National Historic Sites of the Mountain Parks
MANAGEMENT PLANNING NEWSLETTER
National historic sites in the mountain parks tell a story that began
several hundred years ago; a story of First Nations, fur traders, even
rays from outer space.
First Nations & the North West Company
Following trails traveled by the Ktunaxa First Nation, David Thompson of
the North West Company crossed Howse Pass in the early 19th
century to establish the fur trade in the Columbia district. Thompson built
a trading post at Kootenae House (1807 - 1811) on the upper
Columbia River, near what is now Invermere. As the fur traders moved to the
north, Thompson briefly used Henry House in the Athabasca
valley to store supplies and graze his horses. For the first half of the 19
th century, the main fur trade routes between Alberta and British Columbia
were through Athabasca Pass and Yellowhead Pass,
anchored on the east side by places such as Jasper House
(1830-1884). Archaeological remains at these locations include buried foundations,
cemeteries, artefacts, and campsites.
Crossing the Great Divide
Many long established trails across the Continental Divide have evolved
into modern transportation corridors. The Palliser Expedition explored
Kicking Horse Pass in 1858. Three decades later, the
Canadian Pacific Railway chose this pass as the main route over the
Rocky Mountains in their quest to link Canada from sea to sea. Construction
of the Spiral Tunnels in 1909 solved daunting problems created by the
steep grade down the west side of the pass into British Columbia.
The Cave and Basin commemorates the birthplace
of the national park system in 1885. It was here the park we now
know as Banff had its beginnings as a small parcel set aside to
protect the sulphur mineral springs. Post Card Circa 1914.
© Steve Malins collection
First Oil Well in Western Canada (1902) --
Visitors to Waterton Lakes National Park can explore the wellheads,
drilling equipment, and remains of the Oil City boomtown.
© Parks Canada
As more and more people began to arrive by rail, facilities sprang
up to accommodate the sudden influx of tourists to the mountains. The
CPR built facilities for hikers and climbers, such as the Twin
Falls Tea House (1908), and the Abbot Pass Refuge Cabin
(1922). Rustic log buildings built at Skoki Lodge in
1931 for backcountry skiers, still welcome visitors.
Early park buildings include the Jasper Park Information Centre,
built in 1913 as the superintendent's residence, and the Banff
Park Museum (1903), an intricate log structure where original
exhibits present the natural history of Banff in historic style to the
The Cosmic Ray Station, a laboratory built on the
summit of Sulphur Mountain as part of Canada's contribution to the International
Geophysical Year (1957-1958), investigated the properties of solar rays.