100th Anniversary of Mount Revelstoke
In August 1906 a nature-loving school principal in Revelstoke, B.C., named A.E. Miller wrote an enthusiastic letter to the town’s newspaper hoping to draw attention to what he described as “a splendid natural park of nearly two thousand acres in extent … within a few hours walk from the city.”
Miller was so enamored by the close-to-home location and unaffected beauty of this undiscovered area that he frequently brought visitors with him to hike, swim, and picnic among the peaks, lakes, and wildflowers.
Despite his enthusiasm, it was another eight years before Miller’s golden find got the attention it deserved. After much trumpeting by locals, Mount Revelstoke became the first of only a very few national parks to be instigated by “civilians” at that time.
In 1914 the area was inaugurated into the National Parks Act of Canada, wrapping its “natural features, flora, soil, waters, fossils, air quality and cultural, historical and archaeological resources” in a protective Governor of Council hug. Within this boundary is a herd of threatened mountain caribou cohabitating freely alongside mountain goats and grizzly bears. It also contains part of the world’s only temperate inland rainforest, where stands of old-growth cedar and hemlock forests (otherwise declining outside of protected areas) continue their 500-year existence and provide homes to rare, threatened, and endangered species.
At only 260 square kilometres, Mount Revelstoke National Park may be small for national park status but that doesn’t stop it from attracting a large audience of over 600,000 visitors each year. And you may be next!
Celebrating its 100th birthday this year, Mount Revelstoke National Park offers several reasons to visit while travelling through the area, whether or not you make it for some of the commemorative events.
As you make your way along the Trans-Canada highway, liven up those screen-gazing travellers in the backseat and hop out for a leg stretcher 30 kilometres east of Revelstoke at the Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail. This half kilometre walk takes you into a forest of towering cedars over half a millennium old, while signs along the way guide you through its functioning ecosystem. Head another two kilometres west to Skunk Cabbage picnic area and stop for a breather along this curiously-named boardwalk high and dry above a fascinating swamp teaming with the daily routine of beavers, birds, and muskrat.
These short but beautiful trails will only just whet your appetite for what is to come. From the road, Mount Revelstoke may not look as majestic as other glacier-clad peaks in the area, but don’t be fooled. As you arrive closer to the town of Revelstoke, merge off the highway onto the Meadows in the Sky Parkway.
While climbing 26 kilometres up the paved road, you’ll raise the curtain on spectacular nature scenes without even leaving your car. Swap those tailgating semi trucks for lush, open meadows filled with mountain arnica and heather, glacier lilies, arctic lupine, and Indian paintbrush – an epic carpet of colour that will get that shutter finger twitching. There are plenty of viewpoints along the way for any photographers in the car, and make sure you keep the windows down to capture some of that fine moist rainforest air in your lungs.
Once you reach the Mount Revelstoke summit, simply walk with a picnic basket in any direction. It doesn’t matter who is in your travelling posse, you’ll find something for all levels of enthusiasm and athleticism. From bird’s-eye view lookout points, to meadows rivaling the Sound of Music set, to lakes so clear and calm they reflect the whole sky, it’s all there for you to enjoy. A series of trails can be accessed by hopping on a shuttle bus for the remaining few hundred feet from the parking lot to the trailheads. These paths weave hikers though fields of wild flowers to the fresh waters of Eva and Miller Lakes and, for the mountain climber, up the craggy peaks of Mounts Dickey and Coursier, to name a few. Lose your troubles in this picturesque setting for three hours or three days! Parks Canada’s Mount Revelstoke National Park website has in-depth information on over 20 different hikes and climbs in the area.
While buckets of annual snowfall keeps the Meadows in the Sky Parkway closed for almost nine months of the year, that doesn’t detract from Mount Revelstoke’s appeal on a winter road trip.
Steeped in rich history, the base of the mountain holds the Nels Nelson ski jump. Before you get excited, you can’t put your kids on this decommissioned “slide”, but the area is still celebrated and active with installments like the Tournament of Champions “Winner’s Circle.” This gateway starts in the town of Revelstoke behind the Railway Museum and celebrates the movers and shakers who made the town world famous in the sport of ski jumping. Formerly named “Suicide Hill”, the Nels Nelson ski jump made record-breaking heroes out of local jumpers while deterring and intimidating international competitors. During the 1920s, Isabel Coursier broke a world record jumping by jumping 84 feet when she was only 16 years old. Nels Nelson, also a Revelstokian, won four world records there in 1920, 1921, 1923, and 1925. Today the Nels Nelson jump stands at the base of Mount Revelstoke and can be reached in about 40 minutes from town through the Winner’s Circle gateway.
Mount Revelstoke National Park will always be a place where visitors and locals alike can connect with nature and history. A 2010 Parks Canada survey shows that those who visit the area hold dear the peace and quiet, the scenic drive, and access to a mountain summit only steps from their vehicle. Parks Canada has created an area plan for the Revelstoke National Park that will ensure its legacy is kept active through improvement projects that will enhance the experience even more. Programs like Art in the Park, where artists are invited to participate in a week-long residency in the area, create inspiration through opportunity. Local installment projects like the Winner’s Circle educate on history and ensure a sense of pride, while future projects will keep everyone coming back for more. Parks is now proposing a number of opportunities down the line that include new trails and viewpoints, upgraded exhibits, adventure opportunities like guided tree climbing and dog sledding, a rock bouldering area, and a cross-country mountain bike trail. Best of all, when there is normally limited access due to sknow, these changes will allow more people to visit the area during spring and fall. Stop in at Parks Canada while in the area and find out what new gifts this 100-year old park has received!
By: Heather Lea