Wildfire in Kootenay National Park
Kootenay National Park is one of the best kept secrets in our national park system. From icy mountain rivers to steamy hot springs, you can enjoy it by taking a 60 min drive through the park, or by embarking on a multi-day adventure. Kootenay National Park is a park of contrasts and last year’s wildfire has significantly added to its multi-faceted landscape.
Fire: An important part of Kootenay National Park.
For thousands of years, wildfire has been an integral part of Canada’s landscape. In Kootenay National Park, it has played a key role in shaping which species of vegetation and wildlife thrive. In the early years of our national parks system, park managers – and our society – viewed fire as a destructive force and extinguished it. The first national park wardens (called Fire and Game Guardians) were hired in 1909 primarily to extinguish wildfires. More recently, the science of ecology is telling us something completely different; fire is an essential part of nature. Many ecosystems have evolved with fire and depend on it for renewal.
The benefits of fire
We now know that over time, fires create a patchwork of burned and unburned vegetation. This diverse mix of habitats is favoured by some wildlife and supports many species. Fire makes nutrients stored in live and dead vegetation available by converting it into mineral-rich ash. After a fire, pine cones pop open from fire’s heat, releasing their seeds. In the spring, new growth will sprout from the roots of burned shrubs. Flowers will bloom and grasses will sprout. Animals will once again forage in the lush new growth.
Restoring the flame
While we continue to suppress threatening wildfires, we now also work to reintroduce fire in a controlled manner, whether that’s through monitoring wildfires in remote areas or lighting prescribed fires. Our current fire management program has evolved from decades of experience fighting, lighting and researching the effects of fire on the landscape. Parks Canada is now a leader in fire management.
The summer of 2017
Last summer, Canada 150 was celebrated across the mountain parks with much excitement. Mother Nature provided some added challenges when lightning struck in the remote backcountry
drainage of Verdant Creek. Despite immediate and ongoing firefighting efforts, this fire grew to 18,017 hectares over the next two months. With a new summer season coming up, you may be wondering how this could affect your visit to Kootenay National Park.
Planning your next visit
Following the great success of Canada 150, we are excited for the 2018 summer season. Most trail and campgrounds will be open. We are also now taking online reservations for backcountry campgrounds as of March 2018.
As for trails that may be closed due to the Verdant Creek wildfire, dangerous trees standing along some trails continue to be present and infrastructure such as bridges and signs will require rebuilding which means some limited backcountry areas remain closed in Kootenay and Banff national parks. If you are planning a visit to the park, we encourage you to visit:
Looking for a day trip?
The Redstreak restoration area near the Town of Radium Hot Springs offers a walk through meadows reborn by prescribed fire. Visit the Redstreak Restoration interpretive trail for a chance to learn more about the benefits of fire on the landscape. Don’t forget to watch for bighorn sheep!
Be sure to download the Kootenay App to let Parks Canada staff tell you stories behind the various landscapes in the area. Relax in the Radium Hot Pools and walk the Juniper trail for fantastic views of the Columbia Valley.
For a multi-day trip
Book a campsite to say in one of our oTENTiks at Redstreak Campground, plan a Burgess Shale Hike at Stanley Glacier and soak up the last of the rays from the Hot Pools. For more
great ideas visit pc.gc.ca/kootenay