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Relatively cheap and straightforward, ultralight aircraft make flight accessible – and a lot of fun – for the masses. “Ever been inside a cloud before?” Claudio Mota shouts over his …Read More
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Relatively cheap and straightforward, ultralight aircraft make flight accessible - and a lot of fun - for the masses.

“Ever been inside a cloud before?” Claudio Mota shouts over his shoulder.

Straining to hear the flight instructor over the buzz of the engine, all I can say is that I’ve seen clouds from airplane windows. That’s nothing like feeling it on your skin, Claudio answers, and I get a sense of why he feels so at ease now, a couple of thousand feet above a looping bend in the North Saskatchewan River, northeast of Drayton Valley. The Air Adventure Flight School’s ultralight trike that he’s piloting and in which I’m a passenger has an open-air cockpit, so the views are all around us. The twisting, greenish-brown river. The fields, brightly verdant with July rain, stretching into the hazy distance. A tractor-trailer crawling along a secondary highway below. Endless sky. From this height, everything looks not so much distant as somehow miniaturized.

Looking up, I see we still have some distance to climb before we reach the nearest clouds. Claudio obviously intends to take us up there, and I admittedly tense a little. I’ve never been a fan of heights, let alone flying. But the ultralight experience is surprisingly different. Exposed to the elements, you feel like you’re more immersed in the act of flying. Rather than, say, passively watching things unfold from a narrow, double-paned window.

Claudio explains the reason he wants to go higher: with the evening sun sinking in the west, it’s a good opportunity to view a glory—an optical illusion cast on clouds or mist by a low sun. A glory consists of a magnified shadow circled by bands of rainbow, created as water droplets diffract sunlight. They’re so named because the rainbow resembles the halos in old religious paintings. If nothing else, it’s a handy excuse for exploring the range and possibilities of ultralight flying.

Ultralights represent one of the fastest growing areas of aviation in Canada. First developed in the 1980s, they now make up a fifth of all registered civilian aircraft. These lightweight, powered hang gliders are controlled by weight shift—the pilot steers the aircraft by applying force to a control bar. The engine is used to gain altitude, after which the pilot may cut power to glide back to earth. The aircraft are often referred to as “trikes,” giving rise to a common analogy: if flying a Cessna is like driving a Cadillac, then flying an ultralight is like riding a motorbike.

Claudio shifts the control bar, and we start to climb. Though it’s a summer evening, ideal time for flying, it’s a windy one. We’re protected from the elements and the temperature change—about a degree Celsius for every 100 metres of altitude—by our heavy flight suits. My nerves are slightly on edge, though, as I watch buildings and features on the ground grow ever smaller.

Before long we’re levelling out. Fast-moving wisps of stratus cloud drift across our faces, and indeed, it is a cool sensation. Claudio steers the trike around, putting us between the setting sun and a mass of cloud. I look to my left, and there it is: the dark shadow of the trike on a white backdrop, surrounded by rings of colour. We linger for a bit, taking it in along with the expansive views all around us. Then Claudio kills the engine, and we comfortably drift back to the sureness of ground again.

Besides ultralight trikes, Air Adventure Flight School also offers flight instruction for paragliders, gyroplanes (a sort of mini-helicopter that uses air power to attain lift), and paramotors (a parachute powered by a motor worn on the pilot’s back). The school is located on Highway 624, about 21 km north of Drayton Valley or 31 km southwest of Seba Beach. Visit for more info.

Getting an Ultralight Permit in Canada

According to Transport Canada, ultralight permits must be at least 16 years of age and medically cleared to fly. They have to complete a minimum of 20 hours of flight instruction and pass a written examination. Additionally, they must acquire a minimum of 10 hours flight time, including at least two hours of solo flight time, and a minimum of 30 takeoffs and landings, with 10 or more of those as the solo occupant.

Air Adventures Flight School

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Wagner Natural Area

 From fens to foliage, Wagner Natural Area is a rustic escape just minutes away from more urban jungles Situated west of Edmonton on Highway 16, Wagner Natural Area is a …Read More
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 From fens to foliage, Wagner Natural Area is a rustic escape just minutes away from more urban jungles

Situated west of Edmonton on Highway 16, Wagner Natural Area is a provincial nature reserve that’s home to an abundance of wildlife and biodiversity that connects its visitors to the beauty of Alberta’s natural habitats. Spanning more than 250 hectares and hosting a scenic 1.5 km walking trail, it exists to conserve all that biological diversity for scientific, educational, and research purposes.

“We’re proud that we can share the area with the broader community, and they can recognize that there is something special about it.”

David Ealey, President of the Wagner Natural Area Society

What makes Wagner Natural Area so special is its fens–a type of wetland that forms when groundwater rises to the surface–giving the area a strong source of water and nutrients. Fens represent a small sample of Alberta’s boreal forest, and they exist due to the aquifers formed during the last ice age, over 10,000 years ago. Those aquifers allow groundwater to flow underground, which in turn seeps downhill into St. Albert’s Big Lake.  

The Marl Pond walking trail is open for visitors, but because of the wetland area, the trail can become incredibly wet and filled with mosquitoes. Waterproof footwear and insect repellant are highly recommended. Along the trail, you’re likely to see a variety of wildlife such as willow swamps, black spruce forests, and marl ponds themselves.

“The wetland provides suitable conditions for the growth of a lot of different vegetation, which is epitomized by our orchids,” says Ealey. The area hosts 16 of Alberta’s 24 orchid species–including lady’s slipper and the rare bog adder’s mouth–as well as marsh marigolds, sundews, and butterworts.

