Banff National Park
In 1883, three Canadian Pacific Railway construction workers working in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains stumbled across a cave containing hot springs. The tourist potential of those springs led to the foundation of the town of Banff. A dispute over ownership of the hot springs and recognition that the scenery around Banff was amongst the best in the world resulted in 1885 in the creation of Banff National Park, Canada's first national park and the world's third. The park covers an area of 6,641 square kilometres (2,564 square miles) and it is brimming with spectacular mountain, valley, glacier, forest, meadow and river scenery.
Chateau Lake Louise from Fairview lookout
Banff Springs Hotel set a trend for large hotels in the Canadian Rockies. Chalet Lake Louise was built in 1890 as a modest hotel on the shore of the lake to serve a few guests and day visitors from the Banff Springs Hotel. By 1911 it had grown into the huge Chateau Lake Louise. To understand why it grew so fast you need to look in the opposite direction across the lake to the mountains. It probably the best mountain view from a hotel room in the northern hemisphere. If you want our nomination for the best in the southern hemisphere you will have to hope that we will one day do a site on our travels in New Zealand. Click Tab 2 to see the view from a room at the Chateau of morning light over Lake Louise.
Bow Range reflected in Herbert Lake
This is what brings photographers to the National Park, the views of jagged Rocky Mountains perfectly reflected in still mountain lakes. Nearby Lake Louise and Moraine Lake may be better known but on a good day the view across Herbert Lake is more representative of the park scenery.
Lake Minnewanka & Mount Inglismaldie
Unlike most of the lakes in this area, Lake Minnewanka is big, all of 24 kilometres (15 miles) long. The original lake was much smaller but it has been enlarged by a dam at the western end of the lake which provides hydroelectric power for the area. Despite this, the shoreline looks more natural than most artificial lakes. Overlooking the lake is Mount Inglismaldie, the second highest peak of the Fairholme Range at 2,964 metres (9,724 feet) high.
Crowfoot Mountain & Bow Lake
Heading north up the Bow Valley from Lake Louise, you begin to become aware of glaciers in the mountains to your left. Crowfoot Glacier was named because it used to have three branches descending down the mountain. In the last 50 years one branch has retreated, but nobody has got round to thinking up a new name!
Snow covered tree trunk by Moraine Lake
The locals warned us that in the Alberta Rockies you can’t trust the weather at any time of year. OK, this was September, but only a couple of days before this was taken it had been T-shirt weather, so the sudden arrival of snow was quite a shock to the system. Moraine Lake and nearby Lake Louise are famous for their scenic beauty and the snow helped to enhance this. Moraine Lake is named after a rock pile at the end the lake which is part of a terminal moraine left by a glacier. In normal weather conditions the best view of the lake is from the top of the rock pile.
Hot Spring Cave, Cave and Basin Centennial Centre, Banff
This is the birthplace of the Banff National Park, the mineral springs in Banff. You can walk through the cave to see the sulphur spring that started it all. This is water that fell on nearby Sulphur Mountain and filtered down through cracks in the rock until it encountered rock heated by the earth’s core. The water then returns to the surface emerging as warm springs here in the cave and as hot springs at the Upper Hot Springs. Facilities for swimming in the mineral water are now all at the Upper Hot Springs, but when we visited in 1991 there was still a pool at the Centennial Centre. Click Tab 2 to see the old mineral water swimming pool at the Centennial Centre.
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© Mike Elsden 1981 - 2023
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