Explore the Wonders of Banff National Park
Set in the majestic Canadian Rockies, west of Calgary, the Banff National Park was established in 1885, making it the oldest national park in Canada. Covering an area of 6,641 square kilometers, the diverse landscape of Banff National Park includes jagged snow-capped mountains, spectacular glaciers, mountain slopes clothed in evergreen forests, tranquil alpine meadows, rushing streams, serene emerald-hued lakes, hot springs renowned for their therapeutic properties and countless scenic drives. It is little wonder that Banff National Park is considered to be among the top tourist attractions of the world, welcoming more than 5 million visitors each year.
Banff National Park, which is open all year round, is home to a host of interesting wildlife, including wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, cougars, coyotes, bighorn sheep, weasels, otters, lynx, mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, marmots, beaver, porcupines, squirrels, chipmunks and the rare caribou elk. Approximately 280 species of birds are resident in the Banff National Park and birding enthusiasts can look out for Gray Jay, American Three-Toed Woodpecker, Mountain Chickadee, Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Ospreys, Falcons and Red-Tailed Hawks.
The park boasts several world-class ski resorts, with winter activities including cross-country skiing, snowboarding and ice skating. Summer activities for visitors to Banff National Park include hiking, camping, rock climbing, boating and fishing in some of the most picturesque areas imaginable. As well as being the main commercial center in the park, the town of Banff is home to several cultural institutions including the Whyte Museum, Cave and Basin National Historic Site and several art galleries displaying the works of talented local artists.
The little village of Lake Louise, west of the town of Banff, is situated at the edge of the exquisite Lake Louise. With its backdrop of snow-capped mountains reflected in the crystal clear water, Lake Louise is possibly the most photographed site in Banff National Park. Equally beautiful is the glacially fed Moraine Lake, situated at an elevation of about 1884 meters in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. When the lake is full, usually in mid to late June, the water is an unusual shade of turquoise due to the refraction of light off the small particles of glacial rock, known as glacial flour, that are carried into the lake from the glacial melt and erosion.
The Icefields Parkway, which links Lake Louise to Jasper, winds along 230 kilometers of spectacular scenery with many pull-off areas for travelers to stop and admire the view. The Icefield Parkway passes Hector Lake, Bow Lake and Peyto Lake before crossing a summit and following the Mistaya River and then the North Saskatchewan River, eventually reaching the Columbia Icefield and the town of Jasper – definitely a route worth traveling.
In 1984, Banff National Park, along with the other Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in recognition of the natural wonders contained within its boundaries. Along with this prestigious designation comes the responsibility to conserve the park’s assets by ensuring that any development would not negatively impact on the environment. Visitors to the Banff National Park, no doubt appreciate the effort being made to preserve this treasure trove of natural wonders.