Bird watchers can have a field day observing such species as the ruby-crowned kinglet, tree swallow, and yellow warbler known to be found in the area around this time of year. Because of the area’s proximity to the surrounding communities, large mammals from beavers and coyotes to white-tailed deer and even moose are harder to come across. 

To combat the spread of COVID-19 earlier this year, Wagner Natural Area canceled all calendar events until further notice, although those who look after the area anticipated that summer visiting hours will be known some time during the summer. The washrooms and picnic shelters on-site are also closed. Signage is set up along the Marl Pond Trail that encourages visitors to practice safe social distancing and clean up after themselves so everyone can enjoy the trail. 

Wagner Natural Area was originally discovered by naturalists in the 1940s and was later named after property owner William Wagner, who gave the original parcel of land to the provincial government for protection in 1975. Supervising the natural area is the Wagner Natural Area Society, which was created in 1982 under the Alberta Government’s Societies Act to protect the biological and physical wellbeing of the park. 

In 1986, the society joined the Alberta Government’s Volunteer Stewards program. These volunteers maintain exceptional park conditions and foster a commitment to conservation for the park. The society functions to coordinate special events in the natural area, such as guided tours for elementary schools, academic research studies for summer students, and hosting Junior Forest Wardens to help evaluate the growth of the park. 

According to Ealey, several thousand visitors annually flock to Wagner Natural Area to experience the array of family-friendly events and wildlife.

“We have different visitors for different reasons, and people add so much to their personal wellbeing by being able to connect with a natural area that is special, that is cared for, and that is interesting to experience.” 

David Ealey, President of the Wagner Natural Area Society

Wagner Natural Area Visitor Advisory

  • Soil moisture count is high, so bring waterproof boots
  • Keep dogs on a leash at all times
  • Insect repellent is highly recommended
  • The area is pedestrian-only, so no bikes, ATVs, etc.
  • No sanitation-removal facilities are on-site, so take all garbage with you when leaving
  • Additional information:
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FireFly Theatre

Aerial theatre company Firefly takes performance art to new heights. As an aerial artist, Annie Dugan literally experiences a series of ups and downs in her work. But while she’s …Read More
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Aerial theatre company Firefly takes performance art to new heights.

As an aerial artist, Annie Dugan literally experiences a series of ups and downs in her work. But while she’s equipped to take on those altitude variances, she’d rather do without handling the more metaphorical highs and lows inherent in running her company, Firefly Theatre.

A case in point was the pandemic, which shut down pretty much every business that didn’t sport a grocery or liquor storefront, just when Dugan was polishing off plans to introduce the company’s first annual Alberta Circus Arts Festival.

“I came up with it before the pandemic and it just takes a little while when you have a brand new idea for a festival, They don’t happen overnight. There’s a lot of planning, thought and design and fundraising. We had it already to start in 2020, and of course that didn’t happen.”

Annie Dugan, Firefly’s artistic director

Two years later, when vaccinations and government quarantine directives mitigated the dangers of Covid, Firefly was ready to take another shot at it circus arts festival debut, retaining most of the lineup from the aborted 2020 version. But just days before the event, a flood at their choice venue of La Cité Francophone created a scramble to reassemble the proceedings at the University of Alberta’s Timms Centre. 

If there’s a sense of guarded optimism that all will go well for the second annual event, slated to run June 22-25 at La Cité Francophone and the Mill Creek Ravine, Dugan’s covered it up with bubbly enthusiasm. “We have contemporary circus coming from across Canada,” she said, wistfully pointing out one of its main attractions, Quebecois troupe Barka, an 18-piece ensemble of musicians and performers fusing dance music with circus disciplines. The band will also be on hand to inaugurate the festival with a dance party. “It gets everybody hyped up and gives you an outlet to dance and have a good time,” Dugan added.

Also on the itinerary is the profound “Twist of Fate,” a solo show by Angola Murdoch, a gymnast sidelined by scoliosis, although she uses her aerial talents to tell her remarkable story. Another female one-hander is “Deep Dish,” which stars Winnipeg contortionist Samantha Halas, who revisits her formative years working as a waitress. “She has these crazy skills she does with pizzas,” noted Dugan.

A mixed bag of Canadian circus performers will take part in the festival’s “North by Northwest” cabaret as well as a free family-friendly event in Mill Creek Ravine. Rounding out the proceedings will be a series of workshops that will include such skill sets as stilt-walking and juggling.

Ever since Dugan and her husband, local actor John Ullyatt founded the company in 2000, Firefly’s entertainment programming has not only delivered some all-ages fare, the company has also taken on some heady, surreal stuff. One production tackled a two-decade odyssey of the corpse of Argentinean icon Eva Peron. Another recent show explored the hellish works of Dante, while yet another aerial presentation concerned one man’s obsession with rubber ducks. 

Regardless of the content, Firefly’s won over a loyal audience, not only in Edmonton but worldwide, via the company’s performances at the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland, a Canada Day celebration in London, England, and at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. The company has also received such honours as the City of Edmonton Excellence Award in Arts and Culture and a Mayor’s Award for Innovative Artistic Direction.

Former New Yorker Dugan first joined a circus in her region when she was 21, riding horses. After taking some time off to learn about theatre, she discovered an acrobatic style that would change her life.

“When I got out of theatre school, I saw some people working on aerial silks and the corde lisse [a vertically-suspended rope], which is very new and that really hit North America in the mid-‘90s. That style of working was developed in France in the ‘80s. To me, it looked like a fabulous way to tell stories.”

