Banff, Alberta on the map. National Park Banff (Alberta) on the map of Canada

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Banff, Alberta on the map. National Park Banff (Alberta) on the map of Canada

Facing page: Vermilion Lakes, with snow-capped Mount Rundle looming in the distance.

Below: Park visitors marvel at the bright blue waters of Peyto Lake. The color of the park lakes vary from season to season, based on the amount of sediment washed down from the glaciers.

Banff, Alberta

Established: 1887   Acreage: 1,640,960

Banff, perhaps Canada's premier tourist magnet, attracts millions of visitors every year with its mountains, valleys, glaciers, forests, alpine meadows, lakes and wild rivers along the Alberta flank of the Continental Divide. The park contains at least 25 peaks which tower 9800 feet or more. The blue-green Lake Louise, with glacier-clad Mount Victoria is one of the park's most popular stopping places. The park stretches for nearly 120 miles (193 kilomters), running from Mount Sir Douglas at 11,174 feet (3406 meters) on the south to its common border with Jasper National Park on the north. Yoho National Park, about half Banff's length, lies to the west. The common boundary is the crest of the Canadian Rockies. The two parks are connected by highways over Kicking Horse Pass, elevation 5399 feet (1636 meters) and Vermillion Pass, elevation 5376 feet (1639 meters).

The Canadian Pacific Railway played an important role in the establishment and development of Canada's first national park. In 1883 CPR employees discovered the Cave and Basin Hot Springs at Banff Station. The fledgling railway needed business, and a well-advertised attraction such as a resort park in the Canadian Rockies was just the thing to draw visitors. Recognizing the commercial value of the springs,

rough bathhouses were soon constructed. Two years later a small area was designated the Banff Hot Springs Reserve, modelled after the American one in Hot Springs, Arkansas, with bathhouses being leased.

Both the government and the CPR recognized the springs as a major attraction. The scenic beauty of the surrounding country inspired the Canadian government to protect the area for the enjoyment of all. Following the model of Yellowstone National Park in the United States, which had been created 15 years earlier, the area was set aside as Rocky Mountains Park, later renamed Banff National Park.

A diversity of wildlife abounds in Banff National Park. A total of 53 species of mammals, ranging in size from the pygmy shrew to the grizzly bear, inhabit the park. Other species include red squirrel, beaver, muskrat, moose, white-tailed and mule deer, caribou, mountain goats, coyotes, wolves and mountain lions. Among the bird population are ospreys and bald and golden eagles. Four of the most commonly seen resident birds are members of the crow family — gray jay, Clark's nutcracker, black-billed magpie, and raven. The lakes and rivers of Banff are filled with whitefish, three species of trout, lake chub, black-nosed dace and five-spined stickleback.

The cool climate of Banff best supports coniferous trees, and among the most common are lodgepole pine, white and Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir and Douglas fir. Dense stands of trembling aspen are found in the dry, open areas.

 

Banff, Alberta on the map. National Park Banff (Alberta) on the map of Canada