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Birthplace of Canada's national parks: Cave and Basin National Historic Site

Banff’s Legacy

Discovery | Understanding and ProtectingThermal Waters 


Lake Louise, Banff National Park
Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka

The McCardell brothers and McCabe wrote to the government, laying claim to the hot springs. However, the government, needing to generate revenue to finance the railroad, also saw the potential these medicinal waters had for attracting tourists.

Arguments over the ownership of the springs escalated into a legal battle, and the government solved the dispute by creating the 26 km2 Hot Springs Reserve in 1885. The Order in Council dictated the springs were “reserved from sale or settlement or squatting….”

On June 23, 1887, the Hot Springs Reserve was expanded to encompass 665 km2 under the Rocky Mountains Park Act and officially became Rocky Mountains National Park – the first national park in Canada. This Act acknowledged that natural areas should be included amongst the country’s sources of wealth and that the parks should belong to the people of Canada.

This first national park eventually became Banff National Park through the National Parks Act of 1930. In addition to this flagship park, we now have 43 national parks, 167 historic sites, 4 marine parks and 1 national urban park in Canada and the largest system of protected places in the world. Parks Canada has acted as the steward and guide to these natural and cultural treasures, which stretch from sea to sea to sea.