Category Archives: Jasper National Park

Mammals of the Mt. Robson Area

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Robson Provincial Park is home to a variety of mammals characteristic of the Rocky Mountains and the Boreal Forest including the largest and most spectacular of the continent’s wildlife such as the moose and the grizzly bear; and array of fur-bearing carnivores which figures prominently in Canada’s early history and a variety of small but important rodents, shrews and lagomorphs.

The large herbivores are resident within the park, performing only short seasonal migrations which are mostly altitudinal in nature. These migrations coincide with the seasons and can be linked with the ebb and flow of the tide. In summer the animals move up and disperse; in winter they move down and concentrate.

Moose in the vicinity of Robson Meadows

Moose in the vicinity of Robson Meadows

Goats generally stay close to their units of home range, while moose and caribou move much greater distances. A band of goats can usually be seen on Cinnamon Mountain N.W. of the viewpoint.

In winter moose concentrate in willow jungles at lower elevation such as the Moose Lake marsh area and deciduous forests in the vicinity of the Fraser River near Robson Meadows. Winter range is the prime factor in the distribution and abundance of ungulates.

Black bears are common in the Robson Jasper area

Black bears are common in the Robson Jasper area

Robson is bear country with good populations of both black and grizzly bears. Visitors are most likely to see the former species.

Small fur-bearers such as weasels, mink, marten, and otters are moderately common in the park but seldom seen by visitors. Red foxes, coyotes and wolves may sometimes be met along trails and the highway. Since these animals are usually crepuscular or nocturnal, observations are often limited to fleeting glimpses around a corner of a trail or a flash in a car’s headlights. Frequently the only signs of mustelids and canids are their tracks and droppings.

Beaver

Beaver

Much can be said for muskrats and beaver. Muskrat houses or “push-ips” (trapper jargon) are a feature of Moose Lake Marsh. Beaver workings can be found along the Fraser River Nature Trail below the Nature House and abundantly at Lucerne on the Labrador Tea Trail. Beavers, perhaps because of their highly visible engineering abilities, their affects on boreal forest ecology and their national recognition as the Canadian symbol, are a favourite with both interpreters and visitor.

Columbian ground squirrels, hoary marmots, varying hares, porcupines and a multitude of mice, voles and shrews make Robson their home. Ground squirrels and marmots are local in distribution but diurnal in habit. Their sedentary habit and usually approachable nature make them popular subjects for photography.

Varying hares may be abundant and noticeable when at their cyclical peaks. Their affect on the regeneration of deciduous trees (prime winter food of hares) is considerable.

Porcupines are often seen by hikers. In summer they spend most of their time on the ground feeding on a variety of herbaceous plants; in winter they are mostly arboreal, subsisting on a diet of inner bark. The lodgepole pine is the porcupine’s favourite food tree. The porcupine climbs to top branches then eats its way down leaving only a white skeleton behind.

Jasper Wildlife | Jasper National Park | Rocky Mountain Destinations

Jasper National Park – Wildlife Bios

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wldlfjnpIn Jasper, your best bets for seeing, watching and photographing wildlife are driving along Highway 93A, Highway 16, or the Maligne Lake Road early in the morning or late in the evening. The slow seasons for visitors (the fall and spring) tend to be the best times of the year to see animals, particularly bears, caribou and moose.

Following is an introduction to the large mammals that call Jasper home.

Elk/Wapiti

Elk/Wapiti

Jasper has a robust elk population numbering in the thousands. Highway 16 East, Highway 93, and the Maligne Lake Road are all excellent venues for seeing and photographing elk, and the town of Jasper itself is frequented by elk intent on eating the greenery in local’s yards and escaping the predators they would face anywhere else in the park.

For the best viewing opportunities, visit the park in the summer months to see the big bull elk in velvet along Highway 16 East or near Medicine Lake, or come in September and join photographers and wildlife watchers from around the world for the famous elk rut along the banks of the Athabasca River.

