Kootenay National Park is located in southeastern British Columbia, Canada, covering 1,406 km2 in the Canadian Rockies. This park was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984, together with the other national and provincial parks that form the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, for the mountain landscapes containing mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons and limestone caves as well as fossils found here.
The park ranges in elevation from 918 metres at the southwest park entrance, to 3,424 metres at Deltaform Mountain. Kootenay forms one of the four contiguous mountain parks in the Canadian Rockies; the other three being Banff National Park directly to the east, Yoho National Park directly to the north, and Jasper National Park, which does not share a boundary with Kootenay National Park. Initially called "Kootenay Dominion Park", the park was created in 1920 as part of an agreement between the province of British Columbia and the Canadian federal government to build a highway in exchange for title (property) to a strip of land on either side of the route. A strip of land 8 ilometres wide on each side of the newly constructed 94-kilometre-long Banff-Windermere Highway was set aside as a national park.
The park takes its name from the Kootenay River, one of the two major rivers which flow through the park, the other being the Vermillion River. While the Vermillion River is completely contained within the park, the Kootenay River has its headwaters just outside of the park boundary, flowing through the park into the Rocky Mountain Trench, eventually joining the Columbia River. BC Highway 93 (Banff-Windermere Highway) follows the path of both rivers through the park.
The park's main attractions include Radium Hot Springs, Olive Lake, Marble Canyon, Sinclair Canyon and the Paint Pots. The hot springs offer a hot springs pool ranging from 35 °C to 47 °C. The Paint Pots are a group of iron-rich cold mineral springs which bubble up through several small pools and stain the earth a dark red-orange colour. The Paint Pots were a major source of the ochre paint pigment for a number of First Nations groups prior to the 20th century.
Just outside the park's south-western entrance is the town of Radium Hot Springs. The town is named for the odourless hot springs located just inside the park boundary. The name originated at the turn of the 20th century when the promoters tried to sell the hot springs as a therapeutic cure and used the springs' very slight radioactivity as a selling point.
Because of the relatively small width of the park (five miles on each side of the highway), many of the park's attractions are situated near the road and are wheelchair accessible. Numa Falls is a short drive south of Marble Canyon (Canadian Rockies) and is accessible directly by Highway 93 which cuts through the park.
There are many back country attractions in Kootenay National Park. Floe Lake is a picturesque lake which lies on a 10.7-kilometre-long hiking trail accessible from highway 93. Kaufman Lake is also a popular full day hiking destination. The Fay Hut is accessible from Marble Canyon, and the Neil Colgan Hut located above the Valley of the Ten Peaks is a popular mountaineering destination. There are many multiple-day backpacking trails, some of which are quite strenuous. The park's most notable multi-day hike is the Rockwall Trail, described by the Parks Canada as "a 55 kilometre superlative-laden feast traversing three alpine passes through subalpine meadows and past impressive hanging glaciers. The trail’s defining feature is a single, massive limestone cliff, towering in some locations more than 900 metres above the trail below.
While the park is open all year, the major tourist season lasts from June to September. Most campgrounds are open from early May to late September, while limited winter camping is available only at the Dolly Varden campground.
All visitors stopping in the park (even just for gas) require a park permit. No pass is required if driving straight through. Day passes and annual passes are available.
Additional variable fees are required for camping and backcountry exploration.
Highway 93 is the main road in Kootenay, going from Lake Louise at the north end of Kootenay National Park to the Village of Radium Hot Springs at the south end.
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