Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site of Canada

Banff National Park of Canada, Alberta
View of the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, showing the location of the site at 2383 metres altitude, close to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, 2002. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, K. Dahlin, 2002.
General view
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, K. Dahlin, 2002.
View of the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, showing the location of the site at 2383 metres altitude, close to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, 2002. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, K. Dahlin, 2002.View of the boardwalk of the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, showing the viewplanes to the lower slopes of Sulphur Mountain, 2002. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, P. Kell, 2002.View of the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, showing the remains of the switchback trail, 2002. © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, P. Kell, 2002.
Address : Sulphur Mountain, Banff National Park of Canada, Alberta

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1982-06-12
Dates:
  • 1956 to 1957 (Construction)
  • 1957 to 1958 (Significant)
  • 1960 to 1978 (Significant)
  • 1981 to 1981 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • International Geophysical Year of 1957-58  (Event)
  • University of Calgary  (Organization)
  • National Research Council  (Organization)
  • International Council of Scientific Unions  (Organization)
Other Name(s):
  • Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station  (Designation Name)
Research Report Number: 1982-025
DFRP Number: 15404 00

Plaque(s)


Existing plaque: University of Calgary 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta

Located at the top of Sulphur Mountain, the cosmic ray station was completed by the National Research Council in 1956, in preparation for International Geophysical Year (1957-1958) an undertaking involving 66 countries and a dozen scientific disciplines. The study of cosmic rays held a prominent place, with 99 cosmic ray stations (nine in Canada) in operation worldwide during IGY. Due to its high elevation Sulphur Mountain was the most important Canadian station. In 1960 the University of Alberta at Calgary took over the station, which was closed in 1978. The building itself was dismantled in 1981.

Existing plaque: Top of Sulphur Mountain Banff National Park of Canada, Alberta

Located at the top of Sulphur Mountain, the cosmic ray station was completed by the National Research Council in 1956, in preparation for International Geophysical Year (1957-1958) an undertaking involving 66 countries and a dozen scientific disciplines. The study of cosmic rays held a prominent place, with 99 cosmic ray stations (nine in Canada) in operation worldwide during IGY. Due to its high elevation Sulphur Mountain was the most important Canadian station. In 1960 the University of Alberta at Calgary took over the station, which was closed in 1978. The building itself was dismantled in 1981.

Description of Historic Place

Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site of Canada is the site of a former laboratory located near the summit of Sulphur Mountain, in Banff National Park of Canada. The remaining concrete foundation is accessible only by foot. Official recognition refers to the building on its footprint, visible today by its remaining concrete foundation, as well as the level platform cut into the rock that surrounds it, and the upper switchback of the former access road.

Heritage Value

The Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station was declared a national historic site of Canada in 1982 because of: its role in the Canadian contribution to the International Geophysical Year 1957-58.

The heritage value of Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station lies in its location, the legibility of its remains, and their association with an important worldwide scientific phenomenon. The Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station was one of nine Canadian monitoring stations built in 1956-57 to meet Canada’s commitment to the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58 organized by the International Council of Scientific Unions. Situated at an altitude of 2383 metres, it became Canada’s most important cosmic ray observatory, contributing to our understanding of how the sun effects the earth’s environment. Its sponsor and initial occupant was the National Research Council of Canada, although the University of Calgary assumed operation of the laboratory from 1960-1978. During this period, the size of the original building was expanded to accommodate an upgrade of its monitoring equipment. Once the station closed, both the building and its equipment were removed in 1981.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1982; Commemorative Integrity Statement, December 1999.

Character-Defining Elements

The key elements that contribute to the heritage character of this site include: the location of the site at 2383 metres altitude, close to the summit of Sulphur Mountain; the viewplanes to the adjacent Sulphur Mountain Weather Station and to the lower slopes of Sulphur Mountain and along its summit ridge, and of the surrounding mountains and valleys; the remains of the switchback trail in its route, extent and materials, and its spatial relationship to the foundation remains; the legibility in terms of materials and configuration of laboratory remains including the concrete foundation of the building, its surrounding level platform, and the upper switchback trail.