Annie Dugan, Firefly’s artistic director

Dugan boned up on the intricacies of aerial art and took time off to head to Edmonton to play at the Edmonton Street Performers Festival in 1997 and the Fringe Festival in 1998. She made the permanent move to the Alberta capital in 1999. “I had a rope and I had trapeze and I wanted to find a place where I could hang them and train, and there wasn’t one anywhere,” she recalled. “I found a gymnastics club that let me hang my equipment and myself and John Ulyatt, we formed our company and started creating.”

They created more than an aerial theatre company, but a whole mini-industry focused on circus art. Since Firefly’s inception, scores of artists have learned the craft at the company and incorporated that knowledge into subsequent projects. “There are three circus schools and recreational circus schools in town which were started from people who came from Firefly,” said Dugan.

And while the business end of aerial arts has its own peaks and valleys, Dugan credits another unpredictable element that tipped the scales in her decision to stay in Edmonton, namely the nice summer weather the city enjoyed during her previous two visits. “I had a great time,” Dugan said. “The sun was shining, and I’m telling you, if the weather was bad, and if it rained and snowed, we might not be talking now.”

FireFly Theatre

Alberta Circus Arts Festival

June 22 - 25

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Fishing Alberta’s Capital Region

One of the best-kept secrets of living in the greater Edmonton area is the diversity of fishing opportunities right out our back door. The North Saskatchewan River slides lazily through …Read More
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One of the best-kept secrets of living in the greater Edmonton area is the diversity of fishing opportunities right out our back door. The North Saskatchewan River slides lazily through the heart of the city, there are numerous stocked ponds in and around Edmonton, as well as several lakes offering excellent fishing just a short drive away. If you’re new to fishing, it can be a daunting task—understanding where and how to begin can be overwhelming if you don’t have a mentor to help you along. Fortunately, the road to fishing success, even for first-timers, is paved with a plethora of online resources to help you and your family land the first of many wriggling fish in no time.


Licensing and Regulations

Fishing in Alberta is governed by annual regulations that define when and where you can to fish, what methods you’re allowed to use, and how many fish you can keep. Be aware that these regulations vary between waterbodies and species of fish, so always “check the regs” for the river, lake or pond you plan to fish. 

First off, you’ll need to get your license, unless you’re under the age of 16 or over 65, then you’re off the hook so to speak. If you’re a first-time license holder, you’ll also need a WIN (Wildlife Identification Number). Licenses and WINs can be purchased at most outdoor retailers, or you can buy them online.

To view the fishing regulations, or to purchase your WIN and fishing licence, go to


Learning to Fish

If you’re new to fishing, a great way to start is by taking two informative fishing education programs offered by Alberta Hunter Education Instructors' Association (AHEIA). The first, the Alberta Fishing Education Program, consists of eight modules that take you through step-by-step key aspects of learning to fish—including an overview of Alberta’s fisheries management, fish identification, basic equipment and techniques, cleaning and cooking your catch, understanding safety considerations, and more. Best of all, it’s absolutely free! Check it out at Alberta Fishing Education Program | AHEIA

Learning to identify the species of fish you’re catching is important, particularly since regulations about how many you can keep differ between species. Fortunately, AHEIA’s online Identification of Alberta's Game Fish Quiz will teach you what to look for in identifying your fish, and the common mistakes made in differentiating between species. This free course is available at Identification of Alberta's Game Fish Quiz | AHEIA


Basic Equipment and Techniques

One of the best things about fishing is that it’s easy—getting started requires minimal equipment that’s both affordable and simple to use. While fishing retailers can be imposing places for newcomers, with their endless shelves of rods, reels, lures and other fishing gear, you’ll find that the staff welcoming and ready to help you find the tackle you need.

To get started, and depending upon where you plan to fish, you’ll need a basic spinning reel and rod combination, fishing line, a leader, some split-shot weight to get your bait down into the water column, a bobber or two, and a small selection of hooks and lures. Some rod/reel combinations even come with a basic selection of tackle that’s enough to get you started catching fish. Expect to pay less than $50 in total to get outfitted.

Practice casting and retrieving in a nearby open field before you hit the water. Tie on a small weight instead of hook when doing this—it’s much safer this way!

You’ll also find lots of information online to help you on your journey. One of the very best and most comprehensive sites is

Depending on where and what you’ll be fishing for, your setup and how you use it will vary. Following are some tips to get you started.


Stocked Ponds

Ponds stocked with rainbow trout are easy to fish and a great choice for novice anglers. A common setup requires that you tie a single hook directly to the end of your line. Bait your hook with either a piece of worm or a leech. Note: There are bait restrictions on some bodies of water, so be sure to check the regulations before you head out. Crimp on a couple small split-shot weights about 24 inches above the hook, and attach a bobber a couple feet above that. Cast your bait out, then let it sit, watching the bobber for any sign a fish has taken the bait. If the bobber is moving, or disappears under the water, give your line a slight tug to set the hook, and then reel in your prize. If you’re not having any luck, adjust the height of the bobber to present the bait either shallower or deeper. You don’t need to cast out far on stocked ponds, as most fish will be found no more than 30 feet from shore.



Pike, walleye and perch are the common fish species in most of the lakes in the greater Edmonton area that are not stocked with trout. They can be caught on a variety of tackle, including lures that you cast and retrieve, or bait, where legal, presented under a bobber or affixed to a jig, then cast out and slowly retrieved. When casting baited jigs, make sure your jig is heavy enough that it’s bouncing along the bottom as you reel it in—that’s where the fish are most likely to be. When fishing with lures, such as spoons or spinners, retrieve them just quickly enough that you can feel them wobbling as they’re pulled through the water. Tie a wire leader to your line whenever fishing pike waters as these toothy fish may bite through your line and take your lure with them!



