The Kakwa Endangered Forest harbours provincially significant remnant habitats and hydrological functions (waterfalls, and terraces) that are unique to the area. It contains habitat for three caribou herds, key ungulate range for bighorn sheep, elk, deer and moose, and some of the few remaining key grizzly bear habitats in the Foothills of Alberta. It also provides summer and winter habitat for bull trout and many other fish species. It has an impressive diversity of riparian landforms and vegetation communities.
The Kakwa (porcupine in the Cree language) is an area with
steep fossil-covered valley walls, terraces, braided streams and meadows. The headwaters of the Kakwa River are in the Rocky Mountains and Foothills. The Kakwa drains into the Smoky River.
Fishing and recreational opportunities are abundant in the
Kakwa area. A robust population of native fish including bull trout, Rocky Mountain whitefish and Arctic grayling thrive in the watershed. The Kakwa is a fine recreational paddling river class 1 to class 5 rapids.
The area has a long history. Old cabins and aboriginal grave sites are seen along the southern and northern sides of the Kakwa River. Porcupine Meadows and Red RockCreek also have significance for the aboriginal community. An archeological survey in the 1990’s identified the age of some of the remnant log cabins to the turn of the century. The past “human footprint” suggests that archeological resources may reach back 10,000
- Three herds of threatened woodland caribou (mountain ecotype) live in the Kakwa forest. Highest total counts taken between 1993 and 2000 were 42 for the Narraway herd and 187 for the Redrock/Prairie Creek herds.
- Large numbers of grizzly bears and members of the weasel family like fisher and marten.
- Wildlife wintering areas such as Horn Ridge for bighorn sheep and Lynx Creek for bull trout.
- The Kakwa watershed shines with spectacular waterfalls, colourful rock outcrops and valleys and a natural cold sulphur spring called appropriately “Stinking Springs”.
- 1970: The Wild Kakwa became under consideration as Provincial Park.
- 1973: The Wild Kakwa
Society proposed protection for the W
ild Kakwa under the Wilderness Areas Act.
- 1974: The Alberta government announced plan to establish a park to protect the Kakwa and South Kakwa rivers.
- 1977: Alberta proposed an Inter-provincial park to the British Columbia
- 1992: The Alberta Government and Weyerhaeuser met to discuss a protected area. Weyerhaeuser agreed at the time that the Kakwa should be classified as a “Wild River” but managed as an integrated landuse area.
- 1993: The need for an Integrated Resource Management Plan for the Kakwa area was identified
- 1996: Wild Kakwa Provincial Park established (no Foothills included).
- 2001: The Greater Kakwa group was created to work towards further protection within the Kakwa watershed.
Extensive logging has occurred around the perimeter of the Kakwa Endangered Forest, and logging has also occurred in portions of the Red Rock/Prairie Creek caribou winter range. Numerous oil and gas developments in the form of seismic lines, well sites, roads and plant sites are making significant inroads within the entire forest. Active companies include Talisman, Devon and ARL.
At present there are few road crossings of the Kakwa River, but industry infrastructure is rapidly encroaching on this region. The Greater Kakwa group has identified the critical need to preserve a corridor that links the Two Lakes recreation area and the Kakwa Park. They have also called for a government analysis of existing habitat in light of endangered or threatened species requirements. Of greatest priority for preservation is caribou and bull trout habitat.