Moose

Moose

Moose are on the decline in the park, due in part to a deadly liver fluke, the return of wolves after a long absence, and an unnaturally high number of deaths on the railways and highways. However, you still have a good chance of spotting a moose in the ponds and lakes along the Icefields Parkway in the northern part of the park.The Saskatchewan River Crossing and Waterfowl Lakes areas are moose “hot spots” in the spring and summer months, and both Jasper National Park to the north and Kananaskis Country to the south have large healthy moose populations.
Deer

Deer

The park is home to both whitetail and mule deer, and both are common along the Vermilion Lakes Drive and the Bow Valley Parkway, particularly in the spring. There are twice as many mulies in the park as whitetails, and mule deer are common year-round in the vicinity of the Banff Centre and on the Mount Norquay Road. The mule deer are larger and have a black tip on the end of their tail in contrast to the smaller, more slender whitetails who have a white underside to their tail.
Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep are abundant throughout the park, and are most commonly seen along the Bow Valley Parkway at Backswamp, on the Mount Norquay and Lake Minnewanka roads, and at the top of the gondola ride on Sulphur Mountain. The large rams are best viewed in the winter months when they are at lower elevations; in the summer, most of the rams and many of the ewes can be found by hiking into the high alpine meadows in the park.
Mountain Goat

Mountain Goat

Banff National Park has a healthy population of mountain goats, but has very few good places to view them from roads or short trails. Watch for them high on the cliffs along the Icefields Parkway as you approach Jasper National Park, or, if you’re in a hiking mood, do a day-hike in to Bourgeau Lake and look for the herds of goats and sheep that call the area home.

Sheep vs. Goats – Who’s Who?

Mountain Goat

Mountain Goat

Mountain goats have shaggy white coats and sharp black horns like this one on the left, while bighorn sheep have brown coats and brown horns like the female on the right. You’re more likely to see sheep in Banff National Park since most of our goats live at very high elevations on the cliffs and mountain tops. Big Horn

Big Horn

Caribou - Jeff Waugh

Caribou – © Jeff Waugh

The mountain caribou’s dwindling range in Alberta extends south into the northern section of Banff National Park, where a small herd of 10-15 animals makes its home in wild untouched country northeast of Lake Louise. The size of a large deer, caribou have dark brown bodies and white manes, and large curved antlers. Though rarely seen in Banff, sightings are common in Jasper National Park during the winter and spring.
Wolf - Milton Achtimickuk

Wolf – © Milton Achtimickuk

The park is home to 45 wolves comprising five different packs. After eradication from the park in the 1950s, wolves returned for good in 1982 and have been thriving in remote parts of the park ever since. Three of the five packs are rarely seen, but numerous sightings are made each year of the Cascade pack in the Lake Minnewanka area in winter, and of the Bow Valley pack between Banff and Lake Louise year-round.
Coyote

Coyote

The coyote population in the park has been struggling in recent years, due largely to the increased volume of traffic on our roads. However, coyotes are still fairly common in most areas of the park where there are open meadows and good hunting grounds. The Vermilion Lakes Road, the Bow Valley Parkway and the Buffalo Paddock are each good places to spot them, as is most of Highway 93 South from Banff to Radium.

Wolf or Coyote? Wolves are generally much larger than coyotes, and are usually the size of a large German Shepherd. They also have a broad face, in contrast to the narrow fox-like muzzle of the coyote. Coyotes come in one shade, a greyish-brown, while wolves come in all colours, including grey, black, white and brown.

Mountain Lion aka Cougar

Mountain Lion aka Cougar

The park supports a small population of mountain lions, however, sightings of these wily cats are extremely rare. They prey upon the park’s deer, bighorn sheep and elk populations, and cat tracks are often sighted in the winter in the Mount Norquay and Sunshine Road areas. A much larger and more viable population of cougars lives to the south of the park in Kananaskis Country.

Black Bear

The black bear population is considered to be a threatened species in Banff National Park, with only 35-40 left. However, sightings in the spring and summer are still quite common, particularly along the Bow Valley Parkway and the Trans-Canada Highway between Banff and Lake Louise, and on the Icefields Parkway near Saskatchewan Crossing. Black bears in Banff come in a variety of colours, including black, brown and cream, and eat everything from ants to dandelions to buffalo berries. They go into hibernation in late October and usually don’t emerge from their slumber until late April or early May.

Grizzly Bear – © Jeff Waugh

Surprisingly, there are more grizzly bears in Banff than black bears. Grizzly researchers working on the Rocky Mountains East Slope Grizzly Project estimate that the park is home to about 70 of the great bears. Grizzlies can be distinguished from black bears by the large hump of muscle on their shoulders and from the shape of their face: grizzlies have very broad round faces, while black bears have narrow roman profiles much like a dog’s face. While sightings of grizzlies are rare, you may spot them in the backcountry or along the Bow Valley Parkway or the Icefields Parkway.

