Monday, May 16, 2011
Kootenay National Park
Monday we drove from one end of Kootenay National Park to the other and back. Kootenay is a long, skinny park about 60 miles long and 10 miles wide. Its only road, Highway 93, runs north/south through the length of the park. The road basically follows the Kootenay Valley between Sinclair Pass and Vermilion Pass.
We started at the southern end, stopping at every point of interest along the way until we ran out of park at Vermilion Pass. The road doesn’t end there, however. If you keep going, which we will tomorrow, you cross the Continental Divide and enter Alberta and Banff National Park.
Kootenay was established in 1920. The whole thing came about because people wanted a road that would link this area of British Columbia to Alberta and the plains beyond the mountains. The talk of this road actually started before WWI, but it never went beyond the talking stage. When the war began, there were no resources for a road, but the people didn’t forget. After the war the talk started up again in earnest.
The officials of British Columbia asked the Canadian government for a road and finally they said “yes”. There was a condition, however. Canada would build the road, but BC had to give them the land. The road got built and the land, five miles on either side of the road, became the 538 square mile Kootenay National Park.
There are four campgrounds. One is primitive with no facilities except a pit toilet. It is for tenters only. Two have flush toilets and a dump station, but no other facilities. Only one is a full service campground with RV hookups. The campgrounds are still closed for the season so we couldn’t drive around to see what they were like.
There are some trails in the park, many of which lead to backcountry campsites. We stopped at a few trailheads. All have large parking lots and are well signed, at least at the trailhead. We were duly impressed with the warning signs encouraging hikers to travel in groups and make lots of noise. This is grizzly country, after all.
Approximately midway is Vermilion Crossing which has a lodge. That was also still closed for the season and the gate locked so we couldn’t access the parking lot. It looked pretty nice from the car window.
Kootenay has had a couple of bad wildfires recently--one in 2001 and two more in 2003. The land looks uninviting in these areas with all the dead trees, but it will recover.
CRITTER COUNT: We didn’t see any of the parks bear, moose, or elk. What we saw were deer--47 on the way to Vermilion Pass. I think we saw those same 47 on the way back, too. We also saw 4 Columbian ground squirrels.
GAS REPORT: Hold on; here we go--Radium has 3 or 4 stations. The price was the same at every one--1.42/L (5.40/gal). The exchange rate today is 4 percent--that makes 5.62 US dollars per gallon. I know we Americans haven’t been grateful for the price we’ve been paying for fuel, but perhaps we should be.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow it’s on to Banff. Thanks for tagging along.