Kootenay National Park

Kootenay National Park is a national park located in southeastern British Columbia, Canada, and is one component of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site. The park consists of 1,406 km2 (543 sq mi) of the Canadian Rockies, including parts of the Kootenay and Park mountain ranges, the Kootenay River and the entirety of the Vermilion River. While the Vermillion River is completely contained within the park, the Kootenay River has its headwaters just outside the park boundary, flowing through the park into the Rocky Mountain Trench, eventually joining the Columbia River. It ranges in elevation from 918 m (3,012 ft) at the southwestern park entrance, to 3,424 m (11,234 ft) at Deltaform Mountain. Initially called "Kootenay Dominion Park", the park was created in 1920 as part of an agreement between the province of British Columbia and the Canadian federal government to build a highway in exchange for title to a strip of land, approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) on either side of the 94 km route, the Banff-Windermere Highway, to be used solely for park purposes. While the park is open all year, the major tourist season lasts from June to September. Most campgrounds are open from early May to late September, while limited winter camping is available only at the Dolly Varden campground.

Kootenay National Park
IUCN category II (national park)
Vermilion River
Location of Kootenay National Park
LocationBritish Columbia, Canada
Coordinates50°52′59″N 116°02′57″W
Area1,406 km2 (543 sq mi)
Governing bodyParks Canada
World Heritage site304

The Kootenay National Park is one of seven contiguous parks that form the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site. The Continental Divide is the boundary between the Kootenay and Banff National Park boundary, as well as the BC-Alberta provincial border. To the northwest, the watershed boundary between the Vermillion River and the Kicking Horse River is the park boundary between the Kootenay and Yoho National Park. The Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park also borders the Kootenay National Park. Jasper National Park, Mount Robson Provincial Park and Hamber Provincial Park make up the remainder of the World Heritage Site but do not share a boundary with Kootenay National Park.


Archaeological evidence suggests humans have been either traveling through, or temporarily residing in, the area for about 10,000 years. Pictographs found in the hot spring caves indicate that it was the Ktunaxa people who first made more permanent use of the area, particularly the hot springs, several hundred years ago. European fur traders and trappers passed through, as did George Simpson in 1841, through what would later be named Simpson Pass, during his circumnavigation of the world. Likewise, James Sinclair led Red River colonists westward and Pierre-Jean De Smet traveled eastward, through the area. The Palliser expedition used the Vermilion Pass in 1858 and reported to British government its potential as a transportation route. On the Columbia River side, an early homesteader included the hot spring that would later become Radium Hot Springs in his land claim in the 1880s, but it was Roland Stuart and his business partner H.A. Pearse who were successful in acquiring the 160 acres around the springs in 1890 as a provincial crown grant. While they intended on bottling the spring water, its remote location prevented such development and Stuart offered to sell the property in 1909 to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company for $3000. Though the offer was not accepted, railway engineer Robert Randolph Bruce recognized the potential for a road through the area and advocated for it in 1910 with CPR president Thomas Shaughnessy and Premier Richard McBride, as a commercial link for the province to Calgary and eastern Canada. The federal government agreed to build a road from Banff to the park boundary at the provincial border at the Vermilion Pass, while the provincial government, with some funds from the CPR, would build a road from Windermere to the border. However, the BC government under-estimated its cost, found itself over-budget and its work was suspended in 1913, while the federal government completed their portion in November 1914. To get the British Columbia section completed, Bruce traveled to Ottawa to pitch the idea that they designate the western end of the route, through the Rockies Mountains, a national park so that road could be funded as a park improvement. With the popularity of Banff National Park made the Commissioner of the Parks Branch, James Bernard Harkin, and officials of the Minister of Interior were receptive to expanding the park system there. In May 1916 Minister William James Roche began negotiations, and the subsequent Minister of the Interior agreed with the provincial counterparts to the Banff-Windermere Agreement, that the federal government would complete the road within 4 years of the end of war, and maintain it thereafter, in exchange for the agreed upon land to be used for park purposes and a resolution to jurisdictional matters in the other federal parks in BC. The agreement was signed on March 12, 1919, and the federal government took ownership of the land in July 1919. By Order in Council 1920-0827 on April 21, 1920, the Kootenay National Park was created. The federal government repaired the provincial portion and completed the remainder, completed for public opening by June 1923.[1]


The park's main attractions include Radium Hot Springs, the Paint Pots, Sinclair Canyon, Marble Canyon, and Olive Lake. The hot springs offer a hot springs pool ranging from 35 to 47 °C (95 to 117 °F). Just outside the park's southwestern entrance is the town of Radium Hot Springs. The town is named for the odourless hot springs located just inside the park boundary. The town provides amenities and services for those camping within the park, and offers a number of accommodation options for those visiting the park but who do not intend to camp within.

