Yoho National Park was established in 1886 and lies on the British Columbia/Alberta border within Canada. The park is 507 square miles in size and is surrounded by British Columbia’s Rocky Mountains on the west side, Banff National Park on Yoho’s east side and Kootenay National Park borders the park’s southern end.
Yoho Canada boasts 28 mountain peaks that soar more than 3,000 meters in height, approximately 250 miles of hiking trails and is home to the third tallest free-flowing water fall - Takakkaw Falls, which is 254 metres in height. In the Cree language, takakkaw means ‘it is wonderful.’
Yoho is also home to one of the most beautiful glacial lakes in Canada – Emerald Lake. Streams carrying silt from melting glaciers create the lake’s rich turquoise colour.
One of the most famous and historically important features to the national park is Walcott’s Quarry and the trilobite beds on Mount Stephen. This is where, in 1909, palaeontologist Charles Walcott discovered 65,000 specimens of Burgess Shale fossils. Burgess Shale fossils were tropical aquatic life buried approximately 515 million years ago under 10 km of rock that fell in mudslides.
The hot, oxygen-poor environment perfectly preserved the fossils’ hard and soft tissues.
To this day, many of the fossils remain unidentified.
Because Burgess Shale is so historically important, unique and fragile, access is only possible via guided tours.
While unknown fossils once inhabited Yoho National Park, today, the park is home to elk, wolf, deer, moose, Canadian Lynx and the Grizzly Bear. These bears have been given the nickname ‘Silvertips’ because of their long, frosted white hairs found on their shoulders and back.
The Grizzly has so dramatically decreased in population since the early 1900s, a program – the Eastern Slope Grizzly Bear Project – was created. Part of the park’s effort to protect the Grizzly, and people from being attacked by these 8-feet tall carnivores, includes seasonal closures to portions of the Lake O’Hara trails.
Over-fishing has also become problematic for the park’s natural habitat, in particular the Bull Trout. Despite the fragile nature of the park’s aquatic life, controlled fishing is still allowed.
Avid bird watchers go to Yoho to stalk water pipit, grey-crowned rosy finch, horned larks and white-tailed ptarmigan, along with grassland falcons, nutcrackers and hummingbird jays. Warblers, hawks and eagles have also been spotted.
Perhaps one of the park’s most fascinating points of interest is Kicking Horse Pass, which consists of eight spiral tunnels located inside the mountain. The tunnels comprise 9km of looping track, which pass through Mount Ogden and Mount Cathed. The tunnels took 1,000 men and two years to complete, which concluded in 1909. The spiral track replaced the Bill Hill, which consisted of a 275m drop in 6.4km. Runaway trains became a regular occurrence, thus, forcing engineers to re-think the route across the Great Divide.