Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cave and Basin Hotsprings in Banff

In 1883, the CPR railway construction workers who came across the Cave and Basin hotsprings must have thought they were in Paradise. Who'd have expected hot baths?

The people of the Stoney Nation used this as a ceremonial place. They dropped into the cave on ropes and gathered in a circle in the pool to sing, drum, pray and receive blessings from the Creator.

However, the railway workers' discovery drew attention from private investors who scented tourist dollars. This led to the eventual creation of Banff National Park, the first in Canada. By 1890, Banff had over six hundred homes and half a dozen hotels. Meanwhile, the Belvederes, a health spa, had been created at the hotsprings. The mineral water was touted as a cure for a variety of ills.

The elegant bathing pool built here was used for many years, in spite of a unique challenge: no metal but gold can withstand the corrosive effects of the hydrogen sulfide in the water, so rust was a serious problem. Now the Cave and Basin hotsprings is closed to protect the water from contamination by humans. It's home to an endangered heat-loving creature, the Banff Springs snail. The hot pools are also home to the thermophylic one-celled blue-green algae, a plant that's predates the dinosaurs. It forms odd-looking microbial mats, as seen in the left picture below.

The nearby Banff Upper Hotsprings is now the destination of choice for those who want to get themselves in hot water. I had the good fortune to have a soak there with my lovely daughter.

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