The challenge when fishing rivers, especially the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton and area, is the current. If you fish with bait, you’ll need to use enough weight that your bait sits relatively stationary on the bottom. With enough weight, baited jigs and “pickerel rigs” are sure to attract fish. Our river is home to a wide variety of fish species, from relatively small goldeye to gargantuan lake sturgeon— you never know what's on the end of the line when you feel that first tug. Casting spoons, spinners and other hard-bodied lures is also effective, but generally not as productive in the river as fishing with bait. 


Where to Go

Living in the greater capital region means you have access to a wide range of fishing-friendly waters. For beginning anglers, stocked trout ponds provide an easy, safe and rewarding way to dip your toe into the angler’s world. Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) and the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) stock a long list of ponds and lakes each year with rainbow trout. Check out ACA Stocked Lakes - ACA ( for the full list. 

One of the more popular local stocked ponds is the Hermitage Park Pond on the east side of Edmonton. This pond is open to the public and invites family fishing, making it ideal for learning to fish. You can cast from shore or, bring along a canoe, kayak or other non-motorized boat. Each angler is allowed to keep up to five rainbow trout, perfect for a family meal of fresh-caught fish!

There are many other family-friendly stocked ponds in the region, with favourites including Beaumont Pond, Gibbons Park Pond and Muir Lake.

The North Saskatchewan River is home to a wide diversity of fish species, and on a good day you can easily catch three, four or five different types of fish! Popular fishing spots along the river include Dawson Park, Hermitage Park, Strathcona Science Park, Gold Bar Park and Whitemud Park—although virtually any place you can get access to the riverbank will produce fish. Creek mouths, storm water discharges, bridge pilings, riprap shorelines, back eddies, foam lines and natural deep holes all offer prime holding and feeding habitat for fish. When all else fails, select deeper water over shallower water, remembering that outside bends in the river are typically faster and deeper than inside turns.

Note: The North Saskatchewan River is deep and moves more swiftly than it appears to. For safety reasons, children should not be permitted to fish along the river unless accompanied by an adult and should wear personal flotation devices, even when fishing from shore.

For those interested in fishing one of the capital region’s many lakes, popular destinations include Wabamun Lake, Lac Ste. Anne, Pigeon Lake, and Gull Lake. Those are but a few, but there are many other lakes that offer wonderful fishing opportunities, both from shore or from a boat. Be sure to check the regulations as to how many fish you are permitted to keep. 

Fishing offers hours and hours of fun for kids and the whole family! There’s no better time to learn than now. 

Produced and sponsored by Alberta Conservation Association.

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Northeast of Edmonton

Fun and quirky sites–and sights–for day trips There are so many things to do and see within a short drive of the area. The areas north, east, and northeast of …Read More
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Fun and quirky sites–and sights–for day trips

There are so many things to do and see within a short drive of the area. The areas north, east, and northeast of the city are home to an array of unusual, memorable, and fun roadside attractions. Most of them are viewable from within a family vehicle, but as long as you maintain proper physical distancing, you can get closer–and enjoy some photo ops! 

10 excursion options for your summer day-tripping 

David Thompson Monument

Lac La Biche David Thompson statue

The 3.6-metre-tall statue on the lake shore was built to commemorate Lac La Biche’s bicentennial and to recognize David Thompson’s landing on the shores of the lake–a French translation from the Cree moniker of “Lake of the Elk.” Thompson was the first European to reach the shores of Lac La Biche, arriving in 1798 while searching for the elusive Northwest Passage. Find it on Google Maps

St. Paul UFO Landing Pad

You will see this landmark–the world’s first UFO landing pad–as you enter St. Paul from the west. It was built in 1967 and at its grand opening that June, St. Paul was declared the Centennial Capital of Canada. Located next door is a tourist information centre. The pad’s been a boon for tourism, including a few international UFO conferences. Find it on Google Maps

Mundare Sausage Monument

You can’t miss the world’s largest sausage when driving through Mundare. It sticks out like a...big sausage. The 42-foot-tall statue is a tribute to Stawnichy’s Meat Processing, a family-run sausage factory founded in 1959 that is famous for its kielbasa. However, it’s not likely the family has ever produced a sausage as big as this one: it is over 5,443 kilos (12,000 lbs.) and made of brown fiberglass. Find it on Google Maps

Vegreville Pysanka Monument (image at top)

The Vegreville egg makes for an iconic photo backdrop. Located, appropriately enough, at 4500 Pysanka Avenue, the Ukrainian-style Easter egg was designed by artist Paul Maxum Sembaliuk and was unveiled in 1975. An intricate set of two-dimensional aluminum tiles make up the geometric patterns (524 hexagonal stars and 2,208 equilateral triangles, in case anyone wants to keep count) over an aluminum frame. Hey, a snow shaker replica of the Pysanka even made it into an episode of The X-Files. Find it on Google Maps

Vilna Mushroom Monument

The sculpture known as World’s Largest Mushrooms is located in the village of Vilna, just a block away from Main Street. The gargantuan fungi may look like something out of Alice in Wonderland, but is actually a giant replica of the tricholoma uspale mushroom which grows wild in the area and is often used as an ingredient in regional dishes. Mushroom hunting has been a tradition in Vilna since Ukrainian settlers arrived in the early 1900s. Find it on Google Maps

Glendon Pyrogy Monument

If you love the doughy dumpling, you won’t want to miss seeing the World’s Largest Pyrogy in Glendon, on Highway 28. You won’t need a fork–the 8.2 metre sculpture which weighs 2,721 kilograms is already mounted on one, to make it more recognizable. It’s fiberglass with a metal frame and was built in 1991. Find it on Google Maps

