Parks Canada Announces Design for New Visitor Centre in Waterton Lakes National Park

Parks Canada Announces Design for New Visitor Centre in Waterton Lakes National Park

New centre will offer enhanced visitor experiences and complement the beautiful setting of the community of Waterton

Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta – Friday, Parks Canada unveiled the design concept for the new visitor centre at Waterton Lakes National Park. Parks Canada manages national heritage places for all Canadians, and national parks offer visitors an unparalleled first-hand experience of the unique cultural, historic and natural places across the country. The new Waterton Lakes National Park visitor centre will welcome Canadians and visitors from around the world, providing them with opportunities to learn about the park’s cultural and environmental significance. Waterton Lakes National Park is part of a World Heritage Site, and together with Glacier National Park, U.S.A., it forms the world’s first International Peace Park and international Dark Sky Park .

The Town Plaza (Concept #3) design option was selected for the new Waterton Lakes visitor centre following public consultations, a community open house, and the careful review and consideration of three design options. The preferred design features a central plaza that will complement the beautiful setting of the community of Waterton. This main public plaza will become a vibrant part of Waterton’s commercial district and include an outdoor theatre that will provide a gathering space for engagement with visitors and the community.

Most importantly, the proximity of the new visitor centre to services in the Waterton business district and the townsite campground will provide Parks Canada with opportunities to connect directly and more frequently with the greatest number of visitors, enabling enhanced visitor experiences through welcome, orientation and a full range of interpretive programing.

Through its valued relationship with the Blackfoot, Parks Canada is also working closely with Indigenous partners to develop interpretive material for the new visitor centre that reflect Blackfoot history, traditions, cultureand contributions to Waterton Lakes National Park.

In addition, the Town Plaza design will provide a new ‘nature-based’ playground for families with children. The existing playground and splash park will be relocated to another area of the townsite (Block 42 – School Site on Waterton Park Community Association leasehold land) as per the Agreement in Principle with the Associationand Improvement District #4.

The Visitor Centre project will be managed to ensure the best use of taxpayer’s money and will allow for the consolidation of three Parks Canada assets: the aging Falls Theatre and Townsite Administration buildings, along with the former visitor centre, which was struggling to accommodate the growing volume of visitors to the Park, even before the structure burned down in the Kenow wildfire in September 2017 .

Parks Canada will continue to work closely with stakeholders, First Nations partners, community members, and interested Canadians in the next steps of the project. Parks Canada will finalize the detailed design and environmental assessment in winter 2018. In fall 2018, Parks Canada will work with Public Services and Procurement Canada on tendering the construction contract. Construction of the new Visitor Centre is expected to begin in 2019 with an expected opening in 2021.

Quick Facts

  •  More than 500,000 people visit Waterton Lakes National Park each year.
  •  Parks Canada visitor centres are a primary service offered to properly welcome and orient people visiting  our national parks. They serve as a central location for important visitor information, such as appropriate camping and hiking practices and wildlife viewing behaviour, and recreational opportunities in the park.
  •  Following the loss of the former visitor centre in the Kenow wildfire, visitors can currently obtain information from Parks Canada staff at the Waterton Lakes Operations Building’s Front Desk from Monday to Friday (8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.) and at the Park Gate on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
  •  Over five years, Parks Canada is investing an unprecedented $3 billion to support infrastructure work in visitor, heritage, waterway, and highway assets across the country. Waterton Lakes National Park is receiving approximately $100 million to ensure the quality and reliability of visitor facilities so Canadians can continue to connect with nature and learn about our heritage.

Related Documents

Backgrounder: Town Plaza Design (see below)

“What we heard” document

Related Links

Parks Canada

Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton Lakes National Park Visitor Centre
Town Plaza Design

In April 2017, Parks Canada invited Canadians to provide input on three design options for a new visitor centre in Waterton Lakes National Park. A six-week consultation period included an on-line engagement website as well as an open house in the community on April 29th. Interested members of the public were provided with multiple resources, including planning reports, design principles, and three possible design options, in order to have all the information they eeded to meaningfully contribute to the discussion.

A total of approximately 4,000 visits to the consultation website and 86 attendees at the open house generated 115 comments on the design options. Following a review of the comments and consideration of three design options, Parks Canada has announced that the Town Plaza (Concept #3) design option has been selected for the new visitor centre.

The Town Plaza design option creates a central plaza that captures the interest of visitors and complements the beautiful setting of the community of Waterton.

The building relates directly to Waterton’s environment through its uncomplicated building design and its use of natural materials, reflective of the craftsman style typical of Parks Canada buildings. Large, sturdy stone blocks contrasted with large windows will celebrate the majestic views the site offers.

This design consists of three structures, with a main building, an administration building, and a public washroom building, all joined together by one roof. Dramatic overhanging roof canopies connect the structures and will act as a public porch area for visitors.

The visitor centre grounds will include new play equipment that incorporates more natural play structures, such as logs and large rocks. This new style of playground is gaining popularity and will create an additional interpretive opportunity for visitors.


  •  The design implements a craftsm an style coupled with wood and stone to reflect the Waterton Lakes and Parks Canada style.
  •  The site plan provides visitors with a new ‘natural-materials’ playground.
  •  The main public plaza will become a vibrant part of Waterton’s commercial district and includes outdoor theatre space providing a gathering space for engaging public presentations.
  •  The architectural design enhances new exhibit and interpretive displays on the grounds that engage visitors, transforming the plaza into an overall interpretative element.
  •  Moving through the inside interpretive space, visitors are led to the main theater/multipurpose area that features southeast-facing windows providing views down the lake valley and toward Vimy Mountain.
  •  Vegetation and natural screening will be used to integrate the building into the surroundinglandscape, and reduce noise for neighbours.
  •  Large overhangs will provide sheltered sitting areas for visitors to relax. A sheltered walkway will provide protection from the weather and the sun to ensure the plaza is accessible in unfavourable conditions.