Interest from local residents led to the establishment of Notikewin Provincial Park (established 1979, 97 km2). Here is preserved a small piece of the quintessential natural landscape of northern Alberta, the once endless poplar and spruce forests deeply dissected by moody rivers. Remote Notikewin is 165 km north of the town of PEACE RIVER.
The park encompasses the confluence of the PEACE and Notikewin rivers where their deep valleys are incised over 150 m below the surrounding uplands. The valleys are eroded through a mantle of glacial drift into the underlying Cretaceous sandstones, occasionally exposing petrified wood, ammonites and other fossils.
Forests of young aspen cover upland areas burned in the 1940s; river islands and floodplains were spared and support exceptional old forests. Self-regenerating old-growth forests of 200-year old white spruce over 30 m tall thrive on Spruce Island providing critical habitat for pileated woodpeckers, boreal chickadees, golden-crowned kinglets, western tanagers, barred owls, orange-crowned, black-throated green and bay-breasted warblers and other old-growth-dependent species.
Rich alluvial flats support 30-m tall stands of balsam poplar with ostrich ferns (seeFIDDLEHEAD GREENS) in their moist glades. Contrasting with the valley floor are the steep, dry south-facing slopes. These hillsides are a mosaic of grassland interspersed with clumps of shrubbery. Fall in Notikewin is a kaleidoscope of golden aspen and balsam poplar, red shrubbery and green conifers. Autumn also brings migrating flocks of sandhill cranes and Canada geese that stop to rest on river sandbars and fatten up in the nearby grain fields prior to their long migration.
In 1793 Alexander MACKENZIE passed by on his epic voyage to the Pacific. From 1866-97 the Hudson's Bay Company operated Battle River House on the south bank of the Notikewin. Steam-powered paddle wheelers plied the Peace River from 1903 for 50 years, carrying freight, trappers, settlers and missionaries. For centuries before this, the river served as a lifeline for native peoples. Notikewin is derived from the CREE word for battle or fighting, recalling the defeat of the invading Cree by the resident BEAVER.
Today the river is used by canoeists, fishermen and jet boaters. Park facilities include a 19-unit campground, a day-use area, boat launch and trails. Because of the remote location of the park, users are mostly local, but the magic of Notikewin will undoubtedly draw naturalists from afar as it becomes better known.