Andrew Mallard Monument

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it might be a testament to the sculpture of a mallard with a wingspan of 23 feet (7.2 metres). Weighing in at one tonne, the mallard was built in the village of Andrew to commemorate the wetlands areas in the district. It comes as no surprise that the area is a popular breeding ground for mallards. No actual mallards have ever been reported as being this size, however. Find it on Google Maps

Smoky Lake Pumpkin Park

Smoky Lake’s Pumpkin Park features a sculpture of seven large pumpkins. They’re not oversized, but replicas of winning entries from the town’s annual Great White North Pumpkin Fair and Weigh-Off that’s a must-see event for gourd fanatics. They’ve had a number gigantic winners, including one weighing in at 854.5 kilos (1,884 lbs.), a site record since 2017. Find it on Google Map

Bonnyville Splash Park giant moose shower

Not many kids can claim to shower beneath a giant water-spewing moose, but then not everyone lives by Bonnyville Splash Park, where the antlered behemoth is visible to spectators up to several blocks away. It’s probably the most unique aspect of the splash park, and if you have kids, they will get a kick out of it. The park is also located near some walking and biking trails if you’re up for more recreational activity. Find it on Google Map

Cold Lake 4 Wing Gateway Park

If you feel like making the trip up to Cold Lake, a visit to the 4 Wing Gateway Park offers a number of aircraft on mounted display in striking poses near the roadway. You can park and gaze at such legendary fighter jets as the CF-5 Freedom Fighter and the CT-133 Silver Star, located outside Cold Lake Air Force Museum. If the museum’s open, more nifty displays await. Find it on Google Map

[post_title] => Northeast of Edmonton [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => northeast-of-edmonton [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-03-20 15:08:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-03-20 21:08:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [_excerpt] => Fun and quirky sites–and sights–for day trips There are so many things to do and see within a short drive of the area. The areas north, east, and northeast of … ) 1

Urban Foraging

A growing movement toward wild-harvested food has no trouble seeing the forest for the trees. “Production right now is relatively minor, but in two or three years we’re going to …Read More
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A growing movement toward wild-harvested food has no trouble seeing the forest for the trees.

“Production right now is relatively minor, but in two or three years we’re going to start seeing our first flush of fruit,” remarks Kenton Zerbin, permaculture teacher and consultant. Zerbin is referring to the St. Albert Community Food Forest, the first of its kind in town.

Together with local urban agriculture enthusiasts, Zerbin designed this site using permaculture techniques, an approach to growing food that mimics the design of natural ecosystems for self-sufficiency. He estimates that in five-to-seven years the forest will reach its capacity, offering a safe nutritious source of edibles such as plums, red currants, gooseberries, haskap berries, saskatoons, comfrey, and more. And lots of it—free for whoever wants it.

Ripe for the Picking

Food forestry and permaculture might be unfamiliar concepts to many, but they’re part of a growing realization that cities are chock full of potential when it comes to food. It’s literally all around us—in city parks, in the woods, alongside rivers and roadways. Numerous books detail the variety of edible fruit, plant, and mushroom species available in Central Alberta—much of it on public land, available to anyone with a bucket and a little know-how.

The appeal of urban foraging is understandable, as any trip to the grocery store will uncover. Healthy food ain’t cheap. In 2013, the Edmonton Community Foundation reported that food costs had risen by more than double the overall inflation rate over the past 10 years. Food prices are notoriously volatile—in 2018 the Edmonton Food Bank distributed more than $22,000,000 worth of food. 

A World of Foraging Possibilities

On paper, it seems there’s little stopping us from getting out there and taking advantage of the cornucopia of produce growing wild all around us, but obstacles exist. The first is knowing where to look. Cue the Internet, where maps have been popping up pinpointing precise locations of fruit trees and other edible plants around the world. 

The biggest roadblock, however, is probably time and energy. Supermarket produce might be pricer, but it’s easy, and this is the likely cause of why so much backyard fruit goes to waste. Considering that an average apple tree can produce more than 100 kg of apples in a year, for some households even a single tree can be too much. And when you consider how many trees a city may have, both public and private, this adds up to a staggering amount of food that’s, unfortunately, for the birds.

Locally, Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) musters volunteers to harvest backyard trees of homeowners unable to use their fruit. The haul from each pick is divvied up, with roughly a quarter each going to the homeowner, the volunteers, OFRE, and a charity such as the Food Bank or Hope Mission.

Reshaping Cities and Attitudes

In Edmonton, a food forest has sprung up in the MacKinnon Ravine, just west of downtown. The MacKinnon Food Forest began in 2014 as part of Root for Trees, an initiative by the City to plant trees, with a minimum target of 16,000 a year in order to increase Edmonton’s canopy cover from 10 to 20 percent.

The MacKinnon Food Forest bears highbush cranberries, currants, beaked hazelnuts, saskatoons, chokecherries, pin cherries, raspberries, elderberries, and strawberries. All are native plants, as designer Dustin Bajer points out.

“That was one of the ways we were able to do something like this,” Bajer says. “I don’t think the City would’ve been onboard had it been non-native species.”

Building a Food Forest 101

Permaculture aims to re-create ecosystems that not only produce food, but are also self-sustaining. Fortunately, Mother Nature gives us a pretty good model to riff on. Forests are made up of layers, from the canopy and understory to the ground cover and roots—and each has a function.

Canopies provide shade and protection so lower plants can thrive; meanwhile, perennials in the herbaceous layer die each year, feeding essential nutrients back into the soil. It’s this interplay between layers that makes a forest more than the sum of its parts, and it’s an incredibly efficient and resilient system that sustains many species of plants and animals in a small area.

