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Banff National Park

Country: Canada
State: Alberta
Gateway City: Banff
Climate: Banff has a temperate climate with four seasons. July is the hottest month, with average highs of 22 Celsius. The winters are cold, and park visitors must dress very warmly to account for factors like windchill. -20 degree Celsius may feel like -30 Cel
Number of visitors per year: 5 Million

History

Banff National Park was established in 1885 in order to settle a land dispute over who owned the hot springs discovered there.  Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, set aside the springs as a small, protected reserve.  Under the Rocky Mountains Park Act, it was expanded to 260 square miles in 1887.  In 1902, it was expanded further to 4402 square miles, encompassing the areas around Lake Louise and the many rivers in the area.  In the earlier half of the twentieth century, Banff was a popular vacation destination for wealthy European tourists. 

About

Banff has a wealth of waterfalls, glaciers, wildlife, and attractions that are difficult to see in one visit alone.  The most popular to visitors are the Icefields Parkway, the Columbia Icefields, Lake Louise, and the Banff Hot Springs, but there are a wealth of other wonders to discover.  Take a train ride through the park, hike to one of its many waterfalls, or go mountain biking on one of the many designated mountain biking trails.

Highlights

Banff Park Museum National Historic Site

First established in 1895 and given a permanent home in its current building in 1903, visitors to the Banff Park Museum will see taxidermy specimens of animals, woods, and many other exhibits that pertain to the park.  More than 5000 natural history specimens are contained in the museum.

Cave And Basin National Historic Site

This attraction is built on the site of a former hotel that was built over the Hot Springs site.  Featured is the cave itself, the very localized species of snail called the “Banff Springs Snail”, and a replica bathing pavilion which is meant to recapture the spirit of the original.  This spot also commemorates the foundation of the National Parks system in Canada in 1885.  Don’t forget your swimsuit and towel and a small amount of cash for the modest entrance fee in order to partake in the fabled curative powers of the hot sulfur springs.

Banff Gondola

This ride is a little pricey (around 30.00 per person), but a better alternative for those who want the scenery without the hike.  The ride is 10 minutes long and affords spectacular scenery of the Rockies and downtown Banff.  A short hike past the top will bring you to even more spectacular vistas at the site of an old weather station.

Lake Louise

Home of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, one of the foremost luxury hotels in the world, and of course Lake Louise itself.  This area is one of the best ski destinations in the park, and more than one hotel is featured, ensuring that skiers of all walks of life can afford to stay here. Originally called Emerald Lake due to its green color, it was renamed in 1885 after Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, wife of the Canadian Governor General of the time.

Icefields Parkway

This parkway is one of the most scenic drives in the world.  The Parkway starts at Lake Louise, and ends at Jasper, Alberta.  The Parkway is named after the Columbia Icefield, which can be accessed along the parkway.  It runs 230 kilometres, and a national park permit is required to drive on it.  Commercial trucks are banned from the parkway. 

Residents

 

Elk

Banff has a large population of elk, particularly around the Vermilion Lakes Drive, the Buffalo Paddock, and the Banff Springs Golf Course.  Visitors are cautioned to not get too close as more elk have caused injuries in the park than bears have.  Stay back 50 metres, even if you are in your vehicle.

Moose

This hallmark of Canadian wildlife is mostly prevalent along the Icefields Parkway.  Its population has been declining in the park due to rising numbers of wolves.

Bighorn Sheep

These are prominent along the Bow Valley Parkway, and the top of the Sulphur Mountain Gondola ride.

Banff Springs Snail

This mollusk is only found at the Banff Springs, nowhere else on Earth.  It is the only snail listed on the Canadian Endangered species list.  They are small; the largest of them are no bigger than a kernel of corn.

Activities

 

Any manner of adventure activities are being undertaken in Banff during any given day of the year.  In the Spring, Summer, and Fall, hiking and mountain biking are the dominant activities.  You will also find canoeing, mountain climbing, and kayaking on the long list of things to do. 

Winter brings with it lots of cross country and downhill skiing, with a healthy dose of snowshoeing thrown in. 

Luxury awaits you at either the Fairmont Banff Springs or its sister property, the Chateau Lake Louise.  Gourmet dining, luxurious rooms, and historical vistas make these two of the finest properties in the world.  There are plenty of other accommodations for those not in the price bracket of a luxury hotel that are very comfortable and affordable.  Camping is available throughout the park with regular campsites, electric hookup sites, and RV sites.  Campsites are taken on a first come, first served basis and cannot be reserved.

Conservation projects

Banff National Park is the subject of many ongoing conservation efforts.

Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley

Key Goal of this Organization is the preservation of the Bow Valley River Watershed. 
http://www.biosphereinstitute.org/

Banff National Park

Government Efforts for Conservancy in the Park are massive.  Just a few are outlined on this page:
http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/plan/plan4_E.asp

Friends of Banff

This organization seeks to preserve Banff through educational efforts
http://www.friendsofbanff.com/

CPAWS

Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society
http://www.cpaws.org/

How to donate

All conservancy efforts are funded by the Government of Canada.  If you wish to donate to either the Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley, Friends of Banff, or CPAWS, you may do so through either organization’s website.

References

  • From Confrontation to Conservation; the Banff National Park Experience
  • By the USDA Forest Service
  • http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_p015_2/rmrs_p015_2_281_289.pdf
  • Wildlife Bios
  • http://www.canadianrockies.net/banff/bnpwbios.html
  • Wikipedia Entry
Submitted by angelawest on Aug 6, 2008