General safety tips

Grasslands National Park

Water Safety

All surface water in the area, including ponds, sloughs, dugouts, dams, creeks and rivers are generally saline and unfit for human consumption. Treating water by boiling, filtering or adding iodine may remove some bacteria, but will not help with the salinity.

Always carry an adequate amount of drinking water with you.


Whether going for an hour or for several days, a hiking or backpacking excursion can be a great way to see new country or revisit favorite areas. While we never plan for things to go wrong, it is important to be prepared for the inconveniences that sometimes arise. Having the essential items in your pack, filing a trip plan, checking current weather forecasts and making sure your gear is in good condition before heading out can keep a minor issue from becoming an emergency.

To learn more about backcountry safety, talk to a Parks Canada staff member or visit AdventureSmart.

Visiting in Winter

Badlands Parkway is closed during the winter season, and is not maintained in winter. Only main access roads are regularly maintained in winter, and can have limited access following snowfall and/or wind weather events. Visitors are responsible for their own safety. They should plan ahead and be properly equipped for winter conditions in an isolated environment with limited emergency services.

Sink Holes/Quicksand

Sink holes are not a common occurrence in the park, but they do exist. They are deceptive because the thin crust of mud is only concealing a deep, watery mud hole. Carry a walking stick to check out these areas.

Beware of quicksand in the East Block – typically, they are identified with signs. Contact the Rock Creek Campground Reception before venturing out.

Ground Hazards

Some ground cover in the park is heavily covered with cactus. Watch for these areas in the Frenchman Valley bottom and south facing slopes of coulees. The badlands consist of steep slopes covered with cobble, boulders and exposed roots, along with washouts and gullies.

Wear solid, sturdy footwear that completely covers your foot for protection. Also, many grasses and thorny shrubs grow tall enough to cause discomfort to exposed skin. Wearing long pants instead of shorts, when hiking in the park, is strongly recommended.

Built Hazards

As a part of the cultural landscape, many old farm and ranch sites exist at Grasslands. Old buildings provide habitat for wildlife, and structures may be weak and susceptible to collapse. Some (not so old) buildings are being removed over the next years and their removal may provide hazards. Hazards such as barbed wire, old machinery and holes may not be visible in the grass at these sites.

Use caution when exploring these sites, and stay out of buildings.

Insect Bites
  • Mosquitoes: in this area may spread the West Nile Virus
  • Ticks: have the potential to spread Lyme disease
  • Fleas: found on prairie dog colonies have the potential to spread sylvatic plague
  • Black widow spiders: are poisonous spiders found in burrows

To prevent insect bites:

  • Wear insect repellent with DEET around feet, ankles, legs, arms and upper body
  • Avoid placing hands into burrows
  • Tuck in pant cuffs to lessen the chance of contact

Finding your way

  • The Visitor Centre and Campground Receptions have up-to-date weather forecasts, road conditions and park maps.
  • Cell phone coverage is not reliable in the park.
  • Get oriented at the Visitor Centre and Campground Receptions, and use navigation tools (maps, compass, GPS)
  • Technology can be wonderful, but sometimes doing things the old fashioned way pays off. If you are travelling to Grasslands National Park this summer, please be aware that GPS directions are not always correct. Be sure to research your route ahead of time, including road directions to the Block of the park that you are travelling to.

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