Gooseberry Lake Provincial Park
We spent the May long weekend at Gooseberry Lake Provincial Park near Consort, AB. Admittedly Gooseberry Lake was not our first choice, but the long weekend is always a gathering of a large group of our friends which makes it a bit harder to find sites. At first it looked like there would be nothing to do, but after some research we found enough to keep us busy for the weekend.
There was one hiking trail in the park that basically took you around the whole campground. I did it in three parts throughout the weekend. We were camping in group site C so that is where I started from each time.
You start by walking along the top of the hill where you get some views of the eastern lobe of the lake and then walk through a planted stand of Manitoba maple. Sarah thought this was dumb (Sarah comment: I said this because Manitoba maple spreads like a weed, so planting so much of it seems silly!). Once you get through the trees you walk down the hill to the lake. This is the best side to access the lake for birding because you can get right down to the water, or at least have clear views of the shore. The other areas of the trail go through the bush by the lake and don’t allow good views of the water.
One of the reasons I would keep going down to the lake is because Gooseberry Lake is a piping plover habitat. Piping plovers were named an endangered species by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) in 2013, with about 6500 individuals worldwide.I got very excited each time because I would see a shorebird and imagine it was one. I did end up seeing a few birds that I haven't photographed before. These included American avocets, shovellers and killdeers. I also saw some red winged blackbirds and a huge robin (Sarah comment: When I first pointed out an avocet to Braedyn I wasn’t sure what it was, but Braedyn started freaking out saying it was “definitely” a plover. You can’t get too excited when Braedyn says he is sure about something, because it often turns out that he wasn’t so sure after all… hehe).
If you keep going along the trail you will pass through some willows along the lake. This is where my exploration of the trail had to be divided into parts as there was a section that was flooded pretty deep.
The second part of the trail went behind the campground. Here you would go along a hill that seperates the park from the farmers field behind. I walked back here every day because I thought there were some interesting views that would be great to photograph at sunset. This trail continues around the back of the campground past the other group sites and eventually ends at the golf course.
The golf course was a pleasant surprise. We saw that the green fees were $15 for the nine holes and typically you get what you pay for, but the course was in better condition than expected.
The last section of trail went from the main road in the campground and went to that flooded area mentioned earlier. The only really interesting part of this trail is when you go past the showers (they are $1 showers), spray park, and playground. As I said earlier the best place to access the lake is through the east part of the trail, so I only did this part of the trail once.
The only other thing advertised to do in the park is fishing. However if you do your research you will find that the lake doesn't have any fish, but there is a trout pond. Although if you’re even smarter and check the stocking report, you will see that the pond has not been stocked since 2013. So AB parks really should remove that from the parks description.
Overall I would recommend Gooseberry Lake PP as a place with a different kind of landscape compared to most of the places we usually go. Although, I don't think you could go there every weekend or anything and keep yourself busy. You could go there once or twice to experience the rolling plains but there is not enough to do in the area to make it a regular stop.