Kootenay, British Columbia on the map. National Park Kootenay (province British Columbia) on the map of Canada

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Kootenay, British Columbia on the map. National Park Kootenay  (province British Columbia) on the map of Canada

Far right: Elk can often be observed at the Animal Licks, usually at dawn or dusk.

Facing page: Bighorn rams high in the grassy meadows of Kootenay National Park.

Below: A frozen waterfall provides a wondrous backdrop for these snowshoers in Haffner Canyon.

Kootenay, British Columbia

Established: 1920   Acreage: 340,480

Kootenay National Park, on the west slope of the Continental Divide, offers the chance to compare mountains of the Main and Western Ranges of the Rocky Mountains and observe the headwaters of the Kootenay River. It is a land of startling contrasts—towering summits and hanging glaciers, narrow chasms and color-splashed mineral pools.

The park's mixture of landscape and human history captures the visitor's attention: Marble Canyon Nature Trail offers the chance to closely examine the effect of water erosion on the earth's surface; nearby are ochre-tinted paint pots which were once used by the Kootenay Indians to make vermilion paint to decorate their bodies and tepees. The Red wall Fault, marked by scattered rock and red cliffs, has its own fascination, while Radium Hot Springs, the site of the legendary Indian spirit Nipika, is a natural mineral spring heated deep in the earth's crust.

Since prehistoric times, this part of the central Canadian Rockies served as a major north-south traffic route, and Indians met at the hot springs long before fur traders and explorers crossed the area's challenging mountain passes. Today the Banff-Windermere Highway, stretching from north to south through the park, is filled with views of wildlife and stunning geographical features. The park's many trails lead visitors through alpine meadows to mountain lakes and snowfields.

Kootenay, British Columbia on the map. National Park Kootenay  (province British Columbia) on the map of Canada