When I last searched for photos to place with my future posts, I came across this one of Highway 93 going through Sinclair Canyon near Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia.
There appears to be nothing wrong with this photo; unless you remember seeing it in the mid-1950s. The gap between the red rock walls was not visible until you were much closer. On the western side of the canyon, the space for the road was wider.
Every summer, until I was in my mid-teens, my family took trips to the Rockies, and that included a visit to Radium Hot Springs. The highway I recall was narrow; to say there was one and a half lanes would be generous. There appeared to be no definite space between the two rock walls except for the road inside and the sound of rushing water below. Vehicles would pass each other slowly. Any one of my brothers liked to lean out the back window to touch the rock as we went past; often knuckles were skinned accompanied with yelps and followed by admonishment by our mother.
Some summers my father had to navigate construction crews at Sinclair Canyon. There were flagmen with walkie-talkies who would indicate whether the vehicles stopped or were allowed to move one direction, then in the other direction when the road had been cleared of rocks from blasting. The federal government had decided to widen the highway within the canyon after learning of reports that cars had gone off the road there.
This wasn't surprising, considering the first guard rails were post beams with planks of wood nailed on; followed by beams with large cable wire attached. A few places had low stone and cement walls at the edge of the highway where, if you were sitting in the passenger side closest to the edge you could look way, way down. For anyone with a fear of heights, well...you didn't look.
Initially, a drive through Sinclair Canyon was going into a narrow, darkened space like a tunnel that curled around the natural formation of the rock where the Radium Creek had worn away the stone. Driving was slow due to the twists and turns, and once out on the other side there was the Radium Hot Springs pool and the town beyond.
For history buffs, Sinclair Canyon is named after James Sinclair who came over Whiteman Pass leading a cavalcade of Red River settlers en route to Walla Walla, Washington in the mid-1840s.
By the early 1900s, local businessmen were lobbying for a road linking Windermere to Banff. Eventually the road was completed by the federal government in exchange for title to a strip of land on either side of the route. In 1920, this land was set aside as Kootenay National Park.
Kootenay is the only national park that represents the Rocky Mountain Trench in the Western Ranges of the Rocky Mountains. The trench, visible from space as a long linear valley stretching from the U.S. border to the B.C./Yukon border, is a major break in the earth's crust.
The elevation ranges from 900m to 3,400m, each range characterized by flora and fauna typical of the western Rocky Mountains. The south-western corner of the park contains the only example of dry Douglas fir/ponderosa pine/wheatgrass vegetation in Canada's national parks. This semi-arid area, where prickly pear cactus also grows, provides important winter range for wildlife, especially Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Other species include: grizzly and black bear, wolf, coyote, cougar, lynx, wolverine, marten, marmot, white-tailed and mule
deer, elk [photo], moose, mountain goat and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. The mountain goat is the park's wildlife symbol.
Photo credit for Sinclair Canyon: Nancy Meier
Photo credit for elk: chris & lara pawluk CC=nc-flickr.
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