This Week in History


Yoho National Park of Canada: A Peaceful Haven

For the week of Monday December 8, 2003

On December 14, 1901, Yoho Park reserve, which later became a national park in British Columbia, was established on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains. This park is known throughout Canada and around the world for its tremendous ecological diversity and unique heritage.

Lake Mary and O'Hara in Yoho National Park of Canada
© Parks Canada / W. Lynch

Yoho National Park  is one of Canada’s 40 national parks, sharing its borders with both Banff and Kootenay national parks. The word yoho is Cree for the awe and wonder of the park’s magnificent landscapes. Yoho is known for it snow-capped mountaintops, glacial waters, turquoise lakes, impressive waterfalls and silent forests. With a surface area of 1,310 square kilometres, the park features a great variety of vegetation. Close to 300 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians make their home in the park, including some rare or disappearing species.

Fossil of the Site of the Burgess Shales
© Parks Canada / W. Lynch

In 1909, a paleontologist exploring this area discovered Burgess Shale, one of the most important fossil sites in the world. In this Cambrian fossil deposit, scientists identified more than 120 species of invertebrate marine animals that lived in the seas 515 million years ago. This find not only yielded valuable information about the Cambrian Period, but also provided answers to some of the mysteries of evolution. In 1981, UNESCO designated Burgess Shale a world heritage site. A number of cultural resources are also located in Yoho National Park, including two national historic sites: Kicking Horse Pass and the Twin Falls Tea House, an old rustic style teahouse. It also has 114 archaeological sites, a train station and Five Federal Heritage Buildings.

The park’s history is intimately tied to railway development. During the 1870s, North America saw growing interest in tourism and recreational activities in the wilderness. Railway companies encouraged the development of tourist attractions along their lines. The Canadian Pacific Railway, completed in 1885, and the Trans-Canada Highway, built between 1910 and 1970, travel through the park, giving visitors ready access to the points of interest. This park is also known for the range of public activities offered, such as walking tours on the panoramic trails and cross-country skiing.

One of the jewels in the national parks system, Yoho National Park of Canada is part of the Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, one of the largest protected areas in the world.

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