What Is Kootenay National Park?

S. Reynolds

Kootenay National Park is located in British Columbia, Canada, near the Rocky Mountains. It was established in 1920 and named Kootenay Dominion Park after the nearby Kootenay River. This park draws the most number of visitors between June and September of each year, although it is technically open year-round. Tourists visit the site for its canyons, campgrounds, and hot springs.

Wolves may reside in Kootenay National Park.
Wolves may reside in Kootenay National Park.

People have been living in the park area for at least 10,000 years. Evidence suggests that aboriginal people traveled through the area every season and used the site for its hot springs. Scholars believe that the first European to visit the region was Sir George Simpson, who came to the area in 1841. In 1984, Kootenay National Park, along with several other Canadian national parks, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The title is only awarded to sites that have a special significance, whether spiritual or physical.

The Kootenay National Park is small, only 10 miles (16 km) wide with a highway running through it. The campgrounds are open during the summer months, and camping in the park is a main attraction. People also visit the Radium Hot Springs, the country's largest hot springs pool, which also includes a bath house and spa; Olive Lake, a small park for picnicking and birdwatching; and Floe Lake, which is only accessible by a hiking trail. Backpackers are allowed to hike the Valley of the Ten Peaks.

Redstreak Campground is the largest campground in the park, and is a first-come, first-serve area. Camper and primitive sites are available; of the 242 total sites, 88 have electricity and the other 154 are primitive. All campers are able to use bathrooms, showers, and common area playgrounds.

The park has several picnic locations that also draw travelers into the area, and many are accessible by wheelchairs. Several sites also provide fresh drinking water and kitchen areas. Some of the more popular picnic areas include Dolly Varden, Numa Falls, Marble Canyon, and Olive Lake.

Visitors to the park can also hire guides, and several guiding companies provide tourists with an interpretive experience while hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and mountaineering. It is recommended that visitors only hire guides who are accredited by the Interpretive Guides Association or the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides for safety reasons. Guides can show visitors the various flora and fauna within the park, including the whitebark pine trees; mountain pine beetles, badgers, lynx, bighorn sheep, and wolves reside in the area. Non-native plants in the park include klamath weed, tall buttercup, toadflax, Canada thistle, and tansy, all of which park employees are working to eliminate.

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