Some early hikers stand by Balsam Lake

Dream to turn Mt. Revelstoke into park started right away

Revelstoke residents started hiking up Mount Revelstoke in early 20th century. They came back with dreams of turning it into a park.

In 2014, Mt. Revelstoke National Park turns 100 years old. The park was founded by the Canadian government at the urging of the citizens of Revelstoke. To celebrate the park’s centennial, the Times Review will be publishing a monthly series of articles over the course of the year. Part one looks at the early exploration of Mount Revelstoke until the parks founding in 1914.

When the first Revelstokians ventured up Mount Revelstoke, they were amazed by what they saw.

“Having just returned from a trip among the mountains to the north of Revelstoke, I would like to draw the attention of your readers to the fact that within a few hours walk from the city there is a splendid natural park of nearly two thousand acres in extent,” wrote A.E. Miller to the Kootenay Mail-Herald on Aug. 4, 1906. “Mountain Park (as he called the area) would make an ideal place to spend the hot months as, owing to the altitude, the air, even on the brightest days, is pleasantly cool, and there is never any trouble from mosquitoes.”

Miller concluded his letter saying the public should start petitioning the government to turn the area into a protected park.

Miller wasn’t the first person to venture into what is now Mount Revelstoke National Park. That honour goes to the famous mountaineer A.O. Wheeler, who summited several peaks in the Clachnacudainn Range in 1901. From Clachnacudainn West he described what is believed to be Upper Jade Lake: “A small lake of bright emerald green, the water being a translucent rather than transparent appearance.”

Wheeler’s ascent is the first recorded trip into the area; while it is possible First Nations or early European explorers ventured up the mountain, there is no official record of them having done so.

C.R. Macdonald and J.J. Devine were the first Revelstokians into the area, climbing the mountain to Prospective Lake in 1902 (now called Balsam Lake). Four years later, Miller, D. MacIntosh and W. Mitchell spent a week camping at the lake, returning with photos they displayed at Macdonald’s drug store.

Revelstoke council took Miller’s 1906 letter to heart. In 1908, they funded the construction of a trail to the summit of Mount Revelstoke, opening up it up to the public. It was known as Victoria Park.

“The view from Grass Lake and adjacent points is superb and will well repay the climb,” wrote the Mail-Herald. “The air is bracing and cool, flowers are blooming in abundance, while the humming birds in colors variegated and beautiful are flitting about as thick as bees.

“The ascent is gradual and easy and one would hardly realize that a rise of 6,000 feet has been made, or five miles in actual distance, so interesting and entrancing is the view all along the route.”

PHOTO: Some hikers sit in the so-called refrigerator near the summit of Mount Revelstoke. Photo courtesy Revelstoke Museum & Archives.

In 1909, the Revelstoke Mountaineering Club was formed. Locals began to explore the summit area of Mount Revelstoke and a cabin was built at Prospective Lake. Eva Hobbs discovered her namesake lake that summer.

In 1912, locals, led by the Board of Trade and the Prosperity Club, started lobbying to have Mount Revelstoke protected as a national park and have the government to build a road to the summit. On Aug. 21, a ceremony was held to launch the construction of the auto road. They hoped to have it open the following year; it didn’t open until 1927.

At the ceremony, Revelstoke’s MP R.F. Green said he had taken up the cause of establishing a national park at the summit.

“As I stand here today and look up at this wonderful Mount Revelstoke, and this beautiful park, it appears to me very forcibly that if we can make same into a playground, to assist in building up a better, healthier and more moral race of Canadians, it would confer a benefit alike on you and on our successors,” he said. “I can see the finished scenic auto road, winding its way to the summit, crowned by a magnificent tourist hotel and the mountain itself turned into a playground worthy of its natural beauty and surroundings.”

Mount Revelstoke National Park was proclaimed on Apr. 28, 1914. Revelstoke was booming at the time and the park was expected to be a major tourism attraction. There were grand plans for the park, including a luxury hotel and golf course at the summit.

Fred Maunder, the park’s first superintendent wrote in 1915: “With the completion of the automobile road preparing the golf course and erection of a small chalet at the summit … and making these of easy access to the tourist, Revelstoke will be a position to offer inducements to the traveller which few cities in Canada can furnish.”

Special thanks to Cathy English at the Revelstoke Musem & Archives for her notes that formed the basis of this article.

Next month’s article will look at winter recreation in Mount Revelstoke National Park.

 

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