Sunday, June 8, 2008

Banff National Park

Banff National Park

Banff National Park, Calgary Alberta Canada

banff national park moraine lake

Moraine Lake, and the Valley of the Ten Peaks

The oldest national park in Canada – pronounced as baemf

A change of role

The ascent of Homo sapiens (human species) as a super power among animals did much damage to ecology, by 18th century there was a shift in his role he changed role from a terminator to a preserver. The national parks that dot all around are the symbols of that change. Yellowstone, Yosemite are all examples for that and Banff(one of the earliest) is no exception. The Banff National Park located in scenic sets of the Canadian Rockies. It is 80 miles from Calgary town of Alberta province Canada. The Banff Park was established in 1885 with an area of 2564 sq miles (6641 sq km) as the first of its kind in Canada and the third in the world.

Dug for a rail found a park!

banff national park lake minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka

In 1885 laborers who were working for a rail company at the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains noticed a hollow cave; their curiosity led them in the cave where they saw hot springs and many other wonderful things. At present the Banff is a full fledged national park with wonderful rock formations, peaks, waterfalls, glaciers, ice-fields, hot springs, pristine coniferous forests, rivers, lakes and almost all sorts of natural phenomena. This place is also a home to rare and exotic animals and plants that are not found anywhere else in the world. Visitors to the park exceed 4 million a year; it is the first national park of Canada; part of the World Heritage Site; a complex of about four parks sites (Yoho, Kootenai, Jasper and Banff.

Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR)

CPR works first found the existence of this site; it was CPR was Canada’s first transcontinental railway; which brought the site to the notice of the world and it was the same company that brought to this site initially. The company with a beaver as its mascot rose to be a symbol of Canadian national pride. For years the CPR remained as the only means of transport to the entire locations.

Early history

banff national park lake louise

Lake Louise

There are archaeological evidences for human inhabitation in the Banff area since 8500 BC. The remains recovered from around the Vermilion Lakes (a series of lakes located between Canadian Pacific Railway and Trans Canadian Highway in the foot of Mount Norquay) prove that tribes like, Stoneys (also known as Nakodas), Paigans, Tsuu T’ina, Kootenai etc lived here. The discovery of hot springs and construction of the railway made the site popular and in 1885 only 10 sq miles of land was allotted to the park by Canadian PM John A McDonald; this was later expanded to 260 sq miles in 1887. There after the park got more and more area under its care the present size was reached in 1949 (2564 sq miles).

How to get there

Banff National Park is in the Canadian Rockies about 80 miles from town Calgary; by air one can fly from Vancouver to Calgary; both cities have international airports; distance only 500 miles. The Trans-Canada Highway leads to the park from Calgary via Banff and Lake Louis. Train facility is limited to minimum site seeing schedules.

A park cluster

peyto lake banff canada

Peyto Lake

The Banff is one among the four national parks located in the Canadian Rockies lying interlocked each other. They are Jasper, Kootenai, Yoho and

Banff; there is one park of the same status that is separately located in the farther south; the Waterton National Park. The first four interlinked parks including the Banff have the status of World Heritage Site awarded by the UNESCO.

Castle Mountain

The group of mounts looks exactly like a castle from a distance hence named so by James Hector. This massif is located between Banff and British Columbia and can be seen from the Trans Canada Highway. The Castle Mountain acted as a prison for the internees of the 1st World War and accommodated prisoners from Germany, Austria and Hungary etc. This mount was first ascended by Arthur Coleman in 1884 through the Rockbound Lake Trail. Its prominent mounts are Helena Ridge, Stuart Knob, and Television Peak etc. It is a favorite destination for hiking and mountaineering enthusiasts.

Cave and Basin

The presence of thermal springs in the Banff Park was first recorded by James Hector in 1859. It is the site with natural thermal springs with dissolved sulfur content; its water has medicinal properties and can cure skin ailments. It was this spring the first Banff National Park was established with an area of 10 sq miles. These springs are habitat for a very much endangered species of snail called Banff Spring Snail.

The Columbian Ice field

banff national park parker ridge

Skiing on Parker Ridge, near the Columbia Icefield

An ice field is a medium sized frozen water body with less than sq feet in area; it is comparatively larger than the Alpine Glaciers and smaller than an ice sheet. The Columbian Icefield is in the Canadian Rockies astride the Continental Divide of North America; it is 325 sq km in area and between 300 and 1200 feet in depth. The ice field receives about 23 feet of snow fall and feeds about eight glaciers like Athabasca, Castleguard and Columbia etc. Wapta and Wapotik icefields are also of considerable size but all in the receding stage due to warming. Peyto, Bow and Vulture glaciers originate from the Wapta Icefield.

Animals of Banff

banff national park elk

Elk in Banff

The plant and animal varieties found at this park is wonderfully diverse; about 53 species of mammals live here along with many endemic. The bird population of this park is about 280 species including red tailed hawk, golden eagles, bald eagles etc. There insects and reptiles (reptiles are comparatively rare); a good number of them are endangered. It is the vide range of climate, altitude as well as plant varieties that enabled the park to host so many varieties of mammals. Porcupine, Hoary marmot (a burrowing rodent living in flocks; inhabitant of North America), Pika (a small rabbit like animal), Beaver etc are of small mammals. There are larger animals like Moose, elk, Mule deer, caribou (reindeer), Bison, several types of goats and sheep etc. There is no dearth for carnivorous animals also; coyote (a wolf like wild dog also known as brush wolf or prairie wolf; native to North America), grizzled bear, wolf, black bear etc.

A multibillion affair

The Banff is part of a complex of national parks and a visit to all these parks take its own time and guided tours, hiking, packaged tours and all paraphernalia associated with tourism is available here also. In fact the excessive commercialized tourism operations itself have of late become a problem.

The Upper Hot Springs for example is a natural hot water spring that has been commercially developed to ensure good spa experience to the visitors with a view of the of the Valley of Mount Rundle. All luxuries that a tourist can dream of in natural surroundings have been provided in the most user friendly way in the typical western concept. Tourism at Banff is no small thing as it caters to the needs of more than five million visitors annually and makes billions of dollars on exchange of sheer pleasure and enjoyment.

A tall order

two jack lake banff canada

Two Jack Lake Banff National Park

The Banff National Park is an asset of humanity and to see it is a right that cannot be denied; same time the ecology of its exclusive surroundings and the biosphere have to be protected; a balancing game between business and ethics; a tall order indeed; hope the National Park Agency will manage it most responsibly!

No comments: