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Banff National Park
Mountains Banff National Park
Alberta, Canada
Earth's Natural Wonders in North America
Area of Banff park: 2,580 square miles
(6,680 square kilometers)
Area of Columbia Icefield: 125 square miles
(325 square kilometers)
Mountains in Banff National Park [1]




Banff National Park (pronounced /'bæmf/) is Canada's oldest national park, established in 1885 in the Rocky Mountains. The park, located 110-180 kilometres (70-110 mi) west of Calgary in the province of Alberta, encompasses 6,641 square kilometres (2,564 sq mi)[1] of mountainous terrain, with numerous glaciers and ice fields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine landscapes.
The Icefields Parkway extends from Lake Louise, connecting to Jasper National Park in the north. Provincial forests and Yoho National Park are neighbours to the west, while Kootenay National Park is located to the south and Kananaskis Country to the southeast. The main commercial centre of the park is the town of Banff, in the Bow River valley.
The Canadian Pacific Railway was instrumental in Banff's early years, building the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise, and attracting tourists through extensive advertising. In the early 20th century, roads were built in Banff, at times by war internees, and through Great Depression-era public works projects. Since the 1960s, park accommodations have been open all year, with annual tourism visits to Banff increasing to over 5 million in the 1990s. Millions more pass through the park on the Trans-Canada Highway. As Banff is one of the world's most visited national parks, the health of its ecosystem has been threatened. In the mid-1990s, Parks Canada responded by initiating a two-year study, which resulted in management recommendations, and new policies that aim to preserve ecological integrity.[2]


Throughout its history, Banff National Park has been shaped by tension between conservation and development interests.
The park was established in 1885, in response to conflicting claims over who discovered hot springs there, and who had the right to develop the hot springs for commercial interests. Instead, prime minister John A. Macdonald set aside the hot springs as a small, protected reserve, which was later expanded to include Lake Louise and other areas extending north to the Columbia Icefield.

Early history
Archaeological evidence found at Vermilion Lakes radiocarbon dates the first human activity in Banff to 10,300 B.P. Prior to European contact, aboriginals, including the Stoneys, Kootenay, Tsuu T'ina, Kainai, Peigans, and Siksika, were common in the region where they hunted bison and other game.

With the admission of British Columbia to Canada on 20 July 1871, Canada agreed to build a transcontinental railroad. Construction of the railroad began in 1875, with Kicking Horse Pass chosen, over the more northerly Yellowhead Pass, as the route through the Canadian Rockies. Ten years later, the last spike was driven in Craigellachie, British Columbia.[2]

Rocky Mountains Park established
With conflicting claims over discovery of hot springs in Banff, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald decided to set aside a small reserve of 26 square kilometres (10 sq mi) around the hot springs at Cave and Basin as a public park in 1885. Under the Rocky Mountains Park Act, enacted on 23 June 1887, the park was expanded to 674 square kilometres (260 sq mi) and named Rocky Mountains Park. This was Canada's first national park, and the second established in North America, after Yellowstone National Park. The Canadian Pacific Railway built the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise to attract tourists and increase the number of rail passengers.
Banff Springs Hotel, 1902
Early on, Banff was popular with wealthy European tourists, who arrived in Canada via trans-Atlantic luxury liner and continued westward on the railroad, as well as upper-class American and English tourists. Some visitors participated in mountaineering activities, often hiring local guides. Tom Wilson, along with Jim and Bill Brewster, was among the first outfitters in Banff. The Alpine Club of Canada, established in 1906 by Arthur Oliver Wheeler and Elizabeth Parker, organized climbs and camps in the backcountry.
By 1911, Banff was accessible by automobile from Calgary. Beginning in 1916, the Brewsters offered motorcoach tours of Banff. In 1920, access to Lake Louise by road was available, and the Banff-Windermere Road opened in 1923 to connect Banff with British Columbia.[2]


