Located about halfway between Lethbridge and Cardston, Alberta is St Mary’s Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area campground, a campground that I hadn’t visited since I was a kid. I remembered fondly the cool water, hot summer temperatures and lush vegetation. Last Summer I had an opportunity to revisit this great little campground and discovered it hadn’t changed much over the years.
St Mary’s Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area lies on either side of the St Mary’s dam which has backed up the water of the St Mary’s River in order to create a reservoir of some 3.5 million cubic metres of water for use by farmers in the area. The reservoir was badly needed in this otherwise parched corner of Alberta and has revolutionized the way crops are farmed in the region.
Upper St Mary’s Campground consists of 30 un-serviced campsites (15 in the winter) located on the eastern shore of the reservoir just above the dam. This is a lovely location for a campground with a nearby boat launch and plenty of shoreline from which to fish. The 15 campsites available during the winter months are free of charge from November intil the end of April.
The lower St Mary’s Campground is near the base of the dam itself. With 38 serviced (power) campsites the lower campground offers great fishing at the base of the dam where the St Mary’s River continues its journey eastward and there is a small spring fed pond in which to swim.
Both campgrounds have fire pits in each campsite , vault toilets and pump water that should be boiled prior to use. There is a great playground in the lower campground as well as a cook kitchen shelter with a wood fired cook stove.
As I mentioned, the lakeside campground at the top of the dam is lovely with its views of the mountains to the west and is a great spot to camp, however, given the prevailing westerly winds that can gust up to 120 km or 70 miles per hour at times this campground can become almost unbearable.
The lower campground is much more sheltered although the view of the surrounding countryside isn’t quite as nice. It is heavily treed and during windy times is something of an oasis compared to the upper campground.
There is a nice group camp at the lower campground which is far removed from the other campsites and would make an excellent location for a family function.
Just a short drive from this campground there is plenty to do. Nearby are some other Provincial Parks.
Payne Lake Provincial Recreation Area and Police Outpost Provincial Park offer some great wildlife viewing, fishing and camping.
Nearby Woolford Provincial Park offers hiking, riverside fishing and wildlife viewing, but sadly their camping facilities closed a number of years ago and now only provides a day use area.
Cardston boasts the Remington-Alberta Carriage Centre and Waterton Lakes National Park is only an hour away.
If you happen to be in the area I would highly recommend taking a look and spending a night or two.