The power of mountains can be life changing. So it was for a young Englishman Bert Riggall. In 1905, as part of a survey crew in southern Alberta, he came to the place
First Nations people called “The Lakes Within”. What he saw were magnificent mountains surrounding a broad valley with a succession of three sparkling lakes.
“I will take a homestead in this place” he wrote in his diary. And in 1906 he did.
Bert Riggall became a legendary guide and outfitter in the Waterton region. He shared his deep love and knowledge of the area with his guests and neighbours. A self-taught photographer, Riggall’s dramatic images recorded the wilderness scenery as seen from his saddle horse as he traversed the high country with his clients. Those captivating photographs fuelled an emerging tourism industry and set in motion the conservation of the Greater Waterton region.
Riggall’ story is now available in the new publication: Bert Riggall’s Greater Waterton-A Conservation Legacy. Published by Fifth House.
“The book contains important history of the founding and evolution of Waterton in 1911 as a national park. “This articulate, visually stunning, elegantly designed book is an important contribution to the history and culture of Canada’s mountain West.”
Bob Sandford -United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment & Health
The new book is written by an ensemble of significant Alberta authors, Fred Stenson, Sid Marty, Chris Morrison, Larry Simpson, David Sheppard, Harvey Locke, Kevin Van Tighem and Brittany Watson among others. It includes the last writings by Riggall’s grandson, the late Charlie Russell, renowned bear expert.
The table-top publication and photo reproductions are stunning. Over 300 high-resolution digital scans were printed in dua-tone from the 100 year-old originals. They are drawn from The Riggall collection housed primarily at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. The collection is an impressive archival record of more than 14,000 photographs, records diaries, letters and maps. It is considered to be of outstanding significance and national importance by the Canadian Cultural Property Board.
“When I saw my first Bert Riggall photo of a high country pack train, I was magically transported to the wild Rocky Mountains in Waterton Lakes National Park. It was astounding to imagine horse travel across the steep slippery scree slope at 8,000 feet. Showcased in an historic photograph exhibit curated by Wendy Ryan, one dramatic image after another was mesmerising. I was inspired that these extra-ordinary images needed to be a book. That concept evolved as research uncovered a compelling story of compassion and commitment across generations for the conservation of the region that is today of international significance." Beth Towe, editor.
The book is “an extraordinary collection of interdisciplinary content and the multiple perspectives” says Dr. Carol Williams, Department of History, University of Lethbridge.
The book Bert Riggall’s Greater Waterton-A Conservation Legacy received a Special Jury Mention at the 2018 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival.
“Bert Riggall’s photographs from the first half of the 20th Century frame some fabulous writing about the people, terrain and history of the Greater Waterton Region. The images alone tell a fabulous story. Sid Marty’s Mistakis-The Backbone of the Earth and Kevin Van Tighem’s God’s Breath should be required reading for anyone who travels to southwest Alberta. This is a story of the origins of a regional conservation legacy that to this day strives to include the landscape, flora, fauna and people who live in this very special part of the world.” - Larry Stanier, 2018 Book Competition Jury