June 2016 – During our stay in Waterton Lakes National Park, we kept seeing an absolutely gorgeous tour boat parked at the main dock in town, just below the Prince of Wales Hotel. It turned out that this boat is the Waterton Shoreline Cruise and takes people on a two hour tour of Upper Waterton Lake, the main lake in the park.
We were intrigued. It would be such a delight to see Waterton-Glacier National Park from the water!
We read up a little on this cool cruise and found out that the boat, the MV International, cruises down the lake and crosses the international border between Canada and the US several times a day in the summertime.
It leaves from the village of Waterton in Waterton Lakes National Park and sails to the little landing dock at tiny Goat Haunt in Montana’s Glacier National Park.
So, we got in line one day and boarded along with a big crowd of eager tourists. Little did we know that this was the maiden voyage for the season. How cool is that!
Taking the cruise midweek in early June, there was no concern about needing to sign up in advance. But on the weekends and on most days later in the season it’s best to get tickets a little ahead of time.
It was a beautiful sunny day, and we took a seat on the wooden benches on the upper deck along with everyone else.
Our host, Kevin, took the microphone and began pointing out the landmarks on the shore and telling us the history of this unique National Park that holds hands across the US/Canadian border with its twin sister, Glacier National Park in Montana.
We headed out past the beautiful mountains on the far shore that had grown so familiar during our stay in the tiny village of Waterton.
And then the new mountains appeared before us as we made our way down the exquisite corridor of Upper Waterton Lake, heading towards Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park, on the south shore.
Kevin explained to us about how a 1909 treaty between the US and Canada joined the Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park together and created Waterton-Glacier National Park.
We learned that glaciers are huge masses of ice that are in perpetual motion, slowly moving across the landscape and grinding up the rocks beneath them.
Waterton Lakes National Park doesn’t have any glaciers any more but Montana’s Glacier National Park still has 25 of them. They are melting fast, however, and scientists predict that there will be no glaciers left in these parts by the year 2030, a mere 14 years from now.
However, there are loads of glaciers in the Canadian Rockies, and a wonderful place to play on one is at the Columbia Icefields on the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park.
We were free to move around and explore the boat, and I got a kick out of peering into the pilothouse where our captain, Phil, and his deckhand, Jack, were manning the ship.
During the course of our ride, clouds began to form and the air cooled down quite a bit. I went down below to warm up for a few minutes, and I found a little boy and girl peering out a window and pointing.
The boy was excitedly explaining something to the girl. I listened to him and then caught snippets of our host Kevin talking on the loudspeaker and realized that a black bear had been spotted on a hillside. Captain Phil had slowed the boat so we could all catch a glimpse of the bear in the distance.
I didn’t see the bear, but the kids were awfully cute!!
Shortly after that, our captain slowed the boat again as we crossed the international border between Canada and the United States. It was very cool to look up in the dense woods and see a thin line of cleared trees that defined the border and to see the engraved stone monuments that mark the border by the shore.
This is a true international border, and sure enough, we saw US Border Patrol zip by on their speedboat just as we crossed into the US side of the lake.
We didn’t need passports to do the two hour cruise, but a few people on board were planning to do a hike at our turnaround point in Montana and then catch a later boat back, or even hike the seven miles back to Waterton. So, they had brought their passports and had to clear US Customs and Immigration (a casual affair on a folding table at Goat Haunt) before hitting the trail.
Once we were across the border and had all gotten photos of this unique spot, Captain Phil sped up again. In no time we were at our turnaround point, Goat Haunt in Montana’s Glacier National Park.
But we couldn’t get off right away because our captain spotted two black bears on the trail between the boat dock and the ranger station as we tied up! We all stayed on the boat for a few minutes while the bears quietly made their way down the path and off into the woods.
This made for lots of excited chatter between all of us passengers as we got off the boat to stretch our legs and wander along the edge of the water. What a neat sighting!
The hikers all headed to a folding table outside the ranger station to go through the clearance process with Customs and Immigration before beginning their hikes. The rest of us took in the view back up the lake.
The woods were thick and very quiet. Unlike the other end of the lake where the adorable village of Waterton is filled with tourist boutiques, pretty eateries, a campground, hotels and a treelined shore, this end of the lake was virgin forest.
Wildflowers were blooming and we got a few photos of some pretty ones.
