The first national park in Canada: Cave and Basin & The most endangered species in Banff

in Haveyoubeenhere5 months ago (edited)

What's buzzin hive!

Are we moving on the Jasper details yet? Nope sorry! For now, I have a left over from my Banff trip last year when we went for Easter. I never got around to posting it, to be honest I never really knew what to do with it. After the last Banff trip, it seemed to fit right in like it belonged with this one. It's not one of my magic looking landscape with the perfect mountain backdrop but it has quite a bit of history and some interesting features still worth learning about. Before the order of the day, I want to remind you that my week-end meme engagement contest is still running until payout, if you like to win a few free Hive and have some fun, visit my last post:

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This place is just down the road from the museum we last visited at the base of Sulfur Mountain and we tried to see it before we left but due to covid and the lack of ability to social distance in a tiny cave, well this specific feature is closed and most likely will be until this mess goes away. The museum is still open but to be honest you want to go there for the cave. Cave and basin isn't very big or that spectacular looking at first glance but it has huge historical and cultural significance associated with sacred Native American rituals and healing waters along with the home of a rare species. The cave is the main feature but the sulfur water source can be traced up the mountain highlighting various micro eco-systems.


I don't remember the admission fee exactly but it's very low, like $5 or $7 per adult. If you have purchased a year membership pass to Parks Canada, guess what! Take a picture of that pass and bring it with you and it will be free, if you can't take a picture, just bring the pass. The pay area include the cave and museum. The outside features and boardwalk are available to anyone for free. Depending on the length of your stay, having a Parks Canada pass can be economical. At around $145/year grants you access to every national park across Canada anytime and some activities may offer discounts for being a pass holder and supporting the park. The usual fee is $20 per day in the park.

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When we hear Banff, I'm sure most think of the gondola and hot-spring area that everyone is used to was it always there tho? At the turn of the 1900's, the hot spring pool was actually located at the current Cave and Basin or what is also referred to as "Lower Springs". In the 1990's the Upper spring was opened with a bigger facility and is the one we currently use to get our dip in the "healing waters" (I will get on that later). The old pool structure and bathhouse have been restored to preserve it's history and is part of the outdoor tour of the location. Events are often hosted here like intimate wine tastings and such (pre-covid).

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During our walk, we encountered a series of signs with some spectacular photos taken from various artists. I took photos of the signs. The artists are as follows: 1&2 were taken by Rogier Gruys, 3&4 were taken by Amar Athwal and 5 Ryan Bray.

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The photo above is of the old bath-house location before the Upper Spring facility was built.


The original structures were built by slave labor from WWI Ukrainian internment camps and now the host of the first exhibit in Canada honoring the atrocities committed by our government against the early Ukrainian community with a permanent exhibit. I have already covered this history a few years back, here is a link for a refresher or if you missed it:

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The photos of Banff's first hotel are from public display signs found along the trail.

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The area was first discovered by James Hector, a Scottish doctor and geologist part of the Palliser expedition that took place in 1859 as part of a scouting mission to collect information, soil and plant samples to analyze for a potential settlement and to build the railroad that would connect the Rockies needed for expansion. The special feature didn't attract much attention until a few decades later.


The picture at the top is the crawl access from the outside, the 2 photos below is from inside the cave. Can you imagine yourself crawling in and out of there climbing down a rope?

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Since then, there has been a hole drilled on one side of the cave and a mock wall entrance tunnel for easy accessibility but until the late 1800, the only access to the cave was from a small hole at the top climbing down a rope tied to a tree. The re-discovery led to the building of the "First Hotel" near the hole opening (it was just a small log cabin nothing luxury) that led to the creation of the first national park in Canada preserving the area around the lower springs to protect the eco-system from commercial exploitation after 3 railroad workers tried to profit from the sulfur mineral water.

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Later expanded and re-named Rocky Mountain National Park to what is now known as Banff National Park. Since then, over 40 other national parks have been established in Canada along with over 160 Historic sites blazing a trail for nature conservation efforts and the protection of plant and animal species at risk for extinction and areas of historical significance.

