Golden Ranches



• Located in Strathcona County
• Adjacent to Cooking Lake
• Within the Beaver Hills UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, & Dark Sky Preserve
• 1,400 Acres
• 45 km drive from central Edmonton



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“The first time I went to Golden Ranches for a “Weeding for Wildlife” day, the fields were alive with butterflies, birds, and other flying things. It was quite magical and I’d forgotten how an “empty” field can be so alive.”
— Anne Gregory, volunteer

Wildlife and Habitat

Golden Ranches includes a mixture of mature aspen forest and open grassland that provide habitat for wildlife including white-tailed deermooseporcupine, grouse, waterfowl such as bufflehead and a variety of small mammals and songbirds.


Golden Ranches is located in the Beaver Hills UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which contain numerous wetlands and aspen forest, and are critical habitat for many species of wildlife. The Golden Ranches site provides landscape connectivity for wildlife as they live and move in the area.

The grasslands of the natural area provide habitat for ground nesting birds, and the forested areas provide cover for large mammals. The Golden Ranches site includes nearly 8 kilometres of North Cooking Lake shoreline.

EALT works with several partnering organizations to conserve this property.

Ecological History

Golden Ranches resides within the Cooking Lake Moraine, an upland area full of rolling hills and low wet areas left behind by the glacial ice of the Ice Age. This area was home to the first conservation and reforestation projects in Alberta, a result from the forest loss to logging and fires. This first project was called the Cooking Lake Forest Reserve, an area that resulted in today’s natural areas including Golden Ranches, Elk Island National Park, Cooking Lake–Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, Ministik Bird Sanctuary and other protected natural areas.

Human History

Golden Ranches and the surrounding Beaver Hills served as the winter home for the massive herds of roaming bison. As history goes, if wild game are present, then humans are not too far behind. According to archeological records, the presence of big game hunters in the Beaver Hills area has been noted as far back as 12,000 years ago. Many generations of Indigenous groups lived off the land and its plentiful resources.

The first piece of Golden Ranches was bought in 1950 by a rancher named George Golden. Over the next several decades, he bought, sold and traded land until he had his land all in one spot, a single block of 1800 acres. The land became home to a successful horse and cow ranch. In 2008, the owners no longer wanted to manage the land. To protect the land, EALT partnered with the Alberta Conservation Association, Alberta Fish and Game Association, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada and various corporate donors to obtain the land that is now Golden Ranches.

Stewardship Highlights and Recent News

  • We installed 53 nest boxes for tree swallows, bluebirds and waterfowl, and monitor these annually.

  • In partnership with The Carbon Farmer, over 220,000 trees were planted at Golden Ranches.

  • We continue to work to make the habitat safer for wildlife by removing barbed wire and controlling invasive plants.