Sherwood Park Natural Area
The Sherwood Park Natural Area is an oasis for wildlife with pedestrian trails throughout the area. This 68-hectare site is a gently rolling landscape of aspen forest and willow sedge wetlands surrounded by agricultural land and residential developments. Trails in the area are accessible from a parking lot on Range Road 231. The trail loop from the parking lot is 2.7 kilometres in length.
Set on the western edge of the Cooking Lake Moraine, the gently-rolling upland terrain of Sherwood Park Natural Area is covered by mature poplar forests. You can also find mature white spruce and birch trees in the area, reminders of the mixed wood forests that once covered much of the moraine. The richly dense understory of shrubs and wildflowers is a continual source of interest and colour from early May until late September.
The forests and wetlands of the site form a close-knit community of plants and animals, each one needing the others to ensure survival of the community. Forests in the natural area are home to many mammals. White-tailed deer are quite common and moose occasionally wander through the woods. Coyotes are rarely seen, however, they do hunt here. You may find large willows whose bark has been nibbled by porcupines and snowshoe hares. Red squirrels reside in spruce stands where there’s year-round shelter and a dependable food supply.
There are a number of permanently wet depressions and one small slough in the northwest corner of the site. One of the wetlands is a mossy swamp with Labrador tea and a few spruce and larch. Others wetlands are dominated by willows, sedges, marsh marigolds and coltsfoot.
The mosaic of habitats in this natural area attracts a variety of bird species, many of which reside here year-round. Among the permanent bird residents are black-capped chickadees, blue jays, ruffed grouse, great-horned and saw-whet owls, downy, hairy and pileated woodpeckers, and white-breasted and red breasted nuthatches.
Summer residents include least flycatchers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, northern orioles and yellow warblers. Keep your eyes open for butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. In spring, listen for the high-pitched singing of chorus frogs and the duck-like quacking of wood frogs. You may also hear the songs of chorus frogs during heavy summer rains.
Old Edmonton Trail
When the Province of Alberta was first surveyed, the site of Sherwood Park Natural Area was earmarked for a school. Local farmers held grazing permits and leases on the site beginning in the late 1800s. People traveling between Edmonton and Cooking Lake began following a route through the area in the early 1900s. Evidence of the “Old Edmonton Trail” can still be seen today. Plaques mark several of the original survey markers along this historic route.
In 1966, adjacent land owners took action to protect the area’s virgin forest for future generations. The Sherwood Park Fish & Game Association, Colchester Dairy Farmers Reg, and Olive Gray worked with the Government of Alberta to have the lands designated as one of Alberta’s first natural areas in 1971. In the late 1980s, because of the efforts of well-known naturalists and former Strathcona County residents Cam Finlay, Joy Finlay and County Reeve Jim Common, the Sherwood Park Natural Area became the first project under the national “Wildlife ‘87” program. This program was a year-long celebration marking 100 years of wildlife conservation in Canada.
What are Natural Areas?
Natural areas are set aside for conservation, recreation and / or environmental education purposes. The areas are part of an extensive network of protected land that preserves the province’s biological and physical diversity.
The Sherwood Park Natural Area supports low-impact activities such as hiking, bird watching and environmental education. Most natural areas have no facilities and in those that do, facilities are minimal and consist mainly of parking areas and trails. The Sherwood Park Natural Area is located south of Sherwood Park, four kilometres from the intersection of Wye Road and Range Road 231, 0.8 kilometres south of Hwy. 628 /Township Road 522 (an extension of the Whitemud Freeway).
Be a volunteer steward
Strathcona County holds a recreational lease on the Sherwood Park Natural Area from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. Volunteer stewards assist the provincial government and the County with site monitoring and maintenance. Stewards also assist with site management by encouraging appropriate use of the area. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer steward, please call 780-467-2211.
Alberta Tourism, Parks, Recreation & Culture
Parks & Protected Areas
2nd floor, Oxbridge Place
9820-106 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2J6
Phone 780-427-3582 (toll-free 1-866-427-3582)
Sustainable Resource Development Lands Division
182 Chippewa Road, Sherwood Park, Alberta T8A 4H5