An early map of Alberta’s Banff National Park
An early map of Ban , Canada’s rst and most famous national park
MCCARDELL-MCCABE National Park doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. But then it was never likely that the powers-that-be in late 19th-century Canada were going to name what would become the nation’s first national park after the Canadian Pacific Railway workers who stumbled across Banff’s now famous hot springs in 1883 — a “discovery” (First Nations had long been aware of the waters) that was the catalyst for the formation of the country’s national parks system. Indeed, two years after brothers William and Thomas Mccardell and Frank Mccabe explored the springs at the base of Sulphur Mountain, the federal government established a 26-square-kilometre protected area there, the name of which, while utilitarian, was also a classic example of the lack of imagination that often plagues bureaucracies the world over: Hot Springs Reserve. The feds’ intention was twofold: to preserve the undeniably entrancing landscape (William Mccardell had described the cave portion of the springs as being “like some fantastic dream from a tale of the Arabian Nights”) and, with the CPR, to develop the area into a tourist destination to help make the railway profitable. In 1887, the reserve was penultimately renamed — in a does-what-it-says-on-thetin style, of course — Rocky Mountains Park and expanded to 674 square kilometres. In 1888, the Banff Springs Hotel was completed, and tourists began streaming into the region, which the CPR promoted as Canada’s Alps, taking a page out of the spa tourism book that had proved so popular in Europe. The map shown here, the first topographical survey of Rocky Mountains Park, was printed the same year and shows the burgeoning tourist infrastructure around the Banff townsite — roads, trails, the Banff Sanitarium [sic], the newly completed hotel, the hot springs at Cave and Basin and the Upper Hot Springs. By 1895, the mountain reserves that would become Yoho, Glacier and Waterton Lakes national parks had been established, drawing still more tourists west. With the formation in 1911 of the Dominion Parks Branch — the precursor to Parks Canada and the first national parks administration in the world — protecting the spaces now so revered in our collective consciousness became a coastto-coast-to-coast effort. Now that’s a legacy the Mccardell brothers and Mccabe would no doubt be proud of.