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The ripples and bubbles in the water are from the wildlife that lives in the hot-spring basin.

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The basin on the inside fills up from the accumulated pool on the outside of the cave and just a small gentle trickle comes into the cave as shown below.

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The Sulphur mineral water ponds and basins are the home of the endangered Banff Springs Snail. The snails can be found in the cave, on the walls, in the spring pool outside all the way up as you walk along shallow pools of hot sulfur water running down the mountain. They are hard to spot but you can't un-see them once you do, they can get about thumb size. The small critters are actually Banff's most at risk animal and is in critical danger of extinction and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Some years the count is better than others but the busy tourist season heavily impacts their eco system and their ability to survive. Western Toad is another species at risk that can be spotted in the ponds up around the boardwalk that walks up Sulfur Mountain.


In the photo above, you can look for a tadpole in the middle with a snail on it's left along with another snail at the bottom right corner. They mostly live in the lush green areas where all the food is. Canada's first national park was created to protect this specific eco-system, this is what started it all, a few snails and tadpoles.

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The gross looking white stuff is hard minerals like calcium that get trapped on vegetation. There is a lot of sulfur in the water and very smelly. Small amounts of H2S is most likely present in these ponds (not at toxic level, you are fine less than 5 ppms but the smell is strong). Some of the run-off from the hot-spring ends it's journey into the Vermillion Lakes area, as I may have mentioned in my Rundle Mountain post.

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For that reason, the water at the Cave and Basin's lower springs or anywhere that harbors the snails cannot be touched, disturbed or swim to save what is left. They are sensitive to the chemicals on our skin like soaps, bug spray, sanitizers etc. Swimming or disturbing the water causes the eggs to dislodge and prevent them from reaching maturity along with unknowingly crushing some of the snails. Every tourist season, many do not obey the conservation guidelines and vandalize the eco-system with careless actions and further puts strain on an already dire situation. Just a tip to visitors, when you do not respect these guidelines, the areas get shutdown to the public and locals no longer have access to their heritage and it breaks our hearts. Respect our parks and wildlife so we can continue to visit ourselves and share our heritage with you, we care deeply.

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You see my friends, it looks like a swamp but it's an important part of history, you may not mean to cause harm but not paying attention, it's easy to disrupt a local legacy and one of the world's rarest species that may only be found in one location.

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Some snails can grow up to thumbnail size but most remain much smaller. Can you spot the snails in the picture? Hint there is a small one in the center of the photo but you probably wont find it unless you are on a computer, they attach themselves to the vegetation or algae and eat.

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Before European contact, the area has habited by the local Stoney Nakoda Nation with indications of indigenous settlements for over 10 000 years. The cave was part of an annual pilgrimage and sacred healing ceremonies that are still practiced today. Another reason we cannot touch the water in the cave, it is considered a sacred site and sacred waters. To touch it without proper ceremony would be considered offensive to the ancestor spirits. Fun fact: each national park in Canada has a small portion designated as sacred land reserved for ceremonial grounds only even if it isn't advertised. It represents the honoring treaties and the ceremonial significance is observed to respect the indigenous history before it was disturbed by settlers.


Mural painted by a local artist on the way to the cave representing how they would have accessed the cave to the healing waters for ceremonies

Now to the healing waters, not only is it a relaxing activity that loosens all your muscles, there is folklore around many parts of the world that mineral sulfur water has many healing abilities from relief from chronic skin conditions to chronic digestion even providing relief for arthritis and fibromyalgia with the absorption of the minerals thru the skin. Official studies on this topic is minimal outside of Japan so it's not entirely sure if it's just folklore or the theory has substance. From a personal experience, the Upper Springs feel nice! lol...Just go. The upper Springs is developed much like a pool with sanitation but the water is naturally hot and hold the same healing benefits as the water in the cave.


