Friday, May 26, 2006

Banff National Park

Chances are you've never heard of Banff National Park. The only reason I know of it is I've been there before. People who live in Washington or Idaho may possibly have heard of it, even though it's the oldest and most famous of all Canada's national parks.

It actually used to be quite a well known spot and had the most popular hotel in all of North America (the Banff Springs Hotel). Famous people like Babe Ruth came to Banff to vacation and rest. But you might be asking, how did this all come about? How did Banff become a national park?

It all started with the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Note, if I say CPR in the future, that's what I'm referring to. Anyway, the CPR arrived in the area in 1883. Why were they there? Well, the Canadian government was worried about American expansion and Manifest Destiny. They wanted the colony of British Columbia on the West Coast to join Canada and therefore, stop US expansion north. But BC wanted something in return for joining this flegdling country. So they made a deal. BC would join Confederation if the Canadian goverment would build a railway out to BC and assume the colony's debt. (I think it was a pretty sweet deal for BC).

Anyway, they got to Banff and would have kept going if not for the discovery made by three men. During a break in their work, three railway workers named William McCardell, Thomas McCardell and Frank McCabe went exploring. They actually ended up discovering the hot springs that Banff is famous for today. After this discovery, a national park was founded in 1885. It started out as a 26 km hot springs reserve. Banff National Park now consists of 6,641 square kilometres.

These springs became the property of the government even though it had been discovered by these three men. The CPR saw opportunities for tourism. They were now blasting their way through the mountains to lay track and they needed to find a way to generate some money to pay for this railway. So, what better way to make some money than to convince tourists, rich tourists to come to Banff and take the "healing waters"? At that time, hot springs were believed to heal all sorts of diseases and illnesses.

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