Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks
Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks
Natural Canada Europe And North America Provinces Of British Columbia And Alberta

Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks comprises Banff National Park, Hamber Provincial Park, Jasper National Park, Kootenay National Park, Mount Robson Provincial Park, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and Yoho National Park.

The Canadian Rocky Mountains are oriented in a south-eastern to north-western direction along the Continental Divide and consist of the Western Ranges, the Main Ranges, the Front Ranges and the Foothills, all of which are represented within the parks.

Active glaciers and ice fields still exist throughout the region, particularly in the Main Ranges. The most significant is the Columbia ice field, the largest in North America's subarctic interior. Covering 325 km2 , the ice field spans the Continental Divide and the boundary between Jasper and Banff National Parks.

The Columbia ice fields of Jasper National Park are regarded as the hydrographic apex of North America and are the headwaters to three major river systems: the North Saskatchewan River, the Athabasca River and the Columbia River. The park waters of Yoho flow to the Pacific along Kicking Horse. Mount Robson Park encompasses the headwaters of Fraser River while Hamber Park encompasses Fortress Lake watershed. There are numerous lakes in Mount Assiniboine Park, most of which are located in broad alpine valleys and plateaus where they occupy glacially scoured depressions in the limestone bedrock.

The Rockies have been divided into three life zones or ecoregions: montane, subalpine and alpine. Montane vegetation occurs in major valley bottoms, on the foothills and sun-exposed slopes of lower mountain sides, especially in the front ranges. Forest is generally found between 1,200 m and 1,800 m and typical species include Douglas fir, white spruce, aspen and poplar. Montane wetlands and meadows occupy areas adjacent to major rivers.

The subalpine ecoregion occupies mountainsides between 1,800 m and 2,100 m, and valley bottoms of high elevations. This is the most extensive ecoregion in the Rockies and can be subdivided into lower and upper subalpine. The alpine ecoregion occurs above the timberline. It is characterized by diminutive and hardy vegetation such as low-growing willow and dwarf birch, heath, mountain avens and sedge.

A total of 56 mammalian species have been recorded. Characteristic species found in alpine meadows include Rocky Mountain goat, bighorn sheep, northern pika and hoary marmot. Forest mammals include moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, caribou, red deer and red squirrel. Carnivores include grey wolf, grizzly bear, black bear, wolverine, lynx and puma.

Some 280 avifaunal species have been noted, including northern three-toed woodpecker, white-tailed ptarmigan, grey jay, mountain bluebird, Clark's nutcracker, golden eagle, mountain chickadee and rock pipit. Other recorded fauna includes one species of toad, three species of frog, one species of salamander and two species of snake.