While there are multiple dark sky preserves in Alberta, none other beats Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, and here are the reasons for that.
The location of the park is located in a remote area which keeps the sky dark. To the south is the US border and Montana, one of the least populated states as well as one of the least densely populated states in the US. To the east and west is farmland with few towns. Medicine Hat is the nearest populated centre 67km away, or a 45 minute drive away.
Clear Skies Ahead
A huge portion of Southeast Alberta also contains the Alberta Badlands, a region with low precipitation, which means there are less clouds obstructing the night sky. Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan form the sun belt of Canada, and it’s reflected with nearby Medicine Hat being the sunniest place in Canada. The city receives 330 sunny days, or 2544 hours of sunlight on average per year.
Cypress Hills was the first designated dark sky preserve in Alberta, and as such, development and infrastructure are restricted to ensure light pollution is kept at a minimum. This combined with 4 other natural areas form the largest dark sky preserve in Canada at 39,600 hectares. Astronomers and astrophotographers from all over the world come here to observe the sky and stargaze.
Finally, Cypress Hills is located on an ‘island’ which was spared by the last Ice Age. This unique occurrence is not only a geological and natural wonder containing prehistoric species which continue to survive today, but it is also the highest point in Canada east of Banff. With the Head of the Mountain at 1466 metres above sea level, the altitude allows unobstructed views in all directions.