Canadian Pacific Railway advertising brochure, highlighting Mount Assiniboine and Banff scenery (c. 1917)In 1902, the park was expanded to cover 11,400 square kilometres (4,402 sq mi), encompassing areas around Lake Louise, and the Bow, Red Deer, Kananaskis, and Spray rivers. Bowing to pressure from grazing and logging interests, the size of the park was reduced in 1911 to 4,663 square kilometres (1,800 sq mi), eliminating many foothills areas from the park.
Park boundaries changed several more times up until 1930, when the size of Banff was fixed at 6,697 square kilometres (2,586 sq mi), with the passage of the National Parks Act. The Act also renamed the park as Banff National Park, named for the Canadian Pacific Railway station, which in turn was named after the Banffshire region in Scotland.[9] With the construction of a new east gate in 1933, Alberta transferred 0.84 square kilometres (207.5 acres) to the park. This, along with other minor changes in the park boundaries in 1949, set the area of the park at 6,641 square kilometres (2,564 sq mi).
Coal mining
In 1887, local aboriginal tribes signed Treaty 7, which gave Canada rights to explore the land for resources. At the beginning of the twentieth century, coal was mined near Lake Minnewanka in Banff. For a brief period, a mine operated at Anthracite, but was shut down in 1904. The Bankhead mine, at Cascade Mountain, was operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway from 1903 to 1922. In 1926, the town was dismantled, with many buildings moved to the town of Banff and elsewhere.[2]


Prison and work camps
During World War I, immigrants from Austria, Hungary, Germany and Ukraine were sent to Banff to work in internment camps. The main camp was located at Castle Mountain, and was moved to Cave and Basin during winter. Much early infrastructure and road construction was done by Slavic Canadian internees.[2]


Castle Mountain internment camp (1915)
In 1931, the Government of Canada enacted the Unemployment and Farm Relief Act which provided public works projects in the national parks during the Great Depression. In Banff, workers constructed a new bathhouse and pool at Upper Hot Springs, to supplement Cave and Basin. Other projects involved road building in the park, tasks around the Banff townsite, and construction of a highway connecting Banff and Jasper. In 1934, the Public Works Construction Act was passed, providing continued funding for the public works projects. New projects included construction of a new registration facility at Banff's east gate, and construction of an administrative building in Banff. By 1940, the Icefields Parkway reached the Columbia Icefield area of Banff, and connected Banff and Jasper.[2]

Internment camps were once again set up in Banff during World War II, with camps stationed at Lake Louise, Stoney Creek, and Healy Creek. Prison camps were largely composed of Mennonites from Saskatchewan. Japanese internment camps were not stationed in Banff during World War II, but rather were located in Jasper National Park where their detainees worked on the Yellowhead Highway and other projects.

Winter tourism
Winter tourism in Banff began in February 1917, with the first Banff Winter Carnival. The carnival featured a large ice palace, which in 1917 was built by internees. Carnival events included cross-country skiing, ski jumping, curling, snowshoe, and skijoring.[13] In the 1930s, the first downhill ski resort, Sunshine Village, was developed by the Brewsters. Mount Norquay ski area was also developed during the 1930s, with the first chair lift installed there in 1948.[2]

Since 1968, when the Banff Springs Hotel was winterized, Banff has been a year-round destination.[14] In the 1960s, the Trans-Canada Highway was constructed, providing another transportation corridor through the Bow Valley, in addition to the Bow Valley Parkway, making the park more accessible. Also in the 1960s, Calgary International Airport was built.

Canada launched several bids to host the Winter Olympics in Banff, with the first bid for the 1964 Winter Olympics which were eventually awarded to Innsbruck, Austria. Canada narrowly lost a second bid, for the 1968 Winter Olympics, which were awarded to Grenoble, France. Once again, Banff launched a bid to host the 1972 Winter Olympics, with plans to hold the Olympics at Lake Louise. The 1972 bid was most controversial, as environmental lobby groups provided strong opposition to the bid, which had sponsorship from Imperial Oil.[6] Bowing to pressure, Jean Chrétien, then the Minister of Environment, the government department responsible for Parks Canada, withdrew support for the bid, which was eventually lost to Sapporo, Japan. The cross-country ski events were held at the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park at Canmore, Alberta, located just outside the eastern gates of Banff National Park on the Trans-Canada Highway, when nearby Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics.[2]

Bears, elk, deer and more viewed while traveling in and around Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.



October 21, 2008


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1. Flickr-Banff National Park-Creative Commons Attribution License-retrieved 6/28/2009
2. Wikipedia-Banff National Park-retrieved 6/28/2009
 Wikipedia  text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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