As such, a good food forest design optimizes available sunlight, water, and soil through the careful arrangement of elements. Beyond that, the forest is more or less left to its own devices. 

[post_title] => Urban Foraging [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => urban-foraging-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-03-20 08:35:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-03-20 14:35:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [_excerpt] => A growing movement toward wild-harvested food has no trouble seeing the forest for the trees. “Production right now is relatively minor, but in two or three years we’re going to … ) 1

Exploring our night skies

Look up—way up—at Mother Nature’s time machine It’s crazy to think that all those stars we see on a clear night could already be gone. That’s why stargazing is like …Read More
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Look up—way up—at Mother Nature’s time machine

It’s crazy to think that all those stars we see on a clear night could already be gone. That’s why stargazing is like witnessing time travel in its simplest form. This Einsteinian fact has everything to do with the distance that light has to travel to get to us. Witnessing this blast from the past, however, is hindered by the presence of light pollution, which makes all but the brightest stars invisible. Fortunately, areas of land across the world are being set aside where the only light to be seen is from the sky above you. So, getting out of the city to take in the full glory of a cloudless night is easy—all you need is time, a few astronomy basics, plus a blanket to keep you warm. Take a look.

Stargazing and city living may seem an unlikely mix, but being limited to the stars that are visible in urban areas can help you pick out the brighter ones with just a pair of binoculars. You can also invest in one of three basic types of telescopes: a refractor that uses lenses, a reflector that uses mirrors or a catadioptric that uses lenses and mirrors. Remember, however, that moonlight can hinder good sky viewing. Also, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day because it constantly shifts about 13 degrees towards the east. Keep this in mind to minimize moonlight interference when you set up your telescope or point your binoculars towards the heavens.

Stargazing really doesn’t require more than a healthy dose of wonder and a few astronomy basics. Books and websites are also great resources to help you locate constellations, planets, galaxies or even the International Space Station. NASA’s website is always a wealth of information, and the RASC’s has a list of Canadian star parties to attend, as well as links to all the DSP sites across Canada. Don’t forget about Edmonton Telus World of Science. Its website lists classes and upcoming events.

So whether you are new to stargazing or were born with a telescope in your hands, looking up at a star that twinkles back at you is always awe-inspiring—especially when that star’s light took tens-of-thousands of years to reach Earth.

Dark-Sky Preserves

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) describes dark-sky preserves (DSP) as land found in or around parks that have a reduction or elimination of artificial light. Besides being a great place to view the night sky, DSPs also help nocturnal animals, plants and humans keep to their normal Circadian rhythms.

Beaver Hills Dark-Sky Preserve, Alberta

Location: Elk Island National Park, including Cooking-Lake Blackfoot Provincial Area

Size: 293 square km

RASC designation: Received DSP status on September 2006, on Elk Island’s 100th Anniversary

Astronomy in the park: The Edmonton RASC has been visiting this preserve for over 20 years. It holds public astronomy programs, but also raises awareness about the damaging effects that light pollution has on the environment.

Jasper National Park Dark-Sky Preserve, Alberta

Locations: Marmot Meadows, Athabasca Glacier, Jasper House and Pyramid Island

Size: 11,228 square km

RASC designation: Received DSP status March 2011

[post_title] => Exploring our night skies [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => nightsky [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-03-20 13:40:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-03-20 19:40:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [_excerpt] => Look up—way up—at Mother Nature’s time machine It’s crazy to think that all those stars we see on a clear night could already be gone. That’s why stargazing is like … ) 1


Experiencing a wilder, wetter side of St. Albert The Sturgeon River has provided many different things throughout the central Alberta region’s history, from food and water to transportation, habitation and …Read More
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Experiencing a wilder, wetter side of St. Albert

The Sturgeon River has provided many different things throughout the central Alberta region’s history, from food and water to transportation, habitation and recreation. These days, a growing appreciation of the local waterway’s ecological importance and understated beauty is drawing many folks from the Edmonton area and surrounding communities back to the water. And there are so many ways to enjoy that water now, too, including by kayak. These ancient, low-impact watercraft are not only fun and easy to use, but also provide an entirely new perspective of our home by the river.

Close to Water

There’s no preamble, no safety lessons or even a kayaking 101 lecture. Within a few minutes of showing up at the boat launch in Riel Park, I’m on the water in a 12-foot, 50-lb. kayak, as if I’ve been doing this sort of thing for years. (I haven’t.) Not that there’s much need for formalities—unlike many other recreational activities, kayaking really is as easy as it looks. The distinctive boat sits low in the water, giving it greater stability than a typical canoe. Manoeuvrable and quick, it responds very well, even for the novice, darting forward with just a few strokes and (almost) stopping on a dime. It’s a comfortable ride, too—braces inside the seating area, including a backrest and footrests, make for easy, low-impact exploration.

The Sturgeon River is also a great venue for the first-time kayaker. According to Sean Demidovich of Active Recreational Rentals, the Sturgeon is a big draw for many of his customers, especially through the spring and early summer. A popular route for many clients is to float downstream from Riel Park to downtown or even further.

On this mid-July morning, however, weeds are already choking much of the sluggish river. Instead of heading off for a jaunt through town, for a few minutes I simply try out the area around the boat launch, getting a feel for the water. Unlike other modes of aquatic travel, kayaks really put you in touch with the thing you’re moving through—you feel you’re in the water, as much as you’re on it. I stop for a moment to watch the dark head of a muskrat bobbing past as it crosses from one bank to the other. Then I turn the kayak upstream and make my way to more open water.