Small Mammals and Birds

Ground Squirrel

Ground Squirrel

Hoary Marmot

Hoary Marmot

Porcupine

Porcupine

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Blue Grouse

Blue Grouse

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Jasper Wildlife | Jasper National Park | Rocky Mountain Destinations

The Pyramid Lake Road

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Highlights: Douglas Fir forest, Pyramid Bench, Aspen forest, Patricia Lake, Pyramid Lake.
Activities: Sightseeing, photography, walking, hiking.
Location: begin from Jasper Townsite.
Time: Minimum of one half-hour for driving.

pyramidShort but sweet best describes this winding 7 km (4 mi.) road. Beginning within the townsite, follow Connaught Drive and turn right onto Cedar Avenue, which becomes Pyramid Lake Road shortly after passing the Recreation Centre. Climbing a bench above town, it meanders through a Douglas fir forest.

One of the largest trees in the Rockies, a thick cork layers allow these giants to survive all but the largest forest fires. As a result, some large Douglas fir trees can be almost a metre in diametre. Most average around 50 cm.

Typical of the true Montane forest, the Douglas fir thrives in the Chinook blasted valleys of the Athabasca River. Pyramid Bench sports more than 20 small lakes left behind by the action of glaciers. With this plethora of ponds, the area is also riddled with trails to access to many of these tranquil locales. Watch for elk and deer, along with the occasional moose, black bear and grizzly. A gated road at the 2 km mark blocks access to Cabin Lake, the town’s main water supply.

Although most fireroads have been made redundant with the advent of helicopters, this road still forms one of the townsite’s first lines of defense. For mountain bikers, it provides access to the Saturday Night Loop, a 28.9 km (17.3 mi.) loop trail which skirts the shoreline of several local lakes. Just beyond the Cabin Lake access, the road passes a cottonwood slough. The “cottonwood” trees in this case are trembling aspen and balsam poplar, part of the same family as the true cottonwoods.

One of the premier birding locations in the park, keep your eyes open for birds like the barred owl, pied-billed grebe, and Barrow’s goldeneye. As the sun goes down, watch for the careful movements of beaver and moose. Along the shores of Patricia Lake, Patricia Lake Bungalows provide quiet accommodation. A boat rental allows for a relaxing paddle. Beneath these waters lie the remains of a top secret world war II project—code name Project Habbakuk. The idea, which came directly from Winston Churchill’s office, was to build an unsinkable battleship. How could this be accomplished? The answer seemed simple; it would be made completely out of ice. Where better to build a prototype than within the frozen wasteland of Canada, specifically Patricia Lake. A 1:50 scale model was built, and they managed to keep it frozen during the summer of 1943.

Unfortunately, the astronomical cost of actually deploying a full-size ship became apparent, and the venture was dropped. The refrigeration equipment was turned off, and the prototype sunk to the bottom where it still rests. Divers routinely explore the bottom to marvel at the remains of this unique structure.

The road ends at Pyramid Lake. This lake allows gasoline powered motors, and boats are available for rent at Pyramid Lake Bungalows. Cast a line for rainbow and lake trout along with Rocky Mountain Whitefish. In fact the Alberta record white sucker was taken in Pyramid Lake. During winter, a lighted skating rink is maintained on the lake surface.

Jasper Sightseeing | Jasper National Park | Rocky Mountain Destinations

Maligne Lake Road

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Highlights: Jasper Park Lodge Road, Hanging Valley Viewpoint, Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake, Whitewater Rafting, Rose Marie’s Rock, Maligne Lake.
Activities: Sightseeing, photography, walking, hiking, canoeing, whitewater rafting.
Location: 5 kilometres East of Jasper.
Time: Minimum of two hours.

No trip to Jasper would be complete without a side trip to Maligne Lake. Separated from the Banff/Jasper Highway by the rugged Maligne Range, this 46 km. (29 mi.) road follows the glacial valley separating this range from the neighbouring Queen Elizabeth Ranges. The main access is along Highway 16, approximately 5 km. east of Jasper.

In 1875, railroad surveyor Henry MacLeod recorded the first non-native exploration of this valley. Looking for a route for Canada’s planned transcontinental railway, he found the valley to be blocked at its eastern terminus. Perhaps the best reflection of his expedition can be found in his dubbing the lake at the valley’s eastern end “Sore Foot Lake” (now Maligne Lake).

The lake remained quiet until 1908 when a Quaker from Pennsylvania, Mary Schäffer, hired local guide Billy Warren to take her to Chaba Imne (Stoney for Beaver Lake). Along with her was long-time friend Mary Adams. The party had explored Jasper the year prior, but had not been able to reach the lake before snowfall. Mary wrote in her journal:
“Indians, of course, had been there, but, unless a prospector or timber-cruiser had come in by way of the Athabaska River, we had reason to feel we might be the first white people to have visited it.”

