The contiguous national parks of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho, as well as the Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber provincial parks, studded with mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons and limestone caves, form a striking mountain landscape. The Burgess Shale fossil site, well known for its fossil remains of soft-bodied marine animals, is also found there.
Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, Peyto Lake, Banff NP
© Maureen J. Flynn
Statement of Significance
Renowned for their scenic splendor, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are comprised of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho national parks and Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber provincial parks. Together, they exemplify the outstanding physical features of the Rocky Mountain Biogeographical Province. Classic illustrations of glacial geological processes — including icefields, remnant valley glaciers, canyons and exceptional examples of erosion and deposition — are found throughout the area. The Burgess Shale Cambrian and nearby Precambrian sites contain important information about the earth’s evolution.
(vii) The seven parks of the Canadian Rockies form a striking mountain landscape. With rugged mountain peaks, icefields and glaciers, alpine meadows, lakes, waterfalls, extensive karst cave systems and deeply incised canyons, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks possess exceptional natural beauty, attracting millions of visitors annually.
(viii) The Burgess Shale is one of the most significant fossil areas in the world. Exquisitely preserved fossils record a diverse, abundant marine community dominated by soft-bodied organisms. Originating soon after the rapid unfolding of animal life about 540 million years ago, the Burgess Shale fossils provide key evidence of the history and early evolution of most animal groups known today, and yield a more complete view of life in the sea than any other site for that time period. The seven parks of the Canadian Rockies are a classic representation of significant and on-going glacial processes along the continental divide on highly faulted, folded and uplifted sedimentary rocks.
Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks comprises Banff National Park, Hamber Provincial Park, Jasper National Park, Kootenay National Park, Mount Robson Provincial Park, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and Yoho National Park.
The Canadian Rocky Mountains are oriented in a south-eastern to north-western direction along the Continental Divide and consist of the Western Ranges, the Main Ranges, the Front Ranges and the Foothills, all of which are represented within the parks.
Active glaciers and ice fields still exist throughout the region, particularly in the Main Ranges. The most significant is the Columbia ice field, the largest in North America's subarctic interior. Covering 325 km2 , the ice field spans the Continental Divide and the boundary between Jasper and Banff National Parks.
The Columbia ice fields of Jasper National Park are regarded as the hydrographic apex of North America and are the headwaters to three major river systems: the North Saskatchewan River, the Athabasca River and the Columbia River. The park waters of Yoho flow to the Pacific along Kicking Horse. Mount Robson Park encompasses the headwaters of Fraser River while Hamber Park encompasses Fortress Lake watershed. There are numerous lakes in Mount Assiniboine Park, most of which are located in broad alpine valleys and plateaus where they occupy glacially scoured depressions in the limestone bedrock.
The Rockies have been divided into three life zones or ecoregions: montane, subalpine and alpine. Montane vegetation occurs in major valley bottoms, on the foothills and sun-exposed slopes of lower mountain sides, especially in the front ranges. Forest is generally found between 1,200 m and 1,800 m and typical species include Douglas fir, white spruce, aspen and poplar. Montane wetlands and meadows occupy areas adjacent to major rivers.
The subalpine ecoregion occupies mountainsides between 1,800 m and 2,100 m, and valley bottoms of high elevations. This is the most extensive ecoregion in the Rockies and can be subdivided into lower and upper subalpine. The alpine ecoregion occurs above the timberline. It is characterized by diminutive and hardy vegetation such as low-growing willow and dwarf birch, heath, mountain avens and sedge.
A total of 56 mammalian species have been recorded. Characteristic species found in alpine meadows include Rocky Mountain goat, bighorn sheep, northern pika and hoary marmot. Forest mammals include moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, caribou, red deer and red squirrel. Carnivores include grey wolf, grizzly bear, black bear, wolverine, lynx and puma.
Some 280 avifaunal species have been noted, including northern three-toed woodpecker, white-tailed ptarmigan, grey jay, mountain bluebird, Clark's nutcracker, golden eagle, mountain chickadee and rock pipit. Other recorded fauna includes one species of toad, three species of frog, one species of salamander and two species of snake. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Jasper National Park
Created a national park in 1930. First protected as Jasper Forest Park (1,295,000ha) in 1907. Accepted as a World Heritage Site (in combination with Kootenay, Banff and Yoho national parks) in 1984.
Yoho National Park
1886. Accepted as a World Heritage site (in combination with Jasper, Kootenay and Banff national parks) in 1984.
Banff National Park Source: Advisory Body Evaluation
1885 as a park reserve (2,600ha) around the Cave and Basin mineral hot springs. Formally established in 1887 as Rocky Mountains Park (67,300ha), Canada's first national park, under the Rocky Mountains Park Act. Named as Banff National Park (669,500ha) in 1930 under the National Parks Act. Deletion of S,400ha in 1949. Accepted as part of the World Heritage Site, Canadian Rockies, in 1984.