Banff Lakelands Locations Facts Canada

Banff Lakelands Locations Facts Canada

Doctor James Hector, a geologist exploring the Bow Valley in the Canadian Rocky Mountains in 1858, was kicked violently in the chest by a packhorse while he helped the horse across a river. When Hector was found unconscious by his Stoney Indian guides they thought he was dead and prepared to bury him. But the doctor awoke, refusing his grave – and the pass as its head, the name Kicking Horse.

Banff Lakelands

The Bow Valley cuts through the mountainous Lakelands of Banff National Park – established in 1885 and Canada’s oldest. Then ‘Hotsprings Reserve’ covered a mere 10sq miles (26sqkm). Now Banff National Park is 2580sq miles (6680sq km) of peaks, meadows, lakes and glaciers running for 150 miles (240km) along the easternmost ridges of the Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta. It and the adjoining parks of Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay form a vast and protected wilderness.

Banff Lakelands

The Park’s mountains are young, pished up some 70 million years ago – a geological eyeblink. Their youthful restiveness, combined with the awesome power of shifting ice, has created a land of astonishing contrasts. In the north, the Columbia Icefield, 125sq miles (325sq km) in area, is the largest icefield in North America. Its meltwaters from rivers eventually flow into three different oceans – the Pacific, the Arctic and the Atlantic.

Banff Lakelands

From the icefield, huge glaciers ooze down, grinding the rocks to powder. The debris – ‘rock flour’ – clouds the icy lakes. Lake Louise, a place of legendary beauty, is a stunning example of a glacier-fed lake. The glacial silt. Suspended in the water, refracts the light, giving the lake a brilliant emerald hue.

Banff Lakelands

Cold above is matched by heat below Icy meltwater seeps through rock and into cracks in the Earth’s crust. Here it is pressurised, heated and percolated back to the surface to form the mineral hot springs that drew the first tourists to Banff a century ago.

The varied landscape creates a matching variety of plants. In the valleys, glittering lakes lap thick forests of aspen, pine, fir and spruce. Higher up. Meadows and gnarled alpine trees give way to barren, wind-scoured heights. Timbered mountains are splashed with meadows of bluebells and heathers. In summer, wild strawberries and blueberries grow beside rugged trails, and yellow glacier lilies push through melting snows.

Banff Lakelands

Animal life is just as varied – there are 225 species of birds, from hummingbirds to eagles, and 53 species of mammal, including moose. The best-known residents are grizzly bears and black bears. Grizzlers are wary and rare (there are around 80-100 in the park) but black bears often scavenge on roads and campsites. If attacked, visitors are advised to play dead.

Although bear attacks are rare, sightings are not, especially for those who roam and ride the 930 miles (1500km) of trails, that range from easy lake-side rambles to gruelling, poorly marked routes. All of the trails let visitors immerse themselves in the sharp sweet air of stunning Mountainscapes.

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