As you drive this winding road, keep your eyes open for wildlife. Many a grizzly has been seen wandering its isolated hillsides and lakeshores. There are also potentials for black bear, elk, moose, mule and white-tail deer, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat. A camera and film are essential, but please stay in your vehicles when you see animals, and please keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the wildlife.

Crossing the Athabasca River over the H.J. Moberly Bridge, you pay tribute to one of Jasper’s earliest pioneer families. Henry Moberly worked as a Factor for the Hudson’s Bay Company, settling in the Jasper area in 1858. He lived until 1931, and this bridge, built in 1940, is dedicated to his memory.

Road to Jasper Park Lodge

Immediately after crossing the bridge, the road to Jasper Park Lodge branches off to the right. Beginning as a tent camp, it is now a destination resort operated by Canadian Pacific Hotels & Resorts. Along the road to the lodge, the road to Lakes Edith and Annette exits to the left. These spring-fed lakes are a popular day use are for locals and visitors alike. Technically, known as kettles, they were formed when huge blocks of glacial ice were buried by debris. As the ice melted, the overlying material collapsed into the depression, and the melting ice formed a small lake. In the summer, the lakes warm up to allow swimming—warm lakes are a luxury in the Rockies.

As you approach Jasper Park Lodge, you skirt the shores of Mildred Lake, locally known as Laundry Lake because of its proximity to the lodge laundry department. Watch for a large water spout in the centre of the lake. As the golf course tightens the taps on its irrigation system, the water backs up and sprays high into the air on Laundry Lake.

The lodge’s location may have been the original site of Henry’s House, the first permanent habitation in this part of the Rockies. Built in 1811 by William Henry, it became a popular stopping over place for expeditions heading into British Columbia. It was later overshadowed by Jasper House built on the shores of Brulé Lake. In the 1920’s, a tent camp was erected along the shores of beautiful green Lac Beauvert. This camp eventually grew into the present day lodge. Built by the Canadian National Railway, it was purchased by Canadian Pacific in 1988.

Continuing on the Maligne Lake Road

As you pass the road to Jasper Park Lodge, tune in your radio to AM 1490 (AM 1230 for French) for a Parks Canada radio broadcast on early adventurers in this area. For a pleasant picnic, take the side road to Fifth and Sixth bridge picnic areas, or continue on to Maligne Canyon.

Hanging Valley Viewpoint

At kilometre 6 (mile 4), an easy to miss sign indicates a viewpoint to the left. Take this exit for an excellent panorama of the Athabasca Valley and the town of Jasper. The Maligne valley is a classic hanging valley. Large glaciers are able to carve large valleys, and conversely, smaller glaciers carve smaller valleys. Since the Maligne valley glacier was merely a tributary of the much larger Athabasca valley glacier, it left behind a shallower valley. When the ice melted, the difference became obvious as the smaller Maligne valley was left stranded high above the much lower Athabasca valley.

From this viewpoint, near the lip of the valley, you get a wonderful view of the vastness of the valley left behind by the Athabasca valley glacier. Across the valley, Pyramid Mountain looms with its CNCP telecommunications tower on the summit. To the left of the townsite, Whistlers Mountain and its ever-present tramway rule the skyline. In the valley bottom, Jasper lies peacefully.

maligneMaligne Canyon

Shortly after leaving the Hanging Valley Viewpoint, turn left into the Maligne Canyon day-use area. Don’t miss this opportunity to see one of Jasper’s geological marvels. When glacial melt left the Maligne valley stranded high above the Athabasca valley, the Maligne River needed to find a way to drain its runoff into this lower valley. To accomplish this task, it began to rapidly erode this narrow canyon to reduce the difference in altitude between the two valleys. In some cases, the canyon is only a few metres wide, but as much as 50 m. (160 ft.) deep.

The trail is well maintained, but gets steep in places, so take your time and enjoy the magic of the place. Despite its beauty, the canyon has an almost hypnotic effect on visitors, particularly photographers. Avoid the temptation to climb past barriers for the perfect image. Many photographers have died here doing just that. Enjoy the magic, but please stay behind the barriers. They are there for good reason.

Medicine Lake

Much of the drainage from the surrounding mountains leaves this valley through a hidden drainage network of underground caves. Medicine Lake dramatically illustrates the effectiveness of this underground drainage system, and gains its name from its curious habit of vanishing every autumn. It acts like a large bathtub with the plug pulled. If you add water fast enough, the tub will fill with water despite the water running down the drain.

