The History of Canada's First National Park

With its towering peaks and stunning glacier-fed lakes, it’s hard to believe that an area as beautiful as the Canadian Rockies once lay dormant to Western eyes, known only by the native peoples who dwelled in the valleys below. It wasn’t until the 1700s that Europeans arrived, thus beginning an exciting tradition of exploration in the mountain landscape.

Sulphur Mountain

In 1883, two years before the completion of Canada's first transcontinental railroad, three railroad workers stumbled upon a series of hot springs on the lower shoulder of what is now called Sulphur Mountain. By 1885, after a heated ownership dispute, the springs and surrounding area were set aside as Canada's first national park. The Canadian Pacific Railway immediately recognized the tourism potential of the Canadian Rockies. In 1888, under the direction of William Cornelius Van Horne, they opened the elegant 250-room Banff Springs Hotel.

Banff Tours

The railway then constructed a series of grand hotels along its main line and began advertising Banff as an international tourism stopover on the steel highway that had suddenly become the fastest and most direct route from Europe to the Far East. The Rockies quickly became popular with the Victorian gentry, who came to drink in the scenery and soak in the soothing hot springs.

Banff Heritage

Soon visitors were not just stopping over - they were coming to stay. Now, approximately 8300 people call Banff their home. Residents of both Banff and Lake Louise are proud to share their local knowledge and appreciation for the nature, history and culture of this World Heritage destination. The history of the area is also captured by a number of museums, including the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff Park Museum, Luxton Museum and the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. Source: BLLT

Parks Canada

For information regarding Parks Canada visitor information, trail conditions, park fees, facilities and wildlife, please visit the official Banff National Park website.

Banff National Park