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Kootenay National Park

From Cactus to Glacier

Kootenay Valley Viewpoint, Kootenay National Park Kootenay Valley Viewpoint, Kootenay National Park © Parks Canada / John Pitcher

Kootenay National Park (1,406 km2 ) is one of 45 national parks in Canada. Together, they celebrate and protect the diversity of the nation's great landscapes. Kootenay National Park represents the south-western region of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

From glacier-clad peaks along the Continental Divide to semi-arid grasslands of the Rocky Mountain Trench, where cactus grows, Kootenay National Park is noted for its diversity of landscapes, ecology and climate. Natural features characteristic of the Rocky Mountains include sedimentary rocks and thrust-faulted mountains, landscapes sculptured by glaciers and water, and plants and animals typical of alpine, subalpine and montane ecological zones.

For thousands of years, the area which is now Kootenay National Park was part of the traditional lands identified by the Ktunaxa (Kootenay) and Kinbasket (Shuswap) First Nations people. Archaeological evidence suggests the mountains were used primarily as seasonal hunting grounds. Groups also travelled across the mountains periodically to hunt bison on the plains east of the Rockies. Some sites are considered sacred.

Kootenay National Park was established in 1920 as part of an agreement between the provincial and federal governments to build the Banff-Windermere Highway – the first motor road across the Canadian Rockies. A strip of land five miles (eight kilometres) wide on each side of the highway was set aside as a national park. The completion of the highway in 1922 expanded the new age of motor tourism in the Canadian Rockies and established a commercial link between the Windermere Valley and Calgary.

The 94 km Banff-Windermere Highway (93 South) takes you through the park along the Vermilion and Kootenay rivers and through the narrow gorge of Sinclair Canyon to the famous Radium Hot Springs. Many use the highway simply as a scenic route to reach the Windermere Valley, beyond the park's southern boundary. But those who take the time to stop along the way discover some of Kootenay's quiet, colourful secrets...

...such as the vibrant new forests growing up in the wake of the forest fires at Vermilion Pass and Mount Shanks, the blue glacial waters and white dolomite walls of Marble Canyon, the rust-coloured mineral pools and ochre beds of the Paint Pots, the shaggy white mountain goats (the park's wildlife symbol) on the crags and slopes of Mount Wardle, the panoramic overlook at Kootenay Valley Viewpoint, the little green gem of Olive Lake nestled in Sinclair Pass, and the iron rich cliffs of the Redwall Fault – an impressive park entrance for visitors from the south.

The character of Kootenay National Park is defined by its ecosystem – the dynamic interaction of its native species and natural processes. Preserving the natural state of the park requires maintaining the integrity of its ecosystem. The ecological integrity of Kootenay National Park is threatened by a variety of human impacts such as development, fire suppression, introduction of non-native plants, habitat fragmentation and human/wildlife conflicts. Parks Canada is taking a number of actions to restore and maintain the ecological integrity of national parks.

Kootenay National Park offers opportunities to experience the Rocky Mountains, learn about their natural and cultural heritage, and connect with nature. National parks belong to the people of Canada. As such, we all share in the responsibility for their stewardship. An understanding and respect for the land and its people will help ensure the ecological and cultural integrity of these special places are maintained for future generations.

Welcome to the Kootenay National Park website. We hope you will have the opportunity to visit the real park for yourself!