Where the Mountains Meet the Prairies: A History of Waterton Country


210 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55238-014-9
DDC 971.23'4




Reviewed by William A. Waiser

William A. Waiser is a professor of history at the University of
Saskatchewan. He is the author of Saskatchewan’s Playground: A History
of Prince Albert National Park and Park Prisoners: The Untold Story of
Western Canada’s National Parks, 1915–1946


Graham MacDonald secured the title for this book from the theme
statement for Waterton Lakes National Park in southwestern Alberta. But
the book is more about the larger history of the region than its period
as a national park.

Beginning with the ancient aboriginal residents of the area, MacDonald
examines the changing land-use practices in Waterton country from the
pre-contact period to the present day. It is a sweeping study, based on
a wide range of sources and a concern for general themes, such as the
changing idea of nature in a national park context. It also reflects the
author’s background in heritage issues and his broad, sometimes
eclectic, interests. One consequently learns about the persistent debate
over the names of prominent geographical features, as well as how
writers and artists responded to what one scientific figure described as
the “crown of the continent.” Nor is the book’s focus restricted
to the Canadian side of the border. Readily admitting that park
boundaries can be arbitrary, MacDonald often casts his gaze to
neighboring Glacier National Park for a comparative perspective.

Where the Mountains Meet the Prairies is generously illustrated with
maps and photographs, including several color plates, that nicely
complement the text. The only disappointment is MacDonald’s failure to
assess in greater detail how recent federal policy initiatives have
affected special places like Waterton. Still, the University of Calgary
Press is to be congratulated for launching its new Parks and Heritage
Series with MacDonald’s book.


MacDonald, Graham., “Where the Mountains Meet the Prairies: A History of Waterton Country,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/8898.