We have stayed at William Watson Lodge several times over the years. This is a really special place, nestled in the heart of Kananaskis Country, which provides year-round, barrier-free lodging for persons with disabilities, seniors and their families.
William Watson Lodge is located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, on the edge of Lower Kananaskis Lake. It is about 25 minutes south of the Kananaskis Village on Highway 40.
William Watson Lodge has 22 fully accessible cabins of varying sizes. Some are one and two bedroom units ($30 per night) and some are three bedroom units ($40 per night). Every unit has a wheel-in shower, full kitchen, kitchen supplies, living room with pull-out sofa bed and dining table with chairs.
Each unit also has tracks on the ceiling for moving people from the bedroom to the bathroom. Some of the cabins are pet friendly.
They are slowly replacing the older cabins with beautiful new cabins. We recently stayed in one of the new cabins for the first time and it was modern, clean and really nicely decorated. They put a lot of thought into the design of these cabins in order to make the space as easy as possible for those with mobility challenges. The ambience is very homey and it makes for a perfectly relaxing stay.
Our unit had three bedrooms. Each bedroom had two beds in it, a dresser and a window.
Our unit had two bathrooms. The first bathroom had a full bathtub, a raised toilet seat and a pedestal sink. One cool thing about this bathroom was that the shower rod holding the curtain could swing completely out of the way and then swing back to be tension fit on the wall.
The second bathroom had a huge wheel-in shower with a built-in shower bench.
The flooring throughout the unit was laminate, making it very easy to wheel around on.
The main lodge, where guests check in and check out, also has a number of amenities. There is a large fireplace, a big deck out back, books, magazines, board games, bikes, sleds, and snowshoes for borrowing and coin-operated laundry machines.
William Watson also has RV camp sites, an accessible comfort camping trailer and an accessible comfort camping hut. It is worth investigating all of the options if you are looking for a real wilderness experience.
Around the cabins are a number of barrier-free paved pathways and over 20km of accessible trails. In the summertime, they are completely clear and easy to traverse. In the winter, due to the volume of snow in the mountains, the pathways around the cabins are kept clear but the trails accumulate snow. People enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on the network of trails that surround the lodge. There is a sit-ski available for borrowing as well as a sled for pulling those with mobility challenges through the snow. It attaches to a harness that an able-bodied person can wear in order to pull the sled behind them.
There is an accessible playground about 2 minutes down one of the main trails. In the summer, it is completely clear and easy to get to. In the winter, that particular trail is impassable in a wheelchair but relatively easy to get to on a sled or on skis.
There are accessible picnic sites and campfire sites, so if you come with a group of people there are lots of outdoor spaces to use for gatherings.
One bad thing about William Watson Lodge is that it is completely outside of cellphone range and there is no internet availability. The lodges also have no TVs, so you can feel very isolated. Once you get used to the lack of connectivity, it actually feels nice to have the time to focus on other things. We usually read lots of books when we are there and we enjoy the family time.
The cabins do not come equipped with any bedding, so you do need to bring your pillows and blankets with you. This can make for a number of trips to and from the car when you are loading and unloading. You also need to bring your own towels.
When you check in to your room, you are given a cleaning list. The cleaning tasks are less onerous than they used to be but they do expect you to help out to cut down on costs (i.e. you have to vacuum, clean all the dishes, wipe all surfaces, empty garbages, etc.). After I have finished packing, cleaning and hauling all of our stuff out to the car, I am usually pretty exhausted, but the price reflects the amount of work you have to put into your stay here.
One other thing to keep in mind is that reservations must be made pretty far in advance and there is a priority listing for bookings:
- People with disabilities living in the province of Alberta get first priority and can make reservations up to 4 months in advance for the severely disabled (non-ambulatory, legally blind, profoundly deaf, dependently cognitively disabled). Those with less severe disabilities can make reservations 3 months in advance (semi-ambulatory, medically fragile).
- Alberta seniors (65 years and older) can make reservations up to 2 months in advance, space permitting.
Some of the older cabins are getting a bit ugly. They are definitely cozy and rustic but the carpets, kitchens and bathrooms are showing their age. If any are available, I would recommend requesting a new cabin.
Overall, William Watson Lodge is an absolute treasure. The fact that we have this amazing place right here in Alberta is really special. Everyone can enjoy the mountain parks and everything that the great outdoors has to offer and William Watson makes that possible for so many who would otherwise have difficulty finding a comfortable place to stay.