Kootenay National Park
Kootenay-Great Diversity in One National Park
Kootenay National Park is one of the four national parks (Banff, Jasper, and Yoho are the others) which make up the Rocky Mountain UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kootenay National Park which is located in South-Eastern British Columbia, was founded in 1920 as part of an agreement between the provincial and federal governments to construct the first highway through the Rocky Mountains. The highway now known as The Banff-Windermere #93 connects Alberta to the Western side of the Rocky mountains. Kootenay National Park is named for the first nation's people who originally inhabited this region mostly using it as a seasonal hunting ground. Kootenay National Park is located on either side of highway #93 and is known for its great environmental diversity and unique natural attractions.
Natural Attractions In Kootenay
The main attractions in Kootenay National Park are the Paint Pots and Hot Springs. The town of Radium Hot Springs which is located just outside the South Western Gates is named for the odourless hot springs that are located just inside the park. The hot springs range in temperature from 35 to 47 degrees Celsius (95 to 117 degrees Fahrenheit) and are connected to a pool. In the early 20th century, promoters of the park tried to attract visitors by claiming the springs as therapeutic and used the hot springs very slightly elevated radiation levels in the promotions. This slight elevation in radiation is what gave Radium Hot Springs it's name.
The Paint Pots are another fascinating historic attraction to be found in Kootenay National Park. The Paint Pots are a group of iron rich mineral springs that bubble up from the centre of the Earth and form small pools on the surface. The iron rich water takes on a dark rust colour as it meets the air. This ochre coloured water was used by many First Nations tribes as a paint prior to the 20th century.
Kootenay National Park has many unique and interesting natural attractions for park visitors to see. There are several hiking trails and a few campsites located in the park. The hiking trails lead to Floe lake which is at the end of an 11 km trek and Kaufman Lake is at the end of another day length hiking trail. There are also several multiple day length hiking trails located in the park, but these trails can be quite difficult so be prepared and make sure you are in shape for a hike of this nature. Kootenay National Park is a world renowned mountaineering destination with attractions for those willing to climb including the historic Fay Hut that can be accessed from Marble Canyon and the Neil Colgan hut which is located above the Valley of the Ten Peaks. The Neil Colgan Hut is the highest permanent structure in Canada. It sleeps 18 people in the summer and is located on the Fay Glacier. The hut can be reached by travelling across the glacier for 4 to 6 hours or 8 to 12 hours of climbing on the Perren Route from Moraine Lake.
Forest Fires and Avalanches Leave Their Mark
Several forest fires have left Kootenay scared by fire in the last few years. In 2003 and 2004 fires near Simpson River, Vermillion Pass and Floe Creek burned large areas in the Northern end of the park. These burned out areas are still visible from the highway as travellers approach the park. Use caution when travelling in the back country of the Rocky's as fires can start easily, often due to lightning. Obey any road closures and watch for reports from local media and on Parks Canada websites for updates regarding forest fires that may be burning during your visit. Avalanches are also quite common in the Rocky Mountains during the winter months. Pay attention to avalanche warnings posted at area ski resorts, on websites and in the local media.
Kootenay Camping and Climate
Kootenay National Park is open all year but some campsites are not available during the winter. Temperatures are similar to those of other parks in the area and precipitation can vary widely depending on the time of year. Expect temperatures as low as -25 degrees Celsius in the winter at night and 10 degrees Celsius during the summer. Daytime highs can range from -5 degrees in the winter to over 25 degrees Celsius in the summer. Visitors are advised to check the local forecast before venturing out into the park and to dress accordingly for the expected conditions. As Kootenay Park is only 5 miles deep on either side of the highway, many of the park's attractions are near the road and unlike other parks are wheelchair accessible.
There are many different species of animals in the park including bears, birds, frogs, bighorn sheep among many others. Bring a camera to catch them in action but do not feed the animals as they are all very much wild.
Kootenay National Park is known for the wide diversity of it's landscape. Everything can be found in Kootenay from glaciers to mountains to deserts all of which are the perfect back drop for your next adventure. For more information visit the Parks Canada website at www.pc.gc.ca