In the case of Medicine Lake, upwards of 24,000 litres (4,000 gallons) of water go down the drain every second. During the runoff of summer, enough water is flowing into the lake from local streams to surpass the drainage. Before long, the lake bed begins to fill, and by late spring, Medicine Lake is in its full glory. By September, the runoff has dropped off, and the lake rapidly drains.

The cave drainage system beneath Medicine Lake resurfaces below Maligne Canyon, more than 17 km. (11 mi.) downstream. This qualifies it as the longest underground drainage system in the country. On two different occasions, attempts were made to plug the drain, once using old mattresses, the other using magazines—neither had any effect.

Medicine Lake also provides excellent opportunity to catch your dinner. Its quiet waters teem with eastern brook trout. These fish were originally stocked in 1927, and since then have thrived. Prior to this, there were no fish in the lake—after all, how would they have gotten there? With its underground drainage system, Medicine Lake has no above ground outlet to allow fish to migrate upstream. It is formed strictly from glacial runoff.

Whitewater Rafting

At kilometre 35 (mile 22), the road passes the takeout point for whitewater rafters and kayakers. Keep your eyes open for some of these icy adventurers. The frigid waters of the Maligne River rarely surpass a few degrees above freezing, but despite its chilly nature, the stretch between Maligne Lake and this pullout represents one of the provinces most popular rafting destinations.

Rose Marie’s Rock

At kilometre 41 (mile 25), the road crosses a bridge over the Maligne River. Looking upstream, a large rock is visible in the middle of the river. This rock was showcased during filming of the 1953 classic Rose Marie, starring Howard Keel and Ann Blyth. No, Nelson Eddy didn’t sing to Jeanette Macdonald here, despite the sign in the Maligne Lake Restaurant! It was the remake of this classic movie that was actually filmed here.

Maligne Lake

Welcome to one of the most picturesque spots in the Canadian Rockies. Nestled between Leah Peak, Samson Peak and Mount Paul on the left, and Mounts Charlton, Unwin, Mary Vaux and Llysfran Peak to the right, it offers unlimited photographic potential. The lake was created when a landslide off the surrounding Opal Hills released almost 500-million-m³ (almost 700 million-yd³) of material into the lower valley. This natural dam caused the water to backup forming the present lake. Like Medicine Lake, fish stocking in the early part of the century has created a fisherman’s paradise. Don’t forget to pick up your National Park fishing license before hand.

MLake

Maligne Lake

Boat tours along the lake are a must for visitors to the area. Culminating with a visit to world famous “Spirit Island”, they offer endless views of the surrounding ranges, and provide the most civilized way to see the further reaches of this magnificent lake.

Jasper Sightseeing | Jasper National Park | Rocky Mountain Destinations

Highway 93A – The Old Banff/Jasper Highway

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Highlights: Views of the Athabasca Valley, Portal Creek Trailhead, Marmot Basin Ski Area Road, Cavell Road, Wabasso Campground, Whirlpool River, Athabasca Falls.
Activities: Sightseeing, photography, walking, hiking.
Location: A few kilometers South of Jasper.
Time: Minimum of one half-hour.

athaIf you like to avoid major highways for the peaceful meander of a backroad, than Highway 93A was made to order for you. Part of the original Banff/Jasper Highway, it now sees much lighter traffic. The majority of mountain visitors scurry about in a futile attempt to see everything in one harried visit. During the winter months, the first 2.4 km (1.5 mi.) serves as the access to the Marmot Basin Ski Area Road.

The views open up almost immediately. The road climbs above the surrounding valley, providing perfect panoramas of the Townsite and area to the north. The work of the glaciers is visible in the broad sculpting of the Athabasca valley. Across the valley, the Maligne Range forms a formidable barrier.

Hidden behind their rugged facade is Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake. An optional side trip at kilometre 2.4 (1.5 mi.) takes you towards Marmot Basin Ski Area. Portal Creek trailhead, at the 7 km (4 mi.) mark along this side trip, is one of two main trailheads for the expansive Tonquin Valley. Hidden 20 km (12 mi.) along the creek and over Maccarib Pass, it is one of Jasper’s most popular backcountry destinations—winter and summer.

The ski hill’s 48 runs offer a vertical rise of 701 m/2,300 ft. From snowmobile access in the 1950’s, the hill expanded with a T-Bar in the 1960’s, and has continued to grow over the years. Highway 93A passes the junction with Cavell Road at kilometre 5.2 (3.2 mi.). Kilometre 8.2 (mile 4.3) solves the mystery of why the townsite often seems alive with members of the British military.

