Perched in the foothills of the Purcell Mountains, the view across the Rocky Mountain Trench toward the Rockies is spectacular. So are the wildflowers of Kimberley Nature Park. Join guided hikes led on June 21 and July 4, or volunteer on weed control, natural history and trail maintenance projects. This is one of Canada's largest municipal parks, at 800 hectares or about three square miles. The grasslands, forests and wetlands that surround Kimberley, display a profusion of wildflowers from early spring to mid-summer.
As the winter snows retreat and the earth warms up, tiny flowers make their first appearance. One of the first to arrive is the Western Spring Beauty. These miniscule white flowers form carpets on upper elevation grasslands and were considered an important source of food for the local Ktunaxa.
The delicate Yellow Bell is another flower that appears soon after snowmelt. Its yellow flowers are among the loveliest signs of early spring.
The Kimberley Nature Park Society provides numerous opportunties for volunteers to get involved. These include noxious weed patrols to control spotted knapweed, ecological restoration work projects, and trail maintenance. The Society has established a natural history committee to inventory native plants, lichens and fungi in the park. Contact Kent at the Society to get involved.
It's always a good idea to have a wildflower identification book with you as you go exploring. An excellent resource is Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia. The Kimberley Nature Park has an excellent, informative trail guide which can be purchased at The Kimberley Visitor Centre located in the Platzl parking lot.
Key Access Points to this Garden or Arboretum
Glorious golden Sunflowers otherwise known as Balsamroot adorn sunny hillsides around Kimberley and surprise us anew every May. These cheerful bouquets set in prairie grasses dispel all thoughts of winter. One of the finest places to view these beauties is Sunflower Hill adjacent to the Kimberley Golf Course. To get to Sunflower Hill, take the St. Mary Lake turnoff north of Marysville and proceed for approximately one kilometre.
The Kimberley Nature Park is a great place to explore wildflowers on your own or on one of the guided hikes that take place in June and July. Mid to late May you are likely to see Oregon-Grape, Utah Honeysuckle, Arnica and the lovely Calypso Orchid, more commonly known as the Fairyslipper.
Invitations go out every spring for interested persons to take part in the annual Calypso Orchid count. This shade and moisture loving species appears throughout the park. There are a number of Nature Park trailheads within the city of Kimberley; to get to the Higgins Street entrance of the Nature Park, head south on Wallinger Avenue past the Overwaitea grocery store, turn right on Higgins and follow the street to the end.
Near Perry Creek Falls is another great wildflower viewing opportunity. In spring, the trailsides are dotted by Balsamroot and Pentstemon, another wildflower used by the local Ktunaxa as a stomach remedy. To reach the trailhead, travel the Wycliffe Road to Perry Creek Road.
Best Seasons or Dates to Visit
Early spring and summer are the best times to view wildflowers that grow in open grassy areas as the heat of summer discourages growth of anything except hardier wildflower species and grasses. Shady woods and wetland regions maintain their display longer.
Driving Directions to Key Access Points
For information and directions to additional trailheads for the Kimberley Nature Park, please stop at the Kimberley Visitor Centre.