Located between Edmonton and Spruce Grove, in the middle of agricultural fields and industrial development, Wagner Natural Area stands out as a microcosm of boreal forest . Its varied habitats include calcareous fens and marl ponds, willow swamps, drier coniferous and deciduous forests, creeks, and hay fields. These habitats, most particularly the fens, account for the rich diversity of plant life including several wild orchids, carnivorous plants, and mosses. Insects, amphibians , and birds are abundant, with larger mammals such as white-tailed deer and moose also inhabiting the area.
A special ecological feature of Wagner is its fens – areas of water-saturated peat existing because groundwater, carried through underground sands and gravels called aquifers, rises in the form of springs to the surface of the ground. The water then moves overland toward Big Lake, or accumulates in marl ponds.
Known to naturalists since the 1940s, the Natural Area was named for William Wagner, the owner of the property, who was instrumental in having the Alberta government give the original property of 129.5 hectares ( 320 acres) formal protection in 1975. Subsequent land purchases by the Alberta government and the Nature Conservancy of Canada have extended the protected area to 251 hectares (620 acres) covering a range of vegetation communities.
Because of the moisture content in much of the soil, it is advisable to have waterproof boots with you when visiting the Natural Area. In the spring and summer, it is also advisable to have insect repellent with you to fend off any mosquitoes who may find you. While there is no drinking water in the Natural Area, a Picnic Shelter and Outhouse are provided near the start of the Marl Pond Trail. Wagner Natural Area is not an off-leash area for dogs because of the fragile nature of the Area. Prohibited in the Natural Area are: Lighting Fires, Cutting Trees, Camping, Hunting. The Natural Area is a pedestrian-use-only area. There is no garbage removal service for the Natural Area, so visitors are requested to pick up after their dogs, and to take all garbage away with them.