Visiting the Cameron Falls, Waterton Park, Alberta: Named for Donald Roderick Cameron, Soldier and Diplomat
A highlight of a visit to Waterton hamlet
While the Cameron Falls may not be among the highest or most spectacular of waterfalls in Canada, yet their situation at Evergreen Avenue in the hamlet of Waterton (often referred to as Waterton Townsite), and close proximity to Waterton Lake, makes them among the most photographed of waterfalls in the Rockies. However, in the 19th century, when Waterton Park was established, the Falls would have been regarded as rather remote.
A vantage point, involving a climb of a few minutes, offers close views of the top of the Falls. An outcrop of rock, classified as pre-Cambrian, forms a backdrop to the Falls. A path known as the Carthew-Alderson Trail, a round trip on which is 19 kilometres in length, terminates at the Falls (1).
Together with Cameron Lake and Cameron Creek (in the past sometimes referred to as Cameron Brook or Oil Creek), the Falls are named for Major-General Donald Roderick Cameron (1834-1921), a British-born member of the Royal Artillery who served the Dominion of Canada in a number of capacities. Appointed on Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald's sponsorship, from 1872 - 1876, he led the British section of the British-American boundary survey (2); in 1883 Cameron led the Canadian delegation at the Paris Conference on Submarine Cables; from 1887 - 1888 he served as secretary to the Canadian Commission on Fisheries in Washington. He also headed the Royal Military College at Kingston, Ontario.
The fact that Cameron was, among his other activities, engaged in extensive negotiations with the United States regarding the Canadian-U.S. border makes the naming of this feature for him particularly appropriate: nearby Waterton Lake extends into the U.S. state of Montana. Indeed, today the Falls are situated within the Warterton-Glacier International Peace Park (3).
Anecdotal evidence of Cameron's various activities and connections abounds. A monocle wearer, he was reputedly a very accurate shooter. Cameron was son-in-law to Canadian Prime Minister Sir Charles Tupper (whose claim to fame in that office was that he held it for the shortest time — 69 days — in 1896). At one time Cameron was notably engaged in negotiations with Métis leader Louis Riel, who frankly thought Cameron was a highly bizarre character, with affected manners (although this harsh judgment may also have reflected a relative lack of cultural empathy between Riel's Francophone followers and the Dominion government of the day). But by today's standards, at least, as a High Victorian personality, Cameron might be regarded as somewhat of an eccentric — in an era when eccentrics abounded (4).
The photos which I have supplied of the Falls may seem to give views of a relatively isolated, natural feature, although in reality when I visited the Cameron Falls I was one of many travellers and vacationers: we constituted almost a crowd at the foot of the Falls.
The volume of water cascading over the Falls varies greatly according to season. The height of the Falls is approximately 22.86 metres.
Significantly, Alberta's first oil well was drilled at Cameron Creek in 1901; in the 19th century, surveyor George Dawson had noted the presence of oil and gas resources in the area.
January 19, 2015
(1) See also: http://www.mywaterton.ca/CameronFalls.cfm
(2) See also: https://albertashistoricplaces.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/cameron-creek-oil-creek-and-cameron-lake-oil-lake/
(3) Canada's Waterton Lakes National Park was formed in 1895.
(4) See also: http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/cameron_dr.shtml
Also worth seeing
The nearby lakeside hamlet of Waterton attracts many visitors, including numerous hikers; among these attractions are the berth for boat trips on Waterton Lake; a Heritage Centre at 117 Waterton Avenue; the much photographed Prince of Wales Hotel overlooks nearby Waterton Lake.
St Mary, Montana, USA (distance: 62.2 kilometres/ 38.4 miles) has a Visitor Center at the entrance to Glacier Park, and outstanding mountain views and of St. Mary Lake.
How to get there: Air Canada flies to Lethbridge Airport (distance from Lethbridge to Waterton: 124.6 kilometers), via Calgary, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available; some visitors may prefer to make the road journey to Waterton directly from Calgary Airport (distance from Calgary to Waterton: 259.2 kilometers). Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. You are advised to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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