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The walk inside the cave doesn't take long but it gets very crowded because it's a small space that may fit about 10 people at once at the most. I recommend taking a flashlight to help with photography, it can be very dark with only one small opening for the light to come in. The museum takes about half hour for a quick tour. There is a series of boardwalks established that goes up Sulphur Mountain thru the snail habitat with interactive signs for learning. The walk doesn't take very long but it's worth it and certainly suitable for children . Mostly uphill but not very difficult.

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Photos of artwork and displays from the historical museum of Cave and Basin.

Sorry not sorry I took you on a tour of a swamp, not just a swamp, Canada's first Historical swamp 😂. That's why it took me a year and a half to post this. It's not that pretty, I can't make pretty either but it's an area with huge significance to us and I had to somehow bring you here with me, hopefully you enjoyed the history at least. I thought it was very fitting with the rest we experienced on our last trip to Banff. Now that it's mostly complete, I'm glad I took the time to blow the dust off on a post that almost never was and finally publish it.

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A few posts ago, I mentioned I would talk about the Apartment we rented but I already had too much material to cover so I will take you on that little tour now. It cost us about $125 /night CAD to rent this charming little suite (keep in mind, off-season prices) at the Silver Creek Lodge located in downtown Canmore. Fully equipped 1 bedroom suite with 2 gas fireplace, in suite laundry, 2 balconies overlooking downtown and Mount Rundle. The bathroom was pretty great, I mention it because it has a pretty nice deep bathtub I can actually fit in and stretch out😍. The first time I turned it on, it almost gave me a heart attack. I saw the nobs for the hot/cold water but I couldn't figure out where the water would be coming out from. I turned it on and water came pouring out of the ceiling...Curious little thing. 😲

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All images taken with Nikon D7000

Ok that's it for me and the official end of Banff. Cheers my friends! X🐞X


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Banff, so good they gave it two F's!

OK, to be honest I don't even know what that comment means and why I allude to F's being a measure of goodness at all. Anyway, this post is so good I don't need to go to Banff to see it for myself! Just kidding, I definitely want to get there and check it out, your post just punctuates what I already know, its legit. :)

Of course you still need to come to Banff yourself! This is just peanuts in a bucket compared to everything there is to see! That hotspring cave is pretty cool .

It's on the list...The long list of places I have to go.

The cave and basin remind me of the one from H2O movie haha. Really spectacular place! Incredible to believe it's actually real :)

I never seen that movie. This place is pretty unique! Caves are amazing, I have to try to get into more of them. (at least the easy ones to get into)

This place looks familiar!
Hey just wanted to let you know I started a new community called “Rocky Mountains”. For Canadian and American mountain related photography. Would be nice to see your amazing photography there!

It's pretty popular place on many of their vacation adds, should go visit next time you are around if all that covid crap is over. I'll check out your community!

Another interesting post with great photos and history some place i would love to visit thanks for bring this to us always interesting popping over to your blog. Have a great week 😊

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed! There is a lot of controversial history in the wild wild west of Canada! Have a great week my friend!

Indeed there seems to be and you have a great week also 😊

That looks cool! Well, maybe not so much in the winter and it makes sense that it would be closed during the pandemic. It sounds like it would be bustling with activity during any other normal, non-plague-ridden summer.

It sort of reminds me of the roman bath in southern Spain. There was a cave with a natural spring inside. A roman arch marks the entrance. I wasn't able to get there with the camera, though.

That would have been cool to see that in Spain! yes like a roman bath, this place is pretty cool. This is just a gentle trickle too, so soothing with the resonance around the cave walls, I could only dream to bathe in a place like this(minus the endangered wildlife). That's too bad you couldn't bring your camera. I can bring mine here but it can get pretty crowded with line-ups to come in and it's hard to take your time for pictures and then get out since everyone trying to come in is blocking the way out...In other words, it's very cozy in there. Obviously same reason it's closed for covid, there is no way to social distance or safe that out either. It will do some good to the eco-system tho, less disturbances to the micro-wildlife.