Kootenay National Park is just across the ‘’Continental Divide’ from Banff but gets fewer visitors.
We spent three nights in Radium Hot Springs which is at the start of the road through the park. Unfortunately we had a very wet day when we didn’t leave the cabin and the second day we were dodging showers which limited us to the shorter walks in the park.
It is a good drive through the park with excellent views of the mountains. The road verges were bright yellow with dandelions and early in the morning we often saw black bears having breakfast. Dandelions are regarded as a delicacy.
FIREWEED TRAIL AND THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE
We stopped at the continental Divide at the summit of Vermillion Pass at 1651m where there is an information board explaining the history of the pass and the great fire caused by a lightning strike in 1968. This blazed for days and destroyed a large area of forest.
The Fireweed Trail is a short loop with panels explaining the integral part fires play in keeping a forest healthy. They destroy pests like the pine beetle which is devastating large areas of mature forest in BC and Alberta. Heat is needed to crack open the resin sealed pine cones to release the seeds. Fires also improve the diversity of wildlife in the forest. We had been looking forward to doing this trail but in fact it was disappointing. The trees had regenerated well and there was little to see apart from trees and lichen growth. There wasn’t the diversity we had expected.
MARBLE CANYON TRAIL
This is a short walk up Tokumm Creek. The water has cut a deep canyon through the limestone, 40m deep and 600m long. At the far end is a view of a waterfall. In June, the water was pale aqua in colour. There are footbridges and one set of steps. This is a good short walk for those wanting to see an canyon.
This is another short easy walk to an area where iron rich springs bubble up from the earth, forming ochre beds. The ground is stained a deep orange colour and in sunlight it glows against the deep green of the grass and moss. Where there are deep pools, the water is a vivid emerald green.
There are information boards explaining the history of the area.
The Ktunaxa, Stoney and Blackfoot tribes, collected ochre from here. The yellow ochre was cleaned, kneaded with water into walnut sized balls, flattened and baked. The red powder was mixed with fish oil or animal grease and used to to paint their bodies, tipis, clothing or pictures on the rocks. The Paint Pots site is still considered a sacred site by First Nations.
In the early 1900s the ochre beds were commercially mined and used as a pigment base for paint. Piles of ochre awaiting a collection that never came can still be seen.
This is an excellent short walk and one of the most colourful.
It is worth driving up Redstreak Road towards the campground. Park up in the parking area for the picnic site for good views across the town. There is a nice walk along the ridge from here.
Parks Canada website: www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/bc/kootenay/index.aspx
Our pictures begin here.
We visited during a five week trip to Canada. I have written a trip report of the holiday here.
I have written a series of detailed reports for some of the places visited for Silver Travel.