The park's northeastern entrance, connects to Castle Junction in Banff National Park and the Trans-Canada Highway via Vermillion Pass, a mountain pass across the Continental Divide of the Canadian Rockies on the Alberta/British Columbia border, at an elevation of 1,651 metres (5,416').

Radium Hot Springs

Development of the hot springs began in earnest after a British medical journal suggested, and a 1914 chemical analysis by McGill University confirmed, the presence of radium within the water. Roland Stuart, who had acquired the springs through a 160-acre crown grant, purchased an additional 455 acres in the vicinity of the springs as the area became accessible by the Kootenay Central Railway. Stuart traveled to England promoting the "Kootenay Radium Natural Springs Limited" and recruited the paralysed St John Harmsworth to visit. After a four-month stay he invested enough to build a bathing pool with a store and a caretaker's cottage. With the park becoming a reality, the Dominion government offered, in 1921, Stuart $20,000 for control of the springs. With his agent unable to reach him, or Stuart ignoring the offer, the government expropriated the land, in 1922, with a settlement, after numerous hearings right up to the Supreme Court, of $40,000 in 1927. In that same year, a new two-storey bath-house was erected and the pool lengthened by 30 feet. Meanwhile, the town of Radium Hot Springs was being developed after the 1923 subdivision to create commercial properties and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company developed cabins the area that would later become the Radium Hot Springs Lodge. The facility was re-built after a fire in 1948 at the cost of $1,000,000 with a concrete pool and other facilities. Major renovations and improvements between 1960 and 1968 added additional capacity, a restaurant, and a campground (at the Redstreak Campground), as well as buying out the CPR cabin properties. Another round of renovations occurred in 1997 with a new hot-cold plunge pool being added.[2]

Paint Pots

The Paint Pots are an acidic, cold water, mineral spring system from which ochre is deposited at spring outlets. The minerals are principally iron oxide which produces the water and mud's reddish colour but other similar minerals can also be present and vary the colours to include various shades of yellow, red and brown. The acidic, metal-rich water has limited capacity to support living species, but at least 14 species of algae, one liverwort and one moss species, as well as some extremophilic bacteria, have been identified living in those waters. The ochre was collected by the Ktunaxa people for use as pigments and the iron oxide was commercially mined for use in paint manufacturing for nearly two decades until the park was established in 1920.[3]

Because of the relatively small width of the park (five miles on each side of the highway), many of the park's attractions are situated near the road and are wheelchair accessible. A number of recent forest fires in the northern half of the park in the Simpson River, Vermillion Pass, and Floe Creek areas in 2003 and 2004 have left significant burn areas readily visible from the highway. Numa Falls is a short drive south of Marble Canyon and is accessible directly by Highway 93 which cuts through the park.

Hiking and camping

The Rockwall trail is a multi-day hike along the limestone cliff eastern escarpment of the Vermilion Range that continues into the Yoho National Park. There are several connections to the trail from the highway, including the 10.7 km Floe Creek trail to Floe Lake campground and the 6 km Numa Creek trail to the Numa Falls campground. There is another trailhead at the Paint Pots that follows Ochre Creek with forks to the 7 km Tumbling Creek trail and the 9 km Helmet Creek trail, both of which have campground. Beyond Helmut Falls the Rockwall trail continues through Goodsir Pass into the Yoho National Park. Other multi-day backcountry hikes include the Tokumun Creek trail to Fay Hut and Neil Colgan Hut, the Simpson River trail into the Mount Assiniboine Park, the Hawk Creek trail through Ball Pass into the Banff National Park, the Verdant trail from the Vermillion crossing to Banff National Park via the Honeymoon Pass and the Redearth Pass.[4]

Day hikes with nearby campgrounds include trails on Redstreak Mountain and along Redstreak Creek, the Dog Lake trail from the McLeod Meadows campground, and the Marble Canyon to Paint Pots trail from the Marble Canyon campground. Other dayhikes, of various difficulty levels, include trails to Olive Lake, to Cobb Lake, the Kindersley/Sinclair loop, the Tokumun Creek trail from Marble Canyon to Kaufmann Lake, the Kimpton Creek trail, the Hector Gorge trail, the Verendrye Creek from the Vermillion Crossing, and the Stanley Creek trail. The Dolly Varden trail along the Dolly Varden Creek (the fish was later identified as bull trout, not Dolly Varden trout) permits cycling and has a campground open when the McLeod Meadows campground closes (e.g. available for winter camping).[4]


The park is centered around the 94 km stretch of the