Ing’s Mine Provincial Recreation Area (“PRA”) certainly ranks right up there as one of the strange things in K-Country. This PRA is strange because:
- It’s 5 km from the actual location of George Ings’ coal mine.
- It’s unsigned and unmarked;
- When once you could drive to it, the road was closed immediately after the PRA was created;
- There is a trail there, but it doesn’t go to the mine;
- It’s home to an oil and gas facility;
- That’s not how to use an apostrophe.
Where is the PRA?
Ing’s Mine PRA is located at the end of the Canyon Creek Road, just past where the Moose Dome Creek road starts. This puts it at the north base of Prairie Mountain, and at the bottom of the southeast most flank of Moose Mountain. The pic at right shows the outline of the PRA Boundary superimposed on the satellite image. You can see the official PRA Boundary Map here.
The Ing’s Mine PRA is actually where the start of the unofficial route to the Canyon Creek Ice Cave is. The route to the cave starts off within the PRA, then leaves it, as the cave is not within the PRA. In addition, there is another unofficial route leaving from the PRA. It leads west along Canyon Creek. That route goes all the way to Powderface Road.
Neither of these routes are official, and neither get maintenance. There is no current plan to make either official, nor improve either route. The Canyon Creek route, in particular, is a very challenging route. It has numerous water crossings that can get impassible at runoff.
If you zoom in on the map on the official Parks information page, it shows both routes.
Why was this PRA Created?
Ing’s Mine PRA was officially created in September, 1997 through Part 41 of Order-In-Council 389/97, known as the “Kananaskis Country Provincial Recreation Areas Order”. This was the same OIC that created 92 (!) PRAs in Kananaskis when K-Country was being established. PRAs created under this order include Evan-Thomas and Heart Creek, plus other PRAs that were eventually expanded into various provincial parks in the Kananaskis region.
Ing’s Mine PRA was ostensibly created to formalize an already well-used parking and day use space. That space was historically very used for accessing the ice cave. At the time, there was a plan to make the ice cave trail official. But their timing was terrible. Basically, the moment that the PRA was created, the Canyon Creek Road was gated and closed, down near Hwy 68. That blocked all vehicle access to the PRA. Allegedly, the reasons was to discourage people from going to the ice cave, because doing so can be dangerous.
Instead, a new “Ing’s Mine Trailhead” parking lot was built down at the gate. As a result, to access the ice cave, since 1997 you have had to walk (or bike) 5 km up the Canyon Creek Road. That “new” parking lot happens to be closed in 2023 for rebuilding, expansion and improvement.
Ing’s Mine and Ings’ actual mine
There actually was a gentleman named Dr. George Ings. He was a medical doctor, but was also an amateur geologist. In the window 1900 to 1914, Ings spent all of his free time riding around on horseback looking for coal. He found a number of coal exposures. Ings developed the best one he found: on the hillside just above today’s Ing’s Mine Trailhead parking lot. He pulled about 1,000 tons of coal out, and had it hauled to an oil well that is in today’s Bragg Creek Provincial Park. That coal was burned to provide power for the drilling and well operation. You can read more about George here.
But George Ings’ actual mine is 5 km south down the road from today’s Ing’s Mine PRA. Despite this (and despite no one being able to properly understand how to use an apostrophe), the Ing’s Mine PRA was named to commemorate Ings.
So what’s there now?
In a rather unique bit of strangeness, the main thing in the PRA today is a huge gravel gas well pad, pictured at right. The ice cave entrance is visible up on the hillside. This well pad takes up about 10% of the surface area of the PRA. What makes this strange is that PRAs are regulated under the Parks Act. Section 9(1) of the Act effectively forbids wellsites in PRAs, but Section 8.1 does allow such things predating Parks to be grandfathered in. We’re not sure when the wells here were drilled; it could have been before September 1997. But that this PRA – set aside and regulated just like a Provincial Park – is basically an oil and gas facility is… unique to say the least. Zooming in on the map on the official Parks page shows the well pad is a picnic site!
As described here, PRAs are supposed to be protected spaces just like Provincial Parks. Accordingly, pursuant to the Parks Act, PRAs restrict all sorts of things like mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting, camping and fires. By the way, Shell would be seriously upset with you if you built a fire or shot off guns on the well pad (or anywhere near the wells at all, for that matter).
Ing’s Mine PRA is surrounded by Public Land in the Kananaskis Country Public Land Use Zone. Not only are you not allowed to camp or random camp in a PRA, you’re not allowed to random camp for 1 km around a PRA, either. However, the 2020 Motorized Public Land Use Zones of Kananaskis Country map shows that you ARE allowed to random camp and around Ing’s Mine PRA. Which is true?
For these reasons, the existing Ing’s Mine PRA is literally a PRA in name (and mapping) only, and may just as well not exist.
The future of Ing’s Mine PRA
With Parks, it’s always hard to know what the future brings. There was a Management Plan adopted in 2012 for all the PRAs in K-Country, and Bragg Creek Provincial Park as well. For “Ings Mine” (yes, this time they dropped the apostrophe entirely), the plan was to:
- Close the existing PRA as described above, and re-designate it to where the “new” parking lot is – coincidentally, very close to the actual Ings’ Mine;
- Manage the new PRA location as a summer, non-motorized trailhead;
- Add 2-3 picnic sites but no fire pits;
- After all of the above was done, drop the PRA designation and de-list the current Ing’s Mine PRA as a protected area. Then, include the new space around the parking lot – with 8 other nearby PRAs – as part of a new Elbow Valley Provincial Park.
As noted, the “new” parking lot was indeed developed, but it never became a PRA of any name. It’s simply referred to as “Ing’s Mine Traihead Parking Lot”. That’s probably not a bad name (except for the apostrophe); it is indeed very close to George Ings’ mine site. And it is at the start of the trail that leads to the mine. The “Optimize Alberta Parks” strategy of 2019, had it been implemented, would have seen Ing’s Mine PRA being delisted finally, as per the plan. Elbow Valley Provincial Park has yet to be created.
As of this moment, however, the actual Ing’s (or Ings or Ings’) Mine PRA remains in stasis: a not particularly accessible PRA that literally exists for no reason, with little more than a big gravel wellsite on it.
Ing’s Mine PRA:
Camping: Technically not permitted.
Fires: Not permitted.
Hiking: Two trails start here.
Mountain biking: Not actually permitted.
Horseback Riding: Not actually permitted.
Hunting: Not permitted.
Discover more about other elements of K-Country here.