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Located in British Columbia, Canada, the Kootenay National Park Destination occupies part of the province’s southeastern region. Kootenay National Park, the namesake, is one of the seven Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, which include Banff, Jasper, Mount Robson, Yoho, Mount Assiniboine, and Hamber provincial parks. Visitors are frequently drawn to Kootenay National Park’s hot spring complex that belongs to the neighboring village of Radium Hot Springs. Tourists can traverse trails of varying lengths throughout the park as well, with some of the most popular routes being the Stanley Glacier Trail, the Floe Lake Trail, and the Paint Pots Trail, which is relatively shorter compared to the others. One of the most notable aspects of Kootenay National Park is its landscape. In 1984, the park met the criteria for being listed on the World Heritage List as part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site. It was deemed as such for having examples of “geological processes, record of life, and for exceptional natural beauty.” Beyond this, the national park is home to many species of flora and fauna, which may vary depending on the elevation of the park. Forests of primarily Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, trembling poplar, western larch, and western redcedar constitute the park’s lower elevations, while the higher subalpine elevations compose white spruce, Engelmann spruce, subalpine larch, and subalpine fir.
The Kootenay National Park Destination encompasses a portion of British Columbia’s southeastern corner. Running directly through the destination’s central regions from the north to the south is a route known as the Banff-Windermere Highway, which connects to the Trans-Canada Highway a few miles outside the destination’s northern boundaries. Several small towns can be found along the Banff-Windermere Highway, namely Fairmont Hot Springs, Canal Flats, Skookumchuck, Invermere, and Radium Hot Springs. The namesake, Kootenay National Park, is found in the destination’s northern section, occupying approximately 543 square miles (1,406 square kilometers).
Outdoor recreation tends to be an interest of many tourists who visit Kootenay National Park. The attraction offers activities year-round, as the winter season provides opportunities for snowshoeing on the trails that wind through the park. Stanley Glacier Trail and the Floe Lake Trail often pique the interest of hikers or those who are looking for a longer trail to walk along. The Paint Pots Trail and Marble Canyon Trail are comparatively shorter in length; however, the park’s landscape can still be viewed on these routes. During the summer season, a number of campgrounds are available at Kootenay National Park for people to temporarily stay at as they engage in the outdoor recreational activities that are found in the area. The national park also contains a visitor center that offers services for buying fishing licenses, making backcountry reservations, purchasing passes, and acquiring additional park information. Interpretive exhibits regarding the natural heritage and culture of the park are showcased at the Kootenay National Park Visitor Information Center as well.
An attraction in close proximity to the destination that receives a relatively high quantity of visitors annually is Radium Hot Springs, a village that is commonly referred to as “Radium” by locals and visitors. The village was named as such because of the hot springs that can be found in Kootenay National Park. Many of those who visit Radium Hot Springs are in the area to experience the village’s hot springs complex in the national park. Two sizable pools are located within the complex, one of which reaches a temperature of roughly 102 degrees Fahrenheit, while the other is a swimming pool with a moderate temperature of around 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mountainous landscapes characterize a considerable amount of the Kootenay National Park, as the site encompasses the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Canyons, glaciers, cascades, and verdant valleys are other constituents of the Kootenay National Park’s topographic formation, in addition to the Kootenay River that courses through the park. This particular river—as well as the Simpson River and the Vermillion River—are draining basins for the park. These previously mentioned landforms create an ecosystem that serves as the home for a diverse range of wildlife species, including wapiti (elk), bighorn sheep, deer, moose, mountain goats, and beavers, among others. A notable inhabitation of different types of trees has also been discovered in Kootenay National Park, such as fir, spruce, and aspen.
The Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park covers a sizable expanse of the Kootenay National Park Destination in its western region. Akin to Kootenay National Park, the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park has several trails winding through it, many of which are accessible by horseback. A few hot springs can also be found in the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park. The side hill bog located directly above the park’s hot springs contains a number of rare vascular plants, such as the Western St. John’s Wort and the Muhlenbergia. The hot springs within the park additionally attract wildlife, as the minerals that rise to the surface of the water can provide animals with nutrients, especially between the months of May and July. White-tail deer, moose, mule deer, elk, and goats are some of these species that have benefited from the hot springs’ minerals.
A cold and temperate climate affects the village of Radium Hot Springs and its encompassing land. The summer season generally lasts from June to September, with the warmest month of the year being July. Temperatures typically reach an average of around 64 degrees Fahrenheit during this month. As October and November approach, temperatures begin to gradually drop. December has been reported to be the coldest month in Radium Hot Springs, with a daily average of 13.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The most amount of precipitation occurs in June as the month receives roughly 4.5 inches.
Kootenay National Park was named after the Kootenay River—an aquatic landform that was named in honor of the Kutenai First Nations people. For nearly 10,000 years, the site that has become the national park has been inhabited by travelers who have temporarily resided in the location or people who have been passing through the area, according to archaeological research. Evidence of the first people in the area who “made more permanent use of the area” was found in the hot spring caves of the park, specifically through pictographs. These pictographs indicated that the site served as the home for the Ktunaxa people hundreds of years ago.
In 1920, Kootenay was proclaimed a national park by the Canadian government after British Columbia agreed to relinquish the land on either side of the Trans-Canada Highway at the expense of federal funds, with the intent to complete the highway’s construction. At the time, the park’s area had expanded to around 590 square miles (1,520 square kilometers); however, its total land area has been reduced to 543 square miles (1,406 square kilometers) over the course of time. It wasn’t until 1984 that the Kootenay National Park was claimed as part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.