Kootenay National Park

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Kootenay National Park
IUCN category II (national park)
Kootenay National Park Kootenay River.JPG
The Ottertail River
Map showing the location of Kootenay National Park
Map showing the location of Kootenay National Park
Location of Kootenay National Park
Location British Columbia, Canada
Coordinates 50°52′59″N 116°02′57″W / 50.88306°N 116.04917°W / 50.88306; -116.04917Coordinates: 50°52′59″N 116°02′57″W / 50.88306°N 116.04917°W / 50.88306; -116.04917
Area 1,406 km2 (543 sq mi)
Established 1920
Governing body Parks Canada
World Heritage Site 304

Kootenay National Park is located in southeastern British Columbia Canada, covering 1,406 km2 (543 sq mi) in the Canadian Rockies, and forms part of a World Heritage Site. The park ranges in elevation from 918 m (3,012 ft) at the southwestern park entrance, to 3,424 m (11,234 ft) at Deltaform Mountain. Kootenay forms one of the four contiguous mountain parks in the Canadian Rockies; the other three being Banff National Park directly to the east, Yoho National Park directly to the north, and Jasper National Park, which does not share a boundary with Kootenay National Park. Initially called "Kootenay Dominion Park", the park was created in 1920 as part of an agreement between the province of British Columbia and the Canadian federal government to build a highway in exchange for title to a strip of land on either side of the route. A strip of land 8 km (5.0 mi) wide on each side of the newly constructed 94 km. Banff–Windermere Highway was set aside as a national park.

While the park is open all year, the major tourist season lasts from June to September. Most campgrounds are open from early May to late September, while limited winter camping is available only at the Dolly Varden campground.

The park takes its name from the Kootenay River, one of the two major rivers which flow through the park, the other being the Vermillion River. While the Vermillion River is completely contained within the park, the Kootenay River has its headwaters just outside the park boundary, flowing through the park into the Rocky Mountain Trench, eventually joining the Columbia River. BC Highway 93 (Banff–Windermere Highway) follows the path of both rivers through the park.


The park's main attractions include Radium Hot Springs, Olive Lake, Marble Canyon, Sinclair Canyon and the Paint Pots. The hot springs offer a hot springs pool ranging from 35 to 47 °C (95 to 117 °F). The Paint Pots are a group of iron-rich cold mineral springs which bubble up through several small pools and stain the earth a dark red-orange colour. The Paint Pots were a major source of the ochre paint pigment for a number of First Nations groups prior to the 20th century.

One of the Paint Pots

Because of the relatively small width of the park (five miles on each side of the highway), many of the park's attractions are situated near the road and are wheelchair accessible. A number of recent forest fires in the northern half of the park in the Simpson River, Vermillion Pass, and Floe Creek areas in 2003 and 2004 have left significant burn areas readily visible from the highway. Numa Falls is a short drive south of Marble Canyon (Canadian Rockies) and is accessible directly by Highway 93 which cuts through the park.

Ten minutes north of Radium Hot Springs is Olive Lake a popular picnic area surrounded by short hiking trails.

Just outside the park's southwestern entrance is the town of Radium Hot Springs. The town is named for the odourless hot springs located just inside the park boundary. The name originated at the turn of the 20th century when the promoters tried to sell the hot springs as a therapeutic cure and used the springs' very slight radioactivity as a selling point. The area around the hot springs is also home to the rubber boa snake [1]. The park's northeastern entrance, connects to Castle Junction in Banff National Park and the Trans-Canada Highway via Vermillion Pass, a mountain pass across the Continental Divide of the Canadian Rockies on the Alberta/British Columbia border, at an elevation of 1,651 metres (5,416').

Backcountry attractions[edit]

Floe Lake taken from the Floe Lake backcountry campground – July 2004

There are many back country attractions in Kootenay National Park. Floe Lake is a picturesque lake which lies on a 10.7 km hiking trail accessible from highway 93. Kaufman Lake is also a popular full day hiking destination. The Fay Hut is accessible from Marble Canyon, and the Neil Colgan Hut located above the Valley of the Ten Peaks is a popular mountaineering destination. There are many multiple-day backpacking trails, some of which are quite strenuous. The park's most notable multi-day hike is the Rockwall Trail, described by the Parks Canada as "a 55 km (34 mile) superlative-laden feast traversing three alpine passes through subalpine meadows and past impressive hanging glaciers. The trail's defining feature is a single, massive limestone cliff, towering in some locations more than 900m (2953 feet) above the trail below."[1]


Sinclair Canyon

The geology of the park is dominated by mountains made up of exposed faulted sedimentary rock and valleys containing glacial till deposited in the Pleistocene.

