Lusicich, Crowsnest Pass, AB (Photo by NCC)

Lusicich, Crowsnest Pass, AB (Photo by NCC)

Castle-Crowsnest Watershed

The Castle-Crowsnest Watershed Natural Area (CCWNA) is located in southwest Alberta in an area known as the Crown of the Continent. Its unique climate and change in elevation, from fescue grassland to alpine, support a high diversity of species. The rich, montane grassland found predominantly in the eastern portion of the Natural Area supports many bird species and several rare plants. It also provides valuable winter range for elk and deer. Stands of limber pine and Douglas-fir are located along the higher elevation ridges. The river systems provide habitat for species of concern, such as harlequin duck and westslope cutthroat and bull trout.

Ecological significance

The CCWNA is located in southwestern Alberta and contains the headwaters of the Crowsnest and Castle rivers, covering a total area of 557,002 acres (225,411 hectares). These systems contribute to the Oldman River system, eventually reaching the South Saskatchewan River. The rivers provide water for prairie communities across western Canada. Along with their tributaries, the Crowsnest and Castle rivers support an important trout fishery while the adjacent riparian zones promote an enormous diversity of breeding birds.

The CCWNA sits in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, within the northern portion of the Crown of the Continent region. The southern Canadian Rockies support the most diverse, intact assemblage of carnivores in North America, and contribute to a system of linkage zones that connect wildlife throughout the Rocky Mountain Cordillera. The CCWNA represents a significant zone for north-south movement by carnivores and an important east-west movement area through the Crowsnest Pass for mammals, including elk, grizzly bear, black bear, wolverine and cougar.

The southern Canadian Rocky Mountains represent one of the most important and strategic sections for carnivores in the interior mountain bioregion, stretching from Yellowstone National Park to the Yukon and beyond. Expanding human development and activities along the Crowsnest transportation corridor pose a threat to maintaining the integrity and connectivity of habitats and populations across this area.


Conservation in the Castle-Crowsnest Watershed is challenged by a major transportation corridor (Canadian Pacific Railway lines and Highway 3) that cross through in an east–west direction. There are seven communities and a mountain resort located within the watershed and industries that include forestry, mining, wind energy and tourism. Additional pressure comes from cross-country motorized recreational activities and resort development. Due to the scenic mountain views and relatively moderate climate, residential growth is on the rise. Increasing residential development also leads to habitat loss and conflicts, and impedes habitat connectivity for grizzly bears and other species.

Conservation objectives

Conservation activities in the Castle-Crowsnest Watershed aim to assist in providing connectivity across and in the vicinity of Highway 3. Our NCC-owned properties are generally available for the public to access for a variety of sustainable recreational activities. Click on the links below (or on the icons on the map image below) for an overview of each property and information on access.

Map instructions: Zoom in to find the property and
click on the red placemarker for more details.

Direct links to each property:

Public access

Public access to NCC properties is managed on a property-by-property basis, depending on the ecological sensitivity of the property and the level of public interest. The map below shows NCC properties that are available for public access. Properties marked as “permission not required” can be accessed by the public at any time. Properties marked as “permission required” limit the timing and number of people accessing the property.

To book time on “permission required” properties, visit our Come Visit Us! page or go directly to the booking site, click here.

View map of properties in Castle-Crowsnest Watershed natural area

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