|Natural Region 5 |
STATUS OF NATIONAL PARKS:
Canada's national parks system has its beginnings in this region over 100 years ago with the creation of a 26-square-kilometre national reserve around hot sulphur springs discovered near Banff. Since then, this reserve has grown to an area of 6,641 square kilometres and become known as Banff National Park. Yoho (1,313 km2) and Waterton Lakes (505 km2) were established by the federal government in 1886 and 1895 respectively; Jasper (10,878 km2) in 1907; and Kootenay (1,406 km2) in 1920. Today, the five national parks protect more than 12 percent of the region's area, providing representation of the geology, vegetation and wildlife of the Rocky Mountains.
© Parks Canada
Waterton Lakes National Park is linked with Montana's Glacier National Park as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, and in 1995 these two areas were declared a World Heritage Site based upon the exceptionally rich plant and mammal diversity and outstanding glacial and alpine scenery.
Waterton Lakes National Park also forms the core area of the Waterton Biosphere Reserve, one of six bio-sphere reserves in Canada.
The contiguous block of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho national parks, augmented by several provincial parks and wilderness areas on its periphery, is among the largest protected areas in the mountains of North America. These four national parks, along with the provincial parks of Mount Robson, Mount Assini-boine and Hamber were declared a World Heritage Site because of their exceptional geological features and unspoiled beauty.
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The sedimentary strata of the mountains - ancient seabeds compressed into rock and thrust into the sky - bear witness to events from a billion years ago to the age of mammals, the most complete sequence of sedimentary rocks found in Canada. The Burgess Shale Formation in Yoho National Park contains a remarkably preserved record of sea life from over 500 million years ago.
Astride the continental divide, the Columbia Icefield feeds rivers leading to three oceans - the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Arctic. The largest known cave system in Canada - Castleguard Cave - extends below the Columbia Icefield. No one yet knows just how far. One of the world's largest known underground rivers drains Medicine Lake, promising still larger cave systems waiting to be discovered. Some of the most famous hot springs in Canada are found here, including the Banff Hot Springs, which was the initial reason for establishing the first national park in Canada.
National Parks System Plan, 3rd Edition