Birds of a Feather

Another advantage of kayaks, at least as far as the soloist is concerned, is the paddle. The distinctive spoon blades at either end allow for more strokes and a rhythmic pace, as the kayaker isn’t constantly switching the paddle from one side of the boat to the other. This means kayaks tend to “track” (i.e. move in a straight line) more easily than other watercraft. While canoes don’t necessarily require more skill to paddle, the fact is even a beginner like myself can feel (and look) pretty masterful in a kayak.

Though there’s no current to fight against, I take my time as one of the river’s greatest draws soon reveals itself. The riverbanks and in the shallows of Big Lake are home to a great diversity of birds. I spot three dowitchers, plump birds on stick-like legs that poke for invertebrates in the mud with their long, sensitive beaks. As I coast toward them, the wary birds swim off into the denseness of the rushes.

Meanwhile, a male red-winged blackbird flies back and forth across the river, perching on the tall rushes on either side. While the females tend to stay out of sight, the males are gregarious attention-getters, with the plumage to match: glossy black all over with bright, orange-red shoulder patches that flutter beautifully when the bird is in flight.

Black terns are another recognizable species, spotted more easily for their distinctive hunting behaviour than their grey-to-dark colouring. Like dragonflies, they hover over the water and frequently dart at the surface when they spot a soon-to-be unfortunate bug or fish. They’re also known for aggressively defending their nests by dive-bombing anyone who wanders too close, to the point that the nearby boardwalk had to be shut down at one point.

A Big Lake

In many ways, a kayak is the perfect way to explore the nooks and crannies of the Sturgeon and the lake it flows through. Those slow-moving waters offer little resistance, allowing paddlers to explore at their leisure. Compared to other watercraft, especially the motorized variety, kayaks have less of an impact on the environment. As self-powered vehicles, they don’t leak gas or oil into water and their lower speeds in shallow waters don’t cause erosion to shorelines.

On the other hand, any vehicle (and the human presence that accompanies it) causes at least some disruption to fragile ecosystems. The fact that kayaks can go places other vehicles can’t—like uncomfortably close to nesting areas—places the onus on the user to enjoy this environment responsibly. It’s one good reason why Alberta Parks has considered enacting a total boat ban for Big Lake as part of the draft management plan for the provincial park that surrounds it.

Such a ban would be disappointing to some boaters, but it would be understandable. The lake, the centrepiece of Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park, is known for its wetlands habitat, an ecosystem valued for its ability to absorb and purify large amounts of water, process carbon and inorganic nutrients, stabilize shorelines, and provide food and homes to a wide range of plants and animals, especially birds. Wetlands are considered the most biologically diverse of ecosystems, and at Big Lake it’s easy to see why. Up to 237 bird species have been recorded there, with around 180 reportedly using the site annually. Due to this diversity of life, and the importance of the provincial park in conserving the wetlands, Big Lake is recognized globally as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), a listing developed by BirdLife International to recognize important bird habitats around the world.

Back Again

After two hours of paddling, with the water refracting the midday sun and a blanket of heat hazing the surroundings, it’s time to head back to Riel. Like other journeys, things look different on the return. On the horizon, new subdivisions are going up as a fast-growing city, by necessity, swallows up the open spaces around it. One wonders how we’ll experience this and other natural places in the future, and if we’ll be able to balance a newfound appreciation with the competing demands of development, recreation, and conservation.


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Cooking over the fire

Where There are S’mores, There’s Fire A rite of summer on the Prairies, the classic campfire lights the way to a glorious evening Anyone who’s sat around a campfire as …Read More
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Where There are S’mores, There’s Fire A rite of summer on the Prairies, the classic campfire lights the way to a glorious evening

Anyone who’s sat around a campfire as twilight turns to night knows how easy it is to lose one’s thoughts in a flicker of flame. After all, there’s something about a blazing fire that takes us away from the world and its worries, to a place in our minds that’s primeval and mysterious. Perhaps fire fascinates us because it’s a study in opposites—one moment, it’s dangerous and the next moment, it’s a source of comfort. Whatever it is, those flames have been casting their spell for a very long time.

Philosophical musings aside, most can agree that few things set the mood for an evening of relaxing companionship like a hearty fire. Whether you’re at a campground, cabin, or just chilling around your backyard fire pit, a crackling fire is a perfect way to wind down your summer days. It all starts with some firewood and a sturdy axe. Make sure you leave a few thick, slow-burning logs to toss on as the fire starts to dim. Just don’t forget the marshmallows, once you’ve got a decent fire happening.


Building a Campfire 101

The ingredients of a campfire are simple: heat, oxygen, and fuel. The heat is easily supplied with a lighter or matches, and the oxygen is all around you, so that leaves the fuel.

You’ll need three types: tinder, kindling, and chopped firewood. The tinder should be easy to ignite—paper, leaves, even lint will do. Make a loose pile that can breathe easily, then build your kindling around it. Kindling consists of smaller pieces of wood like sticks, branches, or wood chips. These will catch fire easily, but burn longer than tinder.

Next, light the tinder in several places, and fan or blow on it to supply more oxygen. As the flames grow and the kindling catches, start feeding it with firewood—carefully, and with smaller pieces first, until the fire’s well on its way. Kick back and enjoy your night by firelight.


Where to Get Firewood

For the occasional fire builder, it’s easy to buy firewood in the Edmonton area, where many stores, supermarkets, and service stations sell it in bags and boxes. A bundle of wood is typically 0.75 cubic feet, roughly containing up to nine pieces and selling for less than $10. Depending on how big or how long-burning you want your fire to be, five to ten bundles should do for an evening’s fire. Like most things, buying in greater quantities is more economical, and if you’re planning on a lot of fires this summer, bigger might be better.