Our stop was just 30 minutes long, so we wandered back towards the boat. Captain Phil was in the pilothouse ready to go, and he blew the ship’s horn to let everyone on shore know that we’d be leaving in a few minutes.
Gradually everyone came up the gang plank and took a seat on the deck or down below.
We made our way to the bow of the boat and found a little girl there with her mom. She was just loving the ride. She took a bunch of photos and then spread her arms wide. I’m not sure if she’d seen the move Titanic, but her sheer joy made us smile!
The M/V International is a historic boat that has been taking tourists on rides on Waterton Lake for decades. The boat is in beautiful condition and is lovingly maintained.
Mark tried to order room service up on deck, but there’s no food service on this short tour (LOL).
We cruised along the shore watching for bears and birds of prey. Soon the Prince of Wales Hotel appeared in the distance.
Our wonderful tour was over much too soon. Our host, Kevin, had done a superior job, and he happily posed for a pic with me as we were leaving the boat. What a great time we’d had!!
If you are visiting Waterton Lakes National Park, be sure to get out on the water. There are multiple cruises to Goat Haunt every day, and there are a variety of hikes on the far shore as well.
Next time we visit, we are going to take the shorter cruise across the width of the lake to do the Crypt Lake Hike. This hike has been voted Canada’s Best Hike is rated by National Geographic as one of the World’s 20 most thrilling trails.
For those lucky enough to go on this cruise, here are a few tips:
- Dress in layers. The wind can blow hard on this lake. We wore jackets for most of the trip out because we had a cold headwind. On the way back, we wore short sleeves because we didn’t even feel the tailwind and the sun was warm!
- Bring binoculars or a long telephoto lens just in case there’s some exciting wildlife on shore.
- Bring whatever snacks and water you might need. There’s no food service on the boat. There’s no bathroom either, but there are nice bathrooms at the turnaround point at Goat Haunt.
- Consider doing one of the hikes at Goat Haunt and catching a later boat back to Waterton. If you hike, bring bug spray, as there can be mosquitos, and bring your passport too.
There is more info and more links for planning purposes below…
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Waterton Lakes Shoreline Cruise Info:
- Waterton Lakes Shoreline Cruise – Schedule and Info
Waterton Lakes National Park and Camping Info:
- Waterton Lakes National Park – Parks Canada Website
- Waterton Lakes Camping – (Parks Canada)
- Where is Waterton Lakes? – Just over the Montana border! (Google Maps)
- Prince of Wales Hotel & Townsite Campground Locations (Google Maps)
- Tips for RV travelers heading to Canada – Gas prices, border crossing, internet access, etc.
Other unique rides we’ve done:
- Mt. Washington Cog Railway – A Historic Ride to the Top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire
- Taking the Mail Boat ferry in Northern Maine – A fun ferry ride with the locals to tiny, remote islands in Maine!
- Riding the Train Tracks on Bikes in Oregon – Pedaling a historic railway on unique railcars in Oregon
All of our blog posts from our RV travels in the Canadian Rockies:
- Waterton Lakes Nat’l Park – Starry Skies, the Milky Way & Wildflowers 08/09/16
- Waterton Lakes National Park – Rocky Mountain High! 07/28/16
- Kananaskis Country – Canadian Rockies Beauty Off the Beaten Path 07/23/16
- Canmore, Alberta – An Outdoor Lover’s Town in the Rocky Mountains 07/17/16
- Jasper National Park – Columbia Icefields & Athabasca Falls 07/12/16
- Hot Springs in the Canadian Rockies – Swimming in Giant Hot Tubs!! 07/10/16
- Banff, Alberta – A Grand Resort Town in the Canadian Rockies 07/03/16
- Yoho National Park – Emerald Lake & Natural Bridge – Aqua Magic! 06/26/16
- Moraine Lake – Crown Jewel of Banff National Park 06/19/16
- Icefields Parkway – True Blue Lakes, Avalanches & Grouse! 06/16/16
- Icefields Parkway – Canadian Rockies Scenic Drive – WOW! 06/14/16
- Lake Louise – RV Travels to the Heart of the Rockies in Banff 06/10/16
- Kootenay National Park Canada – Bears, Mountains & Rivers! 06/07/16
- Canadian Rockies – Big Mountains & Bighorn Sheep! 06/02/16
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