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Banff National Park ( ) is Canadamarker's oldest national park, established in 1885 in the Rocky Mountains. The park, located 110-180 kilometres (70-110 mi) west of Calgarymarker in the province of Albertamarker, encompasses 6,641 square kilometres (2,564 sq mi) of mountainous terrain, with numerous glaciers and ice fields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine landscapes. The Icefields Parkway extends from Lake Louisemarker, connecting to Jasper National Parkmarker in the north. Provincial forests and Yoho National Parkmarker are neighbours to the west, while Kootenay National Parkmarker is located to the south and Kananaskis Countrymarker to the southeast. The main commercial centre of the park is the town of Banffmarker, in the Bow River valley.

The Canadian Pacific Railway was instrumental in Banff's early years, building the Banff Springs Hotelmarker and Chateau Lake Louise, and attracting tourists through extensive advertising. In the early 20th century, roads were built in Banff, at times by war internees, and through Great Depression-era public works projects. Since the 1960s, park accommodations have been open all year, with annual tourism visits to Banff increasing to over 5 million in the 1990s. Millions more pass through the park on the Trans-Canada Highway. As Banff is one of the world's most visited national parks, the health of its ecosystem has been threatened. In the mid-1990s, Parks Canada responded by initiating a two-year study, which resulted in management recommendations, and new policies that aim to preserve ecological integrity.


Throughout its history, Banff National Park has been shaped by tension between conservation and development interests. The park was established in 1885, in response to conflicting claims over who discovered hot springs there, and who had the right to develop the hot springs for commercial interests. Instead, prime minister John A. Macdonald set aside the hot springs as a small, protected reserve, which was later expanded to include Lake Louisemarker and other areas extending north to the Columbia Icefieldmarker.

Early history

Archaeological evidence found at Vermilion Lakesmarker radiocarbon dates the first human activity in Banff to 10,300 B.P. Prior to European contact, aboriginals, including the Stoneys, Kootenay, Tsuu T'ina, Kainai, Peigans, and Siksika, were common in the region where they hunted bison and other game.

With the admission of British Columbiamarker to Canada on 20 July 1871, Canada agreed to build a transcontinental railroad. Construction of the railroad began in 1875, with Kicking Horse Passmarker chosen, over the more northerly Yellowhead Passmarker, as the route through the Canadian Rockies. Ten years later, the last spike was driven in Craigellachie, British Columbiamarker.

Rocky Mountains Park established

With conflicting claims over discovery of hot springs in Banff, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald decided to set aside a small reserve of 26 square kilometres (10 sq mi) around the hot springs at Cave and Basin as a public park known as the Banff Hot Springs Reserve in 1885. Under the Rocky Mountains Park Act, enacted on 23 June 1887, the park was expanded to 674 square kilometres (260 sq mi) and named Rocky Mountains Park. This was Canada's first national park, and the second established in North America, after Yellowstone National Parkmarker. The Canadian Pacific Railway built the Banff Springs Hotelmarker and Chateau Lake Louise to attract tourists and increase the number of rail passengers.
Early on, Banff was popular with wealthy European tourists, who arrived in Canada via trans-Atlantic luxury liner and continued westward on the railroad, as well as upper-class American and English tourists. Some visitors participated in mountaineering activities, often hiring local guides. Tom Wilson, along with Jim and Bill Brewster, was among the first outfitters in Banff. The Alpine Club of Canada, established in 1906 by Arthur Oliver Wheeler and Elizabeth Parker, organized climbs and camps in the backcountry.

By 1911, Banff was accessible by automobile from Calgary. Beginning in 1916, the Brewsters offered motorcoach tours of Banff. In 1920, access to Lake Louise by road was available, and the Banff-Windermere Road opened in 1923 to connect Banff with British Columbiamarker.

1902, the park was expanded to cover 11,400 square kilometres (4,402 sq mi), encompassing areas around Lake Louise, and the Bow, Red Deermarker, Kananaskismarker, and Spray rivers. Bowing to pressure from grazing and logging interests, the size of the park was reduced in 1911 to 4,663 square kilometres (1,800 sq mi), eliminating many foothills areas from the park. Park boundaries changed several more times up until 1930, when the size of Banff was fixed at 6,697 square kilometres (2,586 sq mi), with the passage of the National Parks Act. The Act also renamed the park as Banff National Park, named for the Canadian Pacific Railway station, which in turn was named after the Banffshiremarker region in Scotland. With the construction of a new east gate in 1933, Alberta transferred 0.84 square kilometres (207.5 acres) to the park. This, along with other minor changes in the park boundaries in 1949, set the area of the park at 6,641 square kilometres (2,564 sq mi).

Coal mining

In 1887, local aboriginal tribes signed Treaty 7, which gave Canada rights to explore the land for resources. At the beginning of the twentieth century, coal was mined near Lake Minnewankamarker in Banff. For a brief period, a mine operated at Anthracite, but was shut down in 1904. The Bankheadmarker mine, at Cascade Mountainmarker, was operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway from 1903 to 1922. In 1926, the town was dismantled, with many buildings moved to the town of Banff and elsewhere.

Prison and work camps

During World War I, immigrants from Austriamarker, Hungarymarker, Germanymarker and Ukrainemarker were sent to Banff to work in internment camps. The main camp was located at Castle Mountainmarker, and was moved to Cave and Basin during winter. Much early infrastructure and road construction was done by Slavic Canadian internees.

In 1931, the Government of Canada enacted the Unemployment and Farm Relief Act which provided public works projects in the national parks during the Great Depression. In Banff, workers constructed a new bathhouse and pool at Upper Hot Springsmarker, to supplement Cave and Basin. Other projects involved road building in the park, tasks around the Banff townsite, and construction of a highway connecting Banff and Jaspermarker. In 1934, the Public Works Construction Act was passed, providing continued funding for the public works projects. New projects included construction of a new registration facility at Banff's east gate, and construction of an administrative building in Banff. By 1940, the Icefields Parkway reached the Columbia Icefield area of Banff, and connected Banff and Jasper.

Internment camps were once again set up in Banff during World War II, with camps stationed at Lake Louise, Stoney Creek, and Healy Creek. Prison camps were largely composed of Mennonites from Saskatchewanmarker. Japanese internment camps were not stationed in Banff during World War II, but rather were located in Jasper National Parkmarker where their detainees worked on the Yellowhead Highway and other projects.

Winter tourism

Winter tourism in Banff began in February 1917, with the first Banff Winter Carnival. The carnival featured a large ice palace, which in 1917 was built by internees. Carnival events included cross-country skiing, ski jumping, curling, snowshoe, and skijoring. In the 1930s, the first downhill ski resort, Sunshine Villagemarker, was developed by the Brewsters. Mount Norquaymarker ski area was also developed during the 1930s, with the first chair lift installed there in 1948.
Banff National Park panorama
Since 1968, when the Banff Springs Hotel was winterized, Banff has been a year-round destination. In the 1960s, the Trans-Canada Highway was constructed, providing another transportation corridor through the Bow Valley, in addition to the Bow Valley Parkway, making the park more accessible. Also in the 1960s, Calgary International Airportmarker was built.

Canada launched several bids to host the Winter Olympics in Banff, with the first bid for the 1964 Winter Olympics which were eventually awarded to Innsbruckmarker, Austriamarker. Canada narrowly lost a second bid, for the 1968 Winter Olympics, which were awarded to Grenoblemarker, France. Once again, Banff launched a bid to host the 1972 Winter Olympics, with plans to hold the Olympics at Lake Louise. The 1972 bid was most controversial, as environmental lobby groups provided strong opposition to the bid, which had sponsorship from Imperial Oil. Bowing to pressure, Jean Chrétien, then the Minister of Environment, the government department responsible for Parks Canada, withdrew support for the bid, which was eventually lost to Sapporo, Japan. The cross-country ski events were held at the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Parkmarker at Canmore, Albertamarker, located just outside the eastern gates of Banff National Park on the Trans-Canada Highway, when nearby Calgarymarker hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics.


Since the original Rocky Mountains Park Act, subsequent acts and policies placed greater emphasis on conservation. With public sentiment tending towards environmentalism, Parks Canada issued major new policy in 1979, which emphasized conservation. The National Parks Act was amended in 1988, which made preserving ecological integrity the first priority in all park management decisions. The act also required each park to produce a management plan, with greater public participation.

In 1984, Banff was declared a UNESCOmarker World Heritage Site, together with the other national and provincial parks that form the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parksmarker, for the mountain landscapes containing mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons and limestone caves as well as fossils found here. With this designation came added obligations for conservation.

During the 1980s, Parks Canada moved to privatize many park services such as golf courses, and added user fees for use of other facilities and services to help deal with budget cuts. In 1990, the Town of Banffmarker was incorporated, giving local residents more say regarding any proposed developments.

In the 1990s, development plans for the park, including expansion at Sunshine Village, were under fire with lawsuits filed by Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). In the mid-1990s, the Banff-Bow Valley Study was initiated to find ways to better address environmental concerns, and issues relating to development in the park.


Map of Banff National Park
Banff National Park is located on Alberta's western border with British Columbiamarker. Banff is about an hour and half driving distance from Calgarymarker, and four hours from Edmontonmarker. Jasper National Parkmarker is located to the north, while Yoho National Parkmarker is to the west, and Kootenay National Parkmarker is to the south. Kananaskis Countrymarker, which includes Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Parkmarker, Spray Valley Provincial Parkmarker, and Peter Lougheed Provincial Parkmarker, is located to the south and east of Banff.

The Trans-Canada Highway passes through Banff National Park, from eastern boundary near Canmoremarker, through the towns of Banff and Lake Louisemarker, and into Yoho National Park in British Columbia. The Banff townsite is the main commercial centre in the national park. The village of Lake Louise is located at the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway and the Icefields Parkway, which extends north to the Jasper townsite.

Town of Banff

The Town of Banff, established in 1883, is the main commercial centre in Banff National Park, as well as a centre for cultural activities. Banff is home to several cultural institutions, including the Banff Centremarker, the Whyte Museum, the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum, Cave and Basin National Historic Site, and several art galleries. Throughout its history, Banff has hosted many annual events, including Banff Indian Days which began in 1889, and the Banff Winter Carnival. Since 1976, The Banff Centre has organized the Banff Mountain Film Festival. In 1990, the town was incorporated as a municipality of Alberta, though still subject to the National Parks Act and federal authority in regards to planning and development. As of the 2005 census, the Town of Banff has a population of 8,352, of which nearly 7,000 are permanent residents. The Bow River flows through the town of Banff, with the Bow Fallsmarker located on the outskirts of town.

Lake Louise

Lake Louisemarker, a small village located 54 kilometres (32 mi) west of the Banff townsite, is home to the landmark Chateau Lake Louise at the edge of Lake Louise. Located 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from Lake Louise, Moraine Lakemarker provides a scenic vista of the Valley of the Ten Peaksmarker. This scene was pictured on the back of the $20 Canadian banknote, in the 1969–1979 ("Scenes of Canada") series. The Lake Louise Mountain Resortmarker is also located near the village.

Icefields Parkway

Lower Consolation Lake
The Icefields Parkway extends 230 kilometres (143 miles), connecting Lake Louise to Jasper, Alberta. The Parkway originates at Lake Louise, and extends north up the Bow Valley, past Hector Lakemarker, Bow Lakemarker, and Peyto Lakemarker. The Parkway then crosses a summit, and follows the Mistaya River to Saskatchewan Crossingmarker, where it converges with the Howsemarker and North Saskatchewan River.

The North Saskatchewan River flows east from Saskatchewan Crossing, out of Banff, into what is known as David Thompson country, and onto Edmonton. The David Thompson Highway follows the North Saskatchewan River, past the man-made Abraham Lakemarker, and through David Thompson Country. At Saskatchewan Crossing, basic services are available, including gasoline, cafeteria, a gift shop, and small motel.

North of Saskatchewan Crossing, the Icefields Parkway follows the North Saskatchewan River up to the Columbia Icefieldmarker. The Parkway crosses into Jasper National Park at Sunwapta Pass at 2,023 metres (6,635 ft) in elevation, and continues on from there to the Jasper townsite.


The Canadian Rockies consist of several northwest-southeast trending ranges. Closely following the continental divide, the Main Ranges form the backbone of the Canadian Rockies. The Front Ranges are located east of the Main Ranges. Banff National Park extends eastward from the continental divide and includes the eastern slope of the Main Ranges and much of the Front Ranges. The latter include the mountains around the Banff townsite. The foothills are located to the east of the Park, between Calgary and Canmore. On the other side of the Park, the Western Ranges pass through Yoho and Kootenay National Parks. Still farther west is the Rocky Mountain Trenchmarker, the western boundary of the Canadian Rockies region in British Columbiamarker.

The Canadian Rockies are composed of sedimentary rock, including shale, sandstone, limestone and quartzite, that originated as deposits in a shallow inland sea. The geologic formations in Banff range in age from Precambrian eon to the Jurassic period.The mountains were formed 80–120 million years ago, as a product of thrust faults.
Castle Mountain
Over the past 80 million years, erosion has taken its toll on the landscape, with more extensive erosion occurring in the foothills and Front Range than in the Main Range. Banff's mountains exhibit several different shapes that have been influenced by the composition of rock deposits, layers, and their structure. Numerous mountains in Banff are carved out of sedimentary layers that slope at 50–60 degree angles. Such dip slope mountains have one side with a steep face, and the other with a more gradual slope that follows the layering of the rock formations, e.g., Mount Rundlemarker, near the Banff townsite.

Other types of mountains in Banff include complex, irregular, anticlinal, synclinal, castellate, dogtooth, and sawback mountains. Castle Mountainmarker exemplifies a castellate shape, with steep slopes and cliffs. The top section of Castle Mountain is composed of a layer of Paleozoic-era shale, sandwiched between two limestone layers. Dogtooth mountains, such as Mount Louismarker, exhibit sharp, jagged slopes. The Sawback Range, which consists of dipping sedimentary layers, has been eroded by cross gullies. Scree deposits are common toward the bottom of many mountains and cliffs.

Banff's landscape has also been marked by glacial erosion, with deep U-shaped valleys and many hanging valleys that often form waterfalls. Matterhornmarker-type mountains, such as Mount Assiniboinemarker, have been shaped by glacial erosion that has left a sharp peak. A number of small gorges also exist, including Mistaya Canyonmarker and Johnston Canyonmarker.

Glaciers and icefields

Banff National Park has numerous large glaciers and icefields, many of which are easily accessed from the Icefields Parkway. Small cirque glaciers are fairly common in the Main Ranges, situated in depressions on the side of many mountains. As with the majority of mountain glaciers around the world, the glaciers in Banff are retreating. Photographic evidence alone provides testimony to this retreat and the trend has become alarming enough that glaciologists have commenced researching the glaciers in the park more thoroughly, and have been analyzing the impact that reduced glacier ice may have on water supplies to streams and rivers. The largest glaciated areas include the Waputik and Wapta Icefields, which both lie on the Banff-Yoho National Park border. Wapta Icefield covers approximately 80 square kilometres (30.9 sq mi) in area. Outlets of Wapta Icefield on the Banff side of the continental divide include Peytomarker, Bowmarker, and Vulture Glaciersmarker. Bow Glacier retreated an estimated 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) between the years 1850 and 1953, and since that period, there has been further retreat which has left a newly formed lake at the terminal moraine. Peyto Glacier has retreated approximately 2,000 metres (6,561 ft) since 1880, and is at risk of disappearing entirely within the next 30 to 40 years. Both Crowfootmarker and Hector Glaciersmarker are also easily visible from the Icefields Parkway, yet they are singular glaciers and are not affiliated with any major icesheets.

The Columbia Icefieldmarker, at the northern end of Banff, straddles the Banff and Jasper National Park border and extends into British Columbia. Snow Domemarker, in the Columbia Icefields, forms a hydrological apex of North America, with water flowing from this point in to the Pacificmarker via the Columbia, the Arctic Oceanmarker via the Athabasca River, and into the Hudson Baymarker and ultimately into the Atlantic Oceanmarker, via the North Saskatchewan River. Saskatchewan Glaciermarker, which is approximately 13 kilometers (8 mi) in length and 30 square kilometres (11.6 sq mi) in area, is the major outlet of the Columbia Icefield that flows into Banff. Between the years 1893 and 1953, Saskatchewan Glacier had retreated a distance of 1,364 metres (4,474 ft), with the rate of retreat between the years 1948 and 1953 averaging 55 meters (180 ft) per year. Overall, the glaciers of the Canadian Rockies lost 25% of their mass during the 20th century.


Located on the eastern side of the Continental Divide, Banff National Park receives 472 millimetres (19 in) of precipitation annually. This is considerably less than received in Yoho National Park on the western side of the divide in British Columbia, with 884 millimetres (35 in) annual precipitation at Wapta Lakemarker and 616 millimetres (26.3 in) at Boulder Creek. 234 centimetres (92 in) of snow falls on average falls each winter in the Banff townsite, while 290 centimetres (114 in) falls in Lake Louise.

During winter months, temperatures in Banff are moderated, compared to Edmonton and other areas of central and northern Alberta, due to Chinook winds and other influences from British Columbia. The mean low temperature during January is −15 °C (6 °F), and the mean high temperature is −5 °C (24 °F) for the Town of Banff. Weather conditions during summer months are pleasant, with high temperatures during July averaging 22 °C (71 °F), and daily low temperatures averaging 7 °C (45 °F).



Banff National Park spans three ecoregions, including montane, subalpine, and alpine. The subalpine ecoregion, which consists mainly of dense forest, comprises 53% of Banff's area. 27% of the park is located above the tree line, in the alpine ecoregion. The tree line in Banff lies approximately at 2,300 meters (7,544 ft), with open meadows at alpine regions and some areas covered by glaciers. A small portion (3%) of the park, located at lower elevations, is in the montane ecoregion. Lodgepole pine forests dominate the montane region of Banff, with Englemann spruce, willow, aspen, occasional Douglas-fir and a few Douglas maple interspersed. Englemann spruce are more common in the subalpine regions of Banff, with some areas of lodgepole pine, and subalpine fir. The montane areas, which tend to be the preferred habitat for wildlife, have been subjected to significant human development over the years.


The park has 56 mammal species that have been recorded. Grizzly and Black bears inhabit the forested regions. Cougar, Lynx, Wolverine, weasel, Northern River Otter and wolves are the primary predatory mammals. Elk, Mule Deer, and White-tailed Deer are common in the valleys of the park, including around (and sometimes in) the Banff townsite, while Moose tend to be more elusive, sticking primarily to wetland areas and near streams. In the alpine regions, Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep, marmots and pika are widespread. Other mammals such as beavers, porcupines, squirrels, chipmunks, and Columbian Ground Squirrels are the more commonly observed smaller mammals.In 2005, a total of 5 caribou were counted, making this species one of the rarest mammals found in the park.

Due to the harsh winters, the park has few reptiles and amphibians with only one species of toad, three species of frog, one salamander species and two species of snakes that have been identified. At least 280 species of birds can be found in Banff including Bald and Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawk, Osprey, Falcon and Merlin, all of which are predatory species. Additionally, commonly seen species such as the Gray Jay, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Mountain Bluebird, Clark's Nutcracker, Mountain Chickadee and pipit are frequently found in the lower elevations. The White-tailed Ptarmigan is a ground bird that is often seen in the alpine zones. Rivers and lakes are frequented by over a hundred different species including loons, herons and mallards who spend their summers in the park.

Endangered species in Banff include the Banff Springs snail (Physella johnsoni) which is found in the hot springs of Banff. Woodland caribou, found in Banff, are listed as a threatened species, as are grizzly bears.

Mountain pine beetles

Mountain pine beetles have caused a number of large-scale infestations in Banff National Park, feeding off of the phloem of mature lodgepole pines. Alberta's first known outbreak occurred in 1940, infecting 43 square kilometres (17 sq mi) of forest in Banff. A second major outbreak occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Banff and the surrounding Rocky Mountains region.


Skiing at Lake Louise
Banff National Park is the most visited Alberta tourist destination and one of the most visited national parks in North America, with 3,927,557 visitors in 2004/2005. During summer, 42% of park visitors are from Canada (23% from Alberta), while 35% are from the United States, and 20% from Europe. Tourism in Banff contributes an estimated C$6 billion annually to the economy.

A park pass is required for stopping in the park and permit checks are common during the summer months, especially at Lake Louise and the start of the Icefields Parkway. A permit is not required if travelling straight through the park without stopping. Approximately 5 million people pass through Banff annually on the Trans-Canada Highway without stopping.

Attractions in Banff include Upper Hot Springsmarker, and a 27-hole golf course at Fairmont Banff Springs Hotelmarker, and three ski resorts including Sunshine Villagemarker, Lake Louise Mountain Resortmarker, and Mount Norquay ski resortmarker. Day hikes, such as the Cory Pass Loop, are popular with visitors. Other activities include alpine and Nordic skiing, and horseback riding.

Backcountry activities in Banff include hiking, camping, climbing, and skiing. Parks Canada requires those using backcountry campgrounds, Alpine Club of Canada huts, or other backcountry facilities to purchase a wilderness pass. Reservations for using the campgrounds are also required.

The park saw a surge in visitors and interest in the park around August 2009 after the appearance of the "Crasher Squirrel" Internet meme. The meme is based a photograph of a Minnesotan couple visiting the park on the shore of Lake Minnewanka that was "crashed" by a Columbian ground squirrel; the photograph was quickly published in major news sources around the world and the image of the squirrel was digitally manipulated into humorous photos. The Banff Tourism Board has used the popularity of the meme to gain interest in the park, including setting up Twitter and Facebook pages for the squirrel.

Park management

Banff National Park is managed by Parks Canada, under the National Parks Act which was passed in 1930. Over time, park management policies have increasingly emphasized environmental protection over development. In 1964, a policy statement was issued that reiterated ideals of conservation laid out in the 1930 act. With the controversial bid for the 1972 Winter Olympics, environmental groups became more influential, leading Parks Canada to withdraw its support for the bid. The 1979 Beaver Book was a major new policy, which emphasized conservation. In 1988, the National Parks Act was amended, making the maintenance of ecological integrity the top priority. The amendment also paved the way for non-governmental organizations to challenge Parks Canada in court, for breaches in adhering to the act. In 1994, Parks Canada established revised "Guiding Principles and Operating Policies", which included a mandate for the Banff-Bow Valley Study to draft management recommendations. As with other national parks, Banff is required to have a Park Management Plan. On a provincial level, the park area and the included communities (other than the Town of Banff which is an incorporated municipality) are administered by Alberta Municipal Affairs as Improvement District No. 9 (Banff).