Also available at many stores are composite logs. Made from sawdust and wood waste cut into log shapes, these products are arguably a greener alternative, as they burn longer and more efficiently than firewood, and give off less carbon monoxide. A six-pack of three-hour logs typically costs between $15 and $25.


Upscale Your S’mores

When the fire’s good and roaring, the natural inclination is to bring out the smokies, the traditional main course of many fireside feasts. And you can’t forget a kiddie favorite like the s’more, consisting of two graham crackers, one golden oozing marshmallow and one chunk of chocolate. But adults might want to tinker with the s’mores formula to suit more mature tastes. So it doesn’t hurt to experiment with dark or flavoured chocolate, substitute oatcakes or cookies for the graham crackers, or dunk your creation in a salted-caramel sauce. You’re only limited by the number of marshmallows left in the bag. Here’s a recipe to get you started.

“Gourmet” Cherry Chocolate S’mores
  • 1 artisanal marshmallow (because we’re being fancy here)
  • 2 butter cookies (but not shortbread, which will crumble)
  • 1 square cherry-flavoured chocolate (the really expensive kind)
  • 1 tbsp cherry preserves (that’s jam)

Toast marshmallow over an open flame. Top one cookie with chocolate, artisanal toasted marshmallow, cherry preserves, and the remaining reserved cookie. Eat.


Firepit Rules and Regs

In Edmonton, the Community Standards Bylaw regulates fire pit usage. According to this bylaw, fire pits must be installed a minimum of three metres from buildings, property lines, and anything that can burn. They should be less than 0.6 metres high and a metre wide, and they should have enclosed sides and a mesh screen with openings no larger than 1.25 cm. Care should be taken to minimize the amount of smoke a fire creates, and, as elsewhere, fire bans must be respected. For fuel, only use charcoal or clean, dry wood (in other words, no pallet fires in your backyards please). For more info, check the City of Edmonton website or one that’s pertinent to your municipality or county.

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AN ANGLER’S PARADISE Fishing in Alberta

Despite being landlocked, Alberta has a lot to offer when it comes to sport fishing. There are over 600 freshwater lakes in this province and about 250 rivers, each with …Read More
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Despite being landlocked, Alberta has a lot to offer when it comes to sport fishing. There are over 600 freshwater lakes in this province and about 250 rivers, each with its own unique joys and challenges for anglers. And these days, there’s a lot more to a fishing trip than spending long days alone with your thoughts. It can also be the perfect reason to travel this beautiful province of ours, making memories with friends and family and learning new skills as you go. And, of course, few things are more satisfying than catching your own dinner. Thanks to the help of the Internet, it has never been easier to learn the ropes, find the best spots and learn how to be a responsible fisher. Here’s where we started. Take a look.

The laws and regulations surrounding sport fishing in Alberta are numerous, but the basics are simple. If you’re between the ages of 16 and 65, the first things you’ll need before getting out on the water are a Wildlife Identification Number and a fishing licence. You can purchase these online or at participating retail locations, such as Canadian Tire. Each body of water has its own season, as well as its own limits on which fish you can keep and how many, so before you head out, familiarize yourself with the specific rules that govern your destination.

Although you can go fishing just about anywhere that fish are found, some locations make for better fishing trips than others.
Here are a few regional favourites.

Pigeon Lake
• Friendly to campers, families and pets
• One of the best destinations for catching
• Walleye in Alberta (Special Walleye Licence required to keep catches)

Find Pigeon Lake via THIS MAP


Wabaman Lake
• A catch-and-release lake, perfect for those who love to fish but aren’t interested in the cooking part of the process Calm waters ideal for introducing kids to the sport
• Camping and boat rentals nearby
• Home to Pike, Yellow Perch and Whitefish

Find Wabamun Lake via THIS MAP


Lac la Biche
• Beautiful island campground that allows you quick and easy access to the water
• Home to Perch, Whitefish and Burbot Bow

Find Lac La Biche via THIS MAP


River (Calgary)
• Provides a challenge for those wishing to improve their skills
• Top fly-fishing destination in Alberta
• Home to many varieties of Trout


Athabasca River
• Camping friendly
• Ideal for shore-side fishing
• Home to Burbot, Goldeye and Northern Pike


If you’re new to fishing, it may seem like there are a lot of fishing regulations that might detract from the fun of the sport. But not only are these regulations easy to follow, once you get a handle on them, you’ll appreciate that they serve an important purpose. Alberta’s 600 lakes and 250 rivers are a precious resource that needs to be guarded so that residents can enjoy the sport for generations to come. Respect for the waters, respect for the fish populations and respect for the regulations go a long way to preserving both the beauty of nature and the fun of the sport. So grab your fishing rod, grab some good friends and head out to the water.  There is a whole province just waiting to be explored.


Online Resources You’ll Want to Consult—Visit to register for a fishing licence online.—Learn the specifics of all the fishing laws in Alberta.—A location database, showing species, catch limits, seasons and sizes for each body of water in Alberta.—Provides updates on advisories, bans and restrictions.—Provides lessons and certifications  regarding responsible fishing and wildlife conservation.

[post_title] => AN ANGLER’S PARADISE Fishing in Alberta [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => an-anglers-paradise-fishing-in-alberta [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-03-20 10:29:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-03-20 16:29:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [_excerpt] => Despite being landlocked, Alberta has a lot to offer when it comes to sport fishing. There are over 600 freshwater lakes in this province and about 250 rivers, each with … ) 1