Just outside the northwestern corner of the park, there is an igneous intrusion known as the Ice River Complex containing deposits of sodalite, an ornamental stone. The hills immediately around the hot springs are composed mainly of tufa, a calcium carbonate deposit that forms by precipitation of supersaturated hot spring water when it reaches cooler surface water.

The rocks in southwestern corner of the park are part of the older Purcell Mountains range while the eastern park mountains are part of the younger Rocky Mountains range.

The park has many Cambrian strata of oceanic sedimentary origin that shed insight into the explosive radiation of multicellular life on Earth. In the summer of 2012 a team of scientists from the Royal Ontario Museum, Pomona College, the University of Toronto, the University of Saskatchewan and Uppsala University discovered a Lagerstätte site of extraordinary preservation in shale, comparable to the Burgess Shale's phyllopod bed of fossils.[2] only 42 kilometres (26 mi) distant, in Yoho National Park.[3] One species Kootenichela discovered in these rocks had been scientifically described: more than 50 new species were discovered in the Marble Canyon area in just two weeks of intensive exploration. The new assemblage of organisms, dating to Cambrian Stage 5, is described as rich in basal arthropods and remarkable for the density and diversity of its soft-bodied organisms, some preserved in previously unreported detail.


Climate data for Kootenay NP West Gate (Elevation--935 M)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 9.5
Average high °C (°F) −3.9
Average low °C (°F) −9.7
Record low °C (°F) −35.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 33.2
Average snowfall cm (inches) 27.2
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm) 11.6 7.0 8.5 9.9 13.6 16.1 12.9 11.4 9.6 11.2 11.1 10.5 133.4
Average snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm) 9.9 5.0 3.0 1.2 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 6.0 9.2 35.5
Source: Environment Canada (Canadian Climate normals)


Animals in this national park include elk, badger, cougar, marten, white-tailed deer, mountain goat, Canada lynx, marmots, moose, grizzly bear, coyote, timber wolf, black bear, wolverine, mule deer, golden-mantled ground squirrel, and bighorn sheep.

World Heritage Site[edit]

This park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, together with the other national and provincial parks that form the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, for the mountain landscapes containing mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons and limestone caves as well as fossils found here.

Forest fire[edit]

On July 31, 2003 lightning started five fires in Kootenay National Park that deteriorated into one of the largest wildfires in the Canadian Rockies, burning 17,000 hectares. There were dozens of other wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta — including large wildfires near the Crowsnest Pass, Kamloops and Kelowna. It cost almost $1 billion to fight the fires. Hundreds of homes were lost, thousands of people were evacuated across Western Canada. The 2003 fire led to positive environmental changes and development of a national wildland fire strategy in the mountain parks in 2005. In 2003, when the fire was threatening to spread from the Vermilion Valley and into the Bow Valley, when it was 50 kilometres from the town of Banff, fire fighters set up a containment line, a common strategy in wild fire control, by lighting a backfire 15 kilometres ahead of the fire, ultimately saving the Bow River Valley in general and Lake Louise and Banff in particular. Mike Flannigan, a professor with the department of renewable resources at the University of Alberta, explained that fires in the backcountry are healthy and beneficial to the forest and that the 2003 forest fire was ultimately good for the ecosystem in Kootenay. Rick Kubian, resource conservation manager with Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay national parks, explained how after the 2003 watershed year, Parks Canada changed its fire management strategy to include among other things, a prescribed burn program. They examined the landscape from a broader scale in time and space. Historically, a forest fire is part of a natural cycle, similar to the seasons, a winter that precedes the spring. In post-fire areas, over a long period of time, various stages of the habitat, support diverse species. The northern hawk owl that thrives in post-burn conditions is already in the area. With a profusion of fireweed, a brilliant pink flower that thrives in these conditions, and new vistas have opened up, the park is beautiful. By 2018 or 2023 the burned area will be prime grizzly bear habitat and better for moose.[4]

Photo gallery[edit]

Trail markers, taken from the plateau just below Stanley Glacier, facing Mt Whymper.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Backcountry". Kootenay National Park. Parks Canada. 20 March 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  2. ^ Caron, Jean-Bernard; Gaines, Robert R.; Aria, Cédric; Mángano, M. Gabriela; Streng, Michael (11 February 2014). "A new phyllopod bed-like assemblage from the Burgess Shale of the Canadian Rockies". Nature Communications. 5: 3210. PMID 24513643. doi:10.1038/ncomms4210. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Schmidt, Colleen (11 February 2014). "Scientists unearth epic fossil find in Kootenay National Park". Calgary, Alberta: CTV News. Retrieved 1 June 2014. 
  4. ^ Derworiz, Colette (2 August 2013). "2003 fires lead to positive environmental changes:Kootenay blazes wreaked havoc 10 years ago". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 

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