Banff National Park

Alberta, Canada | C.1885

Photo Credit: Chris Radey

Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park. The first human activity here dates back more than 10,000 years and the surrounding land was home to numerous Indigenous Peoples with many areas of the park still known by their given names. The establishment of the land as a National Park came as a preservation effort by the Canadian Government to stop commercial development in the area. At the same time, the transcontinental railway had been completed, contributing both to the Park’s popularity and unfortunately a threat to its safety.

Two years after the park’s establishment, John Connor assumed duty as the first forest ranger. A citizen of Banff, he was appointed by the Park’s superintendent and tasked with its preservation. Connor spent his days patrolling the Railway in a handcar and performing clerical duties, but when fires swept through the valley, John jumped into action recruiