Banff Park is Canada’s oldest national park, established in 1885 in the Rocky Mountains. The park, located 110–180 kilometers west of Calgary in the province of Alberta, encompasses 6,641 square kilometers of mountainous terrain, with numerous glaciers and ice fields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine landscapes.
Since the 1960s, park accommodations have been open all year, with annual tourism visits to Banff increasing to over 5 million in the 1990s. Banff Park has a subarctic climate with three ecoregions, including montane, subalpine, and alpine. The forests are dominated by Lodgepole pine at lower elevations and Engelmann spruce in higher ones below the tree line, above which is primarily rocks and ice.
Over the past few million years, glaciers have at times covered most of the park, but today are found only on the mountain slopes though they include the Columbia Icefield, the largest uninterrupted glacial mass in the Rockies. Erosion from water and ice have carved the mountains into their current shapes.
History of Banff Park
This area was inhabited by the Stony Indians thousands of years before the white man arrived. Anthony Henday was the first non-native to see the Canadian Rockies in 1754. The park itself was first ‘discovered’ by the workers building the transcontinental railway in 1882. At first, the park was centered around the Cave and Basin Hot Springs and was officially born in 1885. The first Banff Springs Hotel was built a mere three years later, the current incarnation was built in 1928. The first highway through the park was completed in 1923. The park boundaries as they are today were drawn up in 1930, as part of the National Parks Act passed by Canadian Parliament.
Interesting Facts About Banff Park
1. Banff National Park boasts more than 932 miles (1,500 kilometers) of walking trails.
2. Mount Forbes is the highest mountain in the park, standing at an impressive 11,850 feet (3,612 meters).
3. Banff is the third oldest National Park in the world, behind Royal in Austria, and Yellowstone in the United States.
4. Many lakes can be found inside the park. The largest natural lake is known as Hector Lake.
5. More than 2,000 campgrounds are situated in Banff National Park.