Join us!
Donate Now!
Learn How
Learn How

The Whaleback Region of southwestern Alberta encompasses the most extensive, least disturbed and relatively unfragmented area of Montane landscape in Alberta’s Rocky Mountain natural region.

In fact, it is considered one of the best representatives of Montane landscape, flora and fauna in Canada, with very high habitat diversity. Montane compromises less than 2% of the province’s land area and occurs only where warm Chinook winds blow away the snow cover for much of the winter.

    • Introduction
    • Features
    • Archive
    • Other Areas




    The Whaleback is protected as the ‘Bob Creek Wildland Provincial Park’ and the ‘Black Creek Heritage Rangeland’. It is within AWA’s Livingstone-Porcupine area of concern.

    The Whaleback region is situated in southwest Alberta approximately 140 km south of the City of Calgary just north of the Oldman River and west of the Porcupine Hills. The area includes both the Whaleback Ridge and a portion of the Livingstone Range. The Whaleback falls entirely within the Oldman River basin, providing a large portion of water to the South Saskatchewan River that eventually drains into Hudson Bay via the Saskatchewan and Nelson RiversElevations within the Whaleback range from approximately 1250 metres above sea level in the southeast to approximately 2170 metres above sea level on the crest of the Livingstone Range. Elevations along the Whaleback Ridge range from 1600 metres to 1800 metres.


    The 2004 Black Creek Heritage Rangeland Trail Act introduced a modification to the Heritage Rangeland legislation to allow OHV access, which was banned under the legislation previously. Alberta Wilderness Association is opposed to any recreational OHV access in protected areas.


    Natural Regions

    • The Whaleback is situated in the Rocky Mountain Natural Region. It straddles both the Montane and Sub-Alpine Natural Subregions, essentially encompassing a transitional area between the two.
    • The climate within the Montane Subregion is warmer than other Subregions along the Alberta Foothills. It is characterized by Chinook winds, which keeps the area intermittently snow-free in the winter.


    • Native vegetation within the Whaleback is highly variable, encompassing communities of Montane and Sub-Alpine Natural Subregions, as well as communities transitional between them. The region is comprised of extensive grasslands interspersed with deciduous and coniferous forest. Grassland ecosystems are promoted by moisture deficits at lower elevations and on south and west-facing slopes at higher elevations. Conversely, a positive moisture balance allows for forest growth at higher elevations, as well as on north and northeast-facing slopes at lower elevations.
    • The Whaleback’s grassland communities are predominately rough fescue-dominated. Other grassland species include Parry oat grass, California oat grass, June grass, slender wheat grass, northern wheat grass and hairy wild rye.
    • Douglas fir and Lodgepole pine are the most frequently occurring forest component; with Lodgepole being the most dominate. Other tree species include aspen, balsam popular and white spruce. Limber pine is restricted to exposed ridgetops and sandstone bedrock outcrops. Engelmans spruce and subalpine fir are found at high elevations in the Livingstone Range. Whitebark pine, whose seeds are an important food source for grizzly bears, are found at high elevations at grassland-forest ecotones along the Livingstone Range.
    • Old-growth Douglas-fir stands in the area are over 400 years old, while individual limber pine are up to 575 years old.
    • The Whaleback contains extensive low willow/dwarf birch communities, relatively rare in the Montane Subregion and important moose habitat.
    • Up to 17 significant plant species occur within the Whaleback, of which 13 species are included on the Alberta Natural Heritage Information Centre’s (ANHIC) “tracking list” – elements of high priority because they are rare, endemic, disjunct, in peril or special in some other way. Rare and uncommon plants species of the Whaleback include dwarf fleabane, crested beard beard-tongue, conimitella, silvery everlasting, meadow aster, yellow paintbrush, blue camas, Raynold’s sedge and western sweet cicely.


    • The diversity and interspersion of vegetation types provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife; including approximately 150 bird species, 57 mammal species, 2 reptile species and 4 amphibian species.
    • The location of the Whaleback allows for the overlap of numerous faunal elements ranging from grassland-adapted species (i.e. sagebrush vole, horned lark, tiger salamander), Cordilleran fauna (i.e. pika, Clark’s nutcracker, American dipper) and Boreal-Cordilleran faunal elements (i.e. northern bog lemming, snowshoe hare, willow flycatcher).
    • Ten species of fish are anticipated to inhabit the aquatic systems of the Whaleback, including the mountain whitefish, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and bull trout.
    • Among the numerous bird species found in the area are the long-billed curlew and short-eared owl, both of which have been designated vulnerable by COSEWIC and blue-listed by the Alberta government. Peregrine falcons are also present and have been designated endangered by COSEWIC and red-listed in Alberta. Other avian inhabitants include the osprey, golden eagle, prairie falcon and loggerhead shrike.
    • Along with Ya-Ha-Tinda, the Livingstone-Whaleback area is considered one of the two most important elk wintering ranges in Alberta. Considering that snow depth is a limiting factor for elk, the Whaleback is so important because the south-facing and southwest-facing wind swept grassland slopes and ridges are essentially snow-free throughout much of the winter. The region also provides significant elk summer range and calving area.
    • The Whaleback supports significant mule deer populations throughout the year.
    • The overall density estimates for moose in the region, in particular lower Bob and Camp Creeks, are among the highest reported in North America.
    • A total of eight large carnivore species inhabit the Whaleback at varying levels of abundance: including the grey wolf, coyote, black bear, grizzly bear, wolverine, cougar, lynx and bobcat.
    • The Whaleback, as well as the adjacent Livingstone Range and Porcupine Hills regions, have been identified as having one of the highest densities of cougar populations in Alberta.


    • The Whaleback region is located on the periphery of the Blackfoot and Peigan plains tribes’ ancestral territory. In addition, a well traveled historic route of the Kootenay, Stoney and Flathead peoples followed the broad valley separating the Porcupine Hills and the Rocky Mountain Foothills on the eastern edge of the Whaleback area.


    • The Whaleback Ridge, and adjacent ridges along with the Livingston Sub-Alpine unit to the west, provide outstanding hiking opportunities and relatively rare wilderness viewscape of high aesthetic value.

    September 26, 2017

    Sustainable Forests and Communities

    August 3, 2014

    2004 Black Creek Heritage Rangeland Trails Act

    2004 Black Creek Heritage Rangeland Trails Act, BILL 2 2004_BL_WH.pdf

    Read more »

    December 1, 2008

    Wilderness and Creativity – Reflections from the Whaleback

    Wild Lands Advocate article, December 2008, by Bob Blaxley   200812_ar_wla_whaleback_blaxley.pdf

    Read more »

© 2015, Alberta Wilderness Association. | Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Federally Registered Charity Number 118781251RR0001 Website design by Build Studio