Human impact


Since the 19th century, humans have impacted Banff's ecology through introduction of non-native species, controls on other species, and development in the Bow Valleymarker, among other human activities. Bison once lived in the valleys of Banff, but were hunted by indigenous people and the last bison was killed off in 1858. Elk are not indigenous to Banff, and were introduced in 1917 with 57 elk brought in from Yellowstone National Park. The introduction of elk to Banff, combined with controls on coyote and wolves by Parks Canada beginning in the 1930s, has caused imbalance of the ecosystem. Other species that have been displaced from the Bow Valley include grizzly bears, cougars, lynx, wolverines, otter, and moose. Beginning in 1985, gray wolves were recolonizing areas in the Bow Valley. However, the wolf population has struggled, with 32 wolf deaths along the Trans-Canada Highway between 1987 and 2000, leaving only 31 wolves in the area.

The population of bull trout and other native species of fish in Banff's lakes has also dwindled, with the introduction of non-native species including brook trout, and rainbow trout. Lake trout, Westslope cutthroat trout, and Chiselmouth are also rare native species, while Chinook salmon, White sturgeon, Pacific lamprey, and Banff longnose dace are likely extirpated locally. The Banff longnose dace, once only found in Banff, is now an extinct species.

The Trans-Canada Highway, passing through Banff, has been problematic, posing hazards for wildlife due to vehicle traffic and as an impediment to wildlife migration. Grizzly bears are among the species impacted by the highway, which together with other developments in Banff, has caused fragmentation of the landscape. Grizzly bears prefer the montane habitat, which has been most impacted by development. Wildlife crossings, including a series of underpasses, and two wildlife overpasses, have been constructed at a number of points along the Trans-Canada Highway to help alleviate this problem.

Fire management

Parks Canada management practices, notably fire suppression, since Banff National Park was established have impacted the park's ecosystem. Since the early the 1980s, Parks Canada has adopted a strategy that employed prescribed burns, which helps to mimic effects of natural fires.


Banff townsite
In 1978, expansion of Sunshine Village ski resort was approved, with added parking, hotel expansion, and development of Goat's Eye Mountain. Implementation of this development proposal was delayed through the 1980s, while environmental assessments were conducted. In 1989, Sunshine Village withdrew its development proposal, in light of government reservations, and submitted a revised proposal in 1992. This plan was approved by the government, pending environmental review. Subsequently, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) filed a court injunction, which halted the development. CPAWS also put pressure on UNESCO to revoke Banff's World Heritage Site status, over concerns that developments were harming the park's ecological health.

Banff-Bow Valley Study

While the National Parks Act and the 1988 amendment emphasize ecological integrity, in practice Banff has suffered from inconsistent application of the policies. In 1994, the Banff-Bow Valley Study was mandated by Sheila Copps, the minister responsible for Parks Canada, to provide recommendations on how to better manage human use and development, and maintain ecological integrity. While the two-year Banff-Bow Valley Study was underway, development projects were halted, including the expansion of Sunshine Village, and the twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway between Castle Junction and Sunshine.

The panel issued over 500 recommendations, including limiting the growth of the Banff townsite, capping the town's population at 10,000, placing quotas for popular hiking trails, and curtailing development in the park. Another recommendation was to fence off the townsite to reduce confrontations between people and elk. By fencing off the townsite, this measure was also intended to reduce access to this refuge for elk from predators, such as wolves that tended to avoid the townsite. Upon release of the report, Copps immediately moved to accept the proposal to cap the town population. She also ordered a small airstrip to be removed, along with a buffalo padlock, and cadet camp, that inhibited wildlife movement.

In response to concerns and recommendations raised by the Banff Bow Valley Study, a number of development plans were curtailed in the 1990s. Plans to add nine holes at the Banff Springs Golf Resort were withdrawn in 1996.


With the cap on growth in the Town of Banff, Canmoremarker, located just outside the Banff boundary, has been growing rapidly to serve increasing demands of tourists. Major developments proposals for Canmore have included the Three Sisters Golf Resorts, proposed in 1992, which has been subject of contentious debate, with environmental groups arguing that the development would fragment important wildlife corridors in the Bow Valley.

See also


  1. Improvement District No. 9 (Banff) - Alberta Municipal Affairs

External links

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