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Cave and Basin National Historic Site

by K Gordon Schultz

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site: Where Banff National Park – and Canada’s National Park System — Began

Bring the family here to see where it all began. “Here” being the Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada, which commemorates where it all began in 1885 — the geographical birthplace of Canada’s National Park System.

In 1883 three railway workers discovered warm water springs on this site on the side of Sulphur Mountain above what would become the town of Banff, which led to the establishment of a reserve around the hot springs in 1885. Two years later the Canadian government made the area a national park – the country’s first. That park would go on and grow into what we know today as Banff National Park in Canada’s Rocky Mountains, encompassing Lake Louise to the north as well.

The Cave and Basin site marks the growth and development of Canada’s national parks with interactive displays, exhibits, and interpretive trails. Naturally-occurring, warm mineral springs can be found inside the cave, and outside in an emerald colored basin. The site also features:

  • the cave, including its interior pool and the original vent hole.
  • the basin, the open air mineral pool with the mats of different color algae growing in the mineral-rich waters. Here you’ll also find the rare and endangered Banff springs snails in their ative habitat (please observe them but otherwise please leave them alone)
  • interactive exhibits
  • interpretive walks and boardwalks in the woods and marshes nearby
  • interpretive panels describing the World War 1 internment camp that was placed here
  • a gift shop and snack bar

Cave and Basin National Historic Site is located at the west end of Cave Avenue in Banff, Canada.

Winter Hours (October through mid-May):
11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday – Friday
9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with a weekend guided tour 11 a.m.
Closed December 25th

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