A Hiking Trail that Leads to Nowhere

I strongly believe that history should be told as stories, so needless to say that when I was given an assignment this semester to create a podcast in my digital history class, I wanted to tell a story. I chose the story of a hiking trail that leads to nowhere.

Back in my undergrad, I took a course on the History of the Rocky Mountain Parks (Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay), and I wrote my paper on what makes Kootenay National Park different from its neighbors. I grew up next to Kootenay, so it was easy for me to reflect how Kootenay feels different, but it’s not just a feeling. Kootenay doesn’t have the classic lake-front mountain getaway like Jasper Park Lodge or Lake Louise or Emerald Lake (Yoho). As the backcountry adventurer will tell you, there are plenty of places to go in Kootenay, but its only alpine hut blew up a few years back and was never replaced. There are other differences as well – the lack of a townsite and the scarcity of tour buses going through are two examples – and I was curious to explore why this is.

In my paper I traced the history of Kootenay and its relation to changing National Parks policies. The topic was a fascinating one for me, primarily as National Parks tend to be seen as natural, unchanging landscapes. What this particular course showed, and my paper reflected on, is instead the careful management that goes into National Parks. I traced the development of Kootenay as it went from a remote area for homesteading to a tourist landscape populated with camps and a townsite, and finally towards the park we see today where the focus is on wildlife preservation and the management of natural landscapes.

The history of Kootenay Park is a difficult one to tell, especially as many traces of its cultural history have been removed, but it is these missing elements that help illustrate just how much Kootenay has changed. I chose to center my story around the Kimpton Creek trail in Kootenay both because it paints such an odd picture and perfectly sums up these changes. Here is a trail that is clearly marked for hiking, but after a few kilometers, it suddenly stops in the middle of the trees. In the words of my father, it’s “anticlimactic”.

If you want to learn more, I encourage you to take a listen to the podcast. It’s only about thirteen minutes long, and it goes through a quick history of Canadian National Park Policy, an explanation of how Kootenay was created, and how Kootenay fits into the bigger parks question. It also answers the ultimate question of where a hiking trail leading to nowhere can possibly fit into all of this.


Podcast Sources

Bella, Leslie. Parks for Profit. Montreal: Harvest House, 1987.
Brown, Robert Craig. “The Doctrine of Usefulness: Natural Resource and National Park Policy in Canada, 1887-1914.” In Canadian Parks in Perspective, eds. J.G. Nelson and R.C. Scace, (Montreal: Harvest House, 1970), 46-62.
Canada. “Banff Windermere Road Act.” Bill No. 98, 1916. Victoria BC, 1-2. Accessed: Windermere Valley Museum and Archives, Invermere BC. Box Hamilton Collection #2.
Canada. Parks Canada. “Kootenay Core Concept: Kootenay National Park Management Planning Program.” Ottawa: Environment Canada, Parks, Western Region, 1986.
Canada. Parks Canada. “Yoho and Kootenay National Parks Management Plan Concept.” Ottawa: Canadian Heritage Parks Canada, 1999.
Crook, Ray. “The Life and Times of Charles John Crook and Family.” Unpublished Manuscript, 2009.
Lothian, W.F. “A History of Canada’s National Parks: Volumes I-IV. Ottawa: Indian and Northern Affairs, Parks Canada, 1976.”
MacEachern, Alan. “James Harkin and the National Parks Branch.” In Natural Selections: National Parks in Atlantic Canada, 1935-1970. (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001), 25-46.
Meredith, T.C. “The Upper Columbia Valley 1900-20: An Assessment of ‘Boosterism’ and the ‘Biography of Landscape’.” Canadian Geographer 29,no.1 (1985): 44-55.
Murphy, Peter J. “Homesteading in the Athabasca Valley to 1910.” In Culturing Wilderness in Jasper National Park: Studies in Two Centuries of Human History in the Upper Athabasca River Watershed, ed. I.S. MacLaren (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2007), 13-53.
Richardson, H.E. “A History of Kootenay National Park: A Look Back Over the Years.” Unpublished Manuscript, 1984. Windermere Valley Museum and Archives, Invermere BC. Box R: Duotang (A History of Kootenay National Park).
Scace, Robert C. A Historical Geographical Study of the Paint Pots and Ochre Beds, Kootenay National Park, British Columbia. Natural and Historic Parks Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1971.
Taylor, C.J. “Legislating Nature: The National Park Act of 1930.” In To See Ourselves/ To Save Ourselves: Ecology and Culture in Canada, ed. Rowland Lorimer, Mickael M’Gonigle, Jean-Pierre Revéret, and Sally Ross. Montreal: Association for Canadian Studies, 1991: 125-137.
Williams, M.B. Kootenay National Park and the Banff Windermere Highway. Ottawa: Department of the Interior, 1929.
Zieroth, Dale. “Crook’s Meadow – Group Camping, Homesteading in the Kootenay: A Conversation with Ray Crook.” Unpublished manuscript, 1977. Windermere Valley Museum and Archives, Invermere BC. Box R: Duotang (Homesteading in the Kootenay).


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