The Canadian Badlands has one of the best night skies on the planet due to a lack of light pollution. That was really brought home to Glenn and I on our last trip to this huge corner of southeastern Alberta. We saw the Northern Lights for the first time in years and constellations that we had never seen before. An extraordinary experience for two urbanites who live in downtown Toronto. One of the best places to view the stars in the Badlands is at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. CypressHills.com
Carole and Andy, our Calgary buddies had waxed poetic about this park for years describing it as their favourite place to camp. When we visited it last year we got to see why. It was a hot July day with temperatures well into the 30C range as we drove along the Trans-Canada highway east of Medicine Hat and suddenly there it was, this giant green oasis rising above the parched prairie. Stradding the Alberta-Saskatchewan border and overlooking Montana’s Sweetgrass Hills. Canada’s only interprovincial park is a combination of rugged mountain terrain and lodgepole pine forest. It is the highest point of land between the Canadian Rockies and Labrador in eastern Canada.
In 2004, a declaration was signed between the provinces on Saskatchewan and Alberta and the Government of Canada, in partnership with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada to designate Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park as a Dark Sky Preserve. There are very few designated Dark Sky Preserves in North America and Cypress Hills is one of the darkest. Astronomy programming is offered year round in the park by both Saskatchewan Parks and Alberta Parks. 2009 coincidentally is the Year of Astronomy so both provincial park bodies have big events planned.