5.0 A Place of Historical and Cultural Significance: Protection of Cultural Resources
© Parks Canada/John G. Woods/MRGNP collection
Rogers Pass National Historic Site, along with the cultural resources of the two national parks, tells a human story of more than 100 years. Railway construction, mountaineering, logging, mining, the Nakimu caves, a work camp for conscientious objectors in WW II, an internment camp in WW I and even the first competitive ski jump in Canada are all part of the legacy held in trust here for Canadians.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park was established in 1886. The Canadian Pacific Railway had just completed its transcontinental line, linking the scattered settlements of the young nation of Canada. The spectacular scenery along the rail line suggested the potential for tourism, and lodges and hotels were built to entice travellers to what had been uncharted wilderness only a few years before. The Illecillewaet Glacier became a popular attraction. The railway company built the park’s first visitor facilities to cater to the needs of its passengers, including the Glacier House hotel, hiking and horse trails and tea houses in the Rogers Pass area. Rogers Pass National Historic Site now commemorates the area’s importance to the transcontinental railway (see section 6.2). The first technical mountain climbing for recreation in North America occurred in these mountains. Today’s mountaineers still follow the trails laid out by early climbers, hotel employees and Swiss guides more than a century ago. The opening of the Trans-Canada Highway in 1962 brought additional facilities for new automobile-based visitors, including campgrounds, picnic areas, and viewpoints.
Mount Revelstoke National Park
In 1908, the City of Revelstoke broke a trail to the top of the mountain of the same name. Local citizens then began to lobby the provincial and federal governments for construction of a road to the summit. The park was established in 1914 and construction of the Meadows-in-the-Sky Parkway was completed in 1927.
Before the railway, the confluence of the Columbia and Illecillewaet Rivers, just outside the park, was used as an encampment by fur traders and explorers on the Columbia and as a supply point for mining operations. The site later became a divisional point for the CPR.
The history of Mount Revelstoke National Park includes a First World War internment camp and the first competitive ski jump in Canada. Named for Nels Nelsen, a local skier who set an amateur world record by jumping 240 feet, the ski jump was located at the base of the mountain. Artifacts from the jumps as well as early park buildings remain as tangible links with the area’s varied past.
Little is known about the use of the area by First Nations. Long winters, frequent deadly avalanches, thick tangled underbrush, and poor hunting and fishing likely made the area largely inhospitable. While archaeological surveys and research have yet to find indications of First Nations use within the parks, the surrounding area was used for thousands of years. Additional traditional use studies, in partnership with First Nations, will expand our understanding of the parks’ human history.
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