This British Army Camp provides a base for extensive mountain training. The soldiers descend upon the townsite on regular occasions to take over the Laundromat—not to mention several local watering holes. Wabasso Campground, at kilometre 9.2 (5.7 mi.), offers a quiet alternative to Jasper’s busy urban campgrounds. The Whirlpool and Athabasca Rivers meet at the “Meeting of the Waters” at kilometre 14/8.4 miles. Although quiet today, this site formed a major junction for countless fur trade expeditions. Here they would leave the Athabasca River and follow the Whirlpool River upstream towards Athabasca Pass.

First discovered in 1811, by David Thompson, one of Canada’s premier fur traders, explorers and map makers, it became the standard route of travel west for many years. Normally, at the junction of Athabasca Pass, fur brigades from the east met other traders from the Columbia. Goods were exchanged, and the traders would turn around and retrace their steps in the opposite direction.

With the Oregon Treaty in 1846, the 49th parallel was set as the international boundary, and the mouth of the Columbia became American territory. Soon, the Athabasca Pass route was all but abandoned as travelers began to traverse the Yellowhead Pass. Another short backroad at kilometre 15.2 (mile 9.4) follows the Whirlpool River for 6.9 km (4.3 mi.), ending within a kilometre of Moab Lake.

For the more adventurous traveler, the road also forms the trailhead for the 43 km/27 mi. trek to Athabasca Pass. Leach Lake at kilometre 19.6/12.2 mi.(don’t worry—it’s not named after those slimy blood suckers—leeches), provides a lovely spot for a relaxing picnic. This lake is most likely a glacial kettle formed from large chunks of ice buried by retreating glaciers. As the ice melted, the material above the former ice block collapsed into the void. The water moved to the surface, creating a tiny pond. Many of the smaller lakes in the Rockies were formed in this way.

Another former fireroad at kilometre 23/14.3 mi., climbs 5.5 km (3.5 mi.) up the lower slopes of Mount Fryatt. From the trailhead at road’s end, a short, steep trail climbs to the former site of the Geraldine Fire Lookout. From this lofty vantage point, the valley is spread beneath you. A second trail climbs higher up the slopes of Mount Fryatt towards a narrow glacial valley containing the Geraldine lakes. Shortly beyond the Geraldine Fireroad, Highway 93A meets the main portion of Highway 93 at Athabasca Falls.

Don’t miss this dramatic falls which cuts a gorge through thick layers of quartz sandstone. The true power of water is experienced as the river plummets amidst a thunderous roar. For your own safety, please avoid climbing over the many retaining walls. The rocks are constantly bathed in water vapour which supports a growth of slippery algae. One misplaced step can make you a permanent part of the mountain landscape.

From the junction with Highway 93 at kilometre 24.1 (mile 15), you can continue south towards the Columbia Icefields or return north to Jasper.

Jasper Sightseeing | Jasper National Park | Rocky Mountain Destinations

The Cavell Road

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Highlights: Astoria River, Access to Tonquin Valley, Path of the Glacier Trail, Angel and Cavell Glaciers, Cavell Meadows Trail.
Activities: Sightseeing, photography, walking, hiking.
Location: 5.2 km (3.2 mi) South of Jasper.
Time: Minimum of one half-hour at the meadows.

Cavell Glacier

Cavell Glacier

Edith Louise Cavell (1865-1915) was a British nurse during World War I. In 1907, she went to Brussels as a nurse, but by 1914 was put in charge of a unit whose main purpose was to help soldiers trapped behind enemy lines rejoin their units. To the German army, this was treason, and she was executed by firing squad. Today she is remembered as a heroine, and to some, a martyr. In 1916, the snow-capped face of this 3,363 m. (11,033 ft.) peak was renamed in her honour.

Traveling south from Jasper, follow Highway 93A for 5.2 km (3.2 mi.). Turn right onto Cavell Road shortly after crossing the Astoria River. The narrow, winding nature of this road precludes motorcoaches, trailers and large motorhomes. Trailers can be left at the parking lot at the start of Cavell Road.

The switchbacks begin immediately, and rapidly climb out of the valley bottom. During the winter months, when this road is closed to traffic, it becomes a popular cross-country ski trail. Skiers often stay overnight at the Mount Edith Cavell Hostel before venturing out into the backcountry of the Tonquin Valley. The Astoria River takes its name from American fur trader John Jacob Aster.

Although he was the first to discover the mouth of the Columbia River in 1811, the British quickly took over the Oregon territory. Astor and his men soon left, but since their boat, the Tonquin, had been destroyed by Indians, they traveled overland, through present day Jasper. Two kilometres beyond the Hostel, at kilometre 15 (mile 9), the road ends at the Mount Edith Cavell Parking lot.

From here, two short interpretive trails show the two sides to life in the alpine. One, the Path of the Glacier Trail, takes you through the debris left behind by the retreat of local glaciers. In its path, it has left mounds of glacial debris (called moraines), rocks scoured and scraped by the passing ice, and two remnant glaciers, the Angel and Cavell Glaciers. The trail ends at a tiny meltwater pond littered with icebergs, and a fine view of both glaciers. The Cavell Meadows Trail takes you above the glacial debris to a subalpine meadow. This is the trail for flower lovers as it explodes into life each July.

Jasper Sightseeing | Jasper National Park | Rocky Mountain Destinations

Miette Hot Springs


Miette Hot Springs have temperatures averaging over 50 degrees Celsius. The two hot pools at the springs are kept at about 40 degrees Celsius. At Miette, you can have a soak in the pool, and take in interpretive displays, the old pool, and hiking trails. The winding mountain road to Miette includes the Punchbowl Falls, an old coal mining site, and Ashlar Ridge Viewpoint.

The area also offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Suggested length of visit: 1 to 2 hours Location: 61 km east of Jasper, Alberta Nearest full service towns: Jasper and Hinton, Alberta Other visitor services: Change rooms, showers, towel and swimsuit rentals, wheelchair accessible, restaurant, picnic area, accommodation Capacity: 250 in the pool (though it’s rarely full) Admission fee Hours of operation:
May19 – June 22, 10:30 a.m. -9:00p.m.
June 23 to September 4, 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
September 5 – October 9, I1:O0 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Peak season: July and August

Contact:
Operating Manager
Miette Hot Springs
P.O. BOX 2579
Jasper, Alberta TOE 1E0
Telephone: (403) 866-3939
Fax: (403)866-2112

Park Information | Jasper National Park | Canadian Rockies Destinations

Park Rules and Regulations


National parks protect and preserve areas of natural beauty and significance; but only if we manage our impact. This takes special legislation passed by the Canadian parliament, known as the National Parks Act. In part, the Act states that national parks have been established:

“To protect for all time those places which are significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, and also to encourage public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of this heritage in ways which leave it unimpaired for future generations.”

The Act covers everything you can think of and more. Here are a few examples:

  • It is unlawful to collect or remove any natural objects or historical artifacts (this includes berries, wildflowers, mushrooms, antlers, wood, interesting rocks along the river, etc.).
  • It is unlawful to feed, entice or harass wildlife (this includes feeding them ‘natural’ food, it also includes what may look like tame wildlife such as birds or squirrels).
  • Pets must be leashed at all times. For their protection, never leave your pet unattended. Bears, coyotes, and even elk and deer may present a danger to your pet.
  • All food (even food in coolers) must be stored inside vehicle trunks or in tear-proof containers.
  • You may camp only in designated areas.

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Banff National Park | Jasper National Park
Canadian Rockies Destinations

About Jasper National Park


Jasper National Park is the largest of Canada’s Rocky Mountain parks. Jasper spans 10,878 square kilometres (4200 square miles) of broad valleys, rugged mountains, glaciers, forests, alpine meadows and wild rivers along the eastern slopes of the Rockies in western Alberta. There are more than 1200 kilometres (660 miles) of hiking trails (both overnight and day trips), and a number of spectacular mountain drives.

Jasper joins Banff National Park to the south via the Icefields Parkway. This parkway offers unparalleled beauty as you travel alongside a chain of massive Icefields straddling the Continental Divide. The Columbia Icefield borders the parkway in the southern end of the park. Visitors are warned NOT to walk out onto the glacier. Guided tours are available.

Large numbers of elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer and other large animals, as well as their predators make Jasper National Park one of the great protected ecosystems remaining in the Rocky Mountains. This vast wilderness is one of the few remaining places in southern Canada that is home to a full range of carnivores, including grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolves and wolverines.

Park Information | Jasper National Park | Rocky Mountain Destinations

The Yellowhead Highway


As soon as the First World War was over the idea for a Yellowhead Highway came to light. Fred Driscoll, one of the railway surveyors, suggested that the abandoned railway grade would make a firm foundation for a highway. Charles Grant, President of the Edmonton Automobile and Good Roads Association, and Driscoll began to push for the Yellowhead Highway. The Edmonton Automobile Association offered a gold medal for the first drivers to successfully travel from Edmonton to Victoria through the Yellowhead.

Charles Neiymer and Frank Silverthorne, sponsored by Lines Motors of Edmonton, began the first automobile journey (in an Overland Four) through the Yellowhead Pass on June 17, 1922. A week later George Gordon and J. Sims, sponsored by the Automobile Association of Canada, began travelling the same route with their Model T Ford. Both automobiles reached Victoria on July 4 and both groups received medals for their unique expedition. Later this route through the Yellowhead was developed into what became known as the “tote road.”

In 1923 a decision was made by the Canadian National Railways to move the terminal from Lucerne, a town of over three hundred people, to Jasper. By 1924 just about everyone had moved to Jasper and the once pleasant town of Lucerne ceased to exist. Red Pass, however, became the new divisional point and began to show immediate growth. The buildings in tow included a Post Office, store, hotel and police barracks. (The police barracks still stand and are used as the Park Headquarters.)

As the number of visitors into the Robson area increased, the appreciation of the area for recreational purposes also increased. Many of the old outfitters and guides (the Otto Brothers, “Curly” Phillips and two of his friends (the Pugh brothers) decided to embark on a cross-country ski trip though avalanche country.

After travelling some distance one of the Pugh brothers stopped at the edge of an avalanche chute to adjust his boot-strap while his brother and Phillips slowly edged forward. “He heard the roar of the rushing slide and looked up to see his brother and Curly over-whelmed and crushed by tons of ice and debris and swept down the mountain” (MacGregor, 1974, pg. 239).

During the Second World War many Japanese-Canadians were removed from the residences on the coast and relocated in internment camps in other areas. Construction camps at Lucerne, Rainbow, Red Pass, Albreda, and Tete Jaune Cache housed over 1500 Japanese-Canadians, mostly single men. These people deeply resented being placed in such a condition and numerous sit down strikes were held. They were, however, able to upgrade 30 kilometres of the abandoned railroad grade into a truck road and constructed an additional 40 kilometres of new road over steep grades. A total of 19 bridges were built. By 1944 the “tote road” was open.

As the Trans-Canada highway was being constructed Reg Easton and Ed Neighbour made pilot-trip over “tote road” to emphasize the demand of the Trans-Canada Highway System Association that the route go through the Yellowhead Pass. In August of 1948 they organized a caravan of cars and trucks that passed through the Yellowhead Pass from Edmonton to Kamloops.

After the war, the Trans Mountain Oil Pipe Line Company began looking at the Yellowhead as a possible route for an oil pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver. Construction began in 1952. A helicopter was used in part of the construction equipment for the first time. During the construction of the pipeline much of the “tote road” was damaged of completely destroyed.

By 1969 the tote road had been more or less reconstructed and finally paved. In August of 1970, the Premier of British Columbia , W.A.C. Bennett, officially opened the Yellowhead Inter-provincial Highway.

Since 1970 the number of visitors to Mt. Robson Provincial Park have increased from 22,246 to 223,425 in 1980. Most of these visitors have been the average touring family and sightseers. Mt. Robson has also attracted backpackers, mountain climbers and other adventure seekers.

Two of those “adventurers”. Jacques Thibault and Peter Chranowski, attempted to ski Mt. Robson’s Emperor Face. It would have been the first ski decent of the mountain, a feat claimed impossible by some and suicidal by most. Hans Schwartz, a Jasper mountain guide and climbing teacher remarked, “we have trouble climbing that mountain. People rappel down those faces … It would be easier to climb up on the roof of some high buildings and jump off onto the pavement.” The promoter of this attempt, (Chuck Hammond) added, “A falling object on that slope, out of control, will come to rest in 45 seconds. Morphine will be on this site just in case.”

On October 23, 1980, a helicopter landed the skiers on the summit of Mt. Robson as 40 journalists and photographers looked on from the 2,400 metre level. The first part of the descent was attempted by Thibault. He lowered himself into the mouth of a chimney between two seracs with one-half inch polypropylene boat rope which they had purchased at the last minute from a hardware store in Valemount. He hoped to lower himself onto a ledge at least 100 metres below. When Thibault came to the end of his rope he was dangling by one hand (ski pole in the other) at least 60 metres above his objective.

Photographer Pat Morrow said, “he just looked incompetent. He didn’t realise how close he was to death. You could see him down there just thrashing around.” Thibault pulled himself back up to the summit with the aid of Chrzanowski and the attempt was called off. However, the next week they were off again, hoping to climb the mountain and again attempt to ski down. They were turned back by avalanches and their own lack of experience. Fortunately, the survived.

Jasper History | Jasper National Park | Rocky Mountain Destinations