond|
Did you come to the park because of the lake? So do a large number of ducks and other waterfowl. Gull Lake provides them with a place to rest as well as food and shelter. Most of these birds are found in the north end of the lake where there are more plants and shelter from the wind. However, you may find several species, like the Pintail Duck, anywhere on the lake. Watch for them when you are walking by the marshy areas of the lakeshore.
|Both species of blackbirds perched together on the boardwalk's railing|
The area in front of you was covered with water fifty years ago. No one knows why the lake level change, but the plants and animals that live in marshes had to move to this location. Have you heard the noisy Red-Winged Blackbird while walking across the boardwalk? Their "Cronk La Ree" is heard often during the early summer as the birds mate and nest in this marshy area. The marsh also provides homes for many quieter residents. If you are lucky you may spot a Great Blue Heron stalking its prey of frogs and minnows, or watch a Muskrat moving amongst the cattails.
|Ribs and beans cooked over the campfire!|
|Ashley, myself, and Ryan enjoying the evening calm|
|SUPing along the marshy lakeshore|
|This Muskrat allowed me to get surprisingly close before disappearing into the marsh|
|Setting sun below another approaching storm|
|We got off the water just as the first few rain drops started to fall|
Aspen Beach is a very family friendly destination. We all had a great time, but the park wouldn't be my first choice for future camping trips. I prefer quieter campgrounds and this one is really busy. The number of loud trailer generators was also a bit much for us tenters. Lastly, the park was quite popular with dogs, which I'm a big fan of, but dogs are not allowed on the beaches. I wish there was a dog-friendly beach in the park because leaving a dog in a car or a tent isn't an option on a hot summer day. As previously mentioned we all seemed to have a wonderful weekend, despite the weather, and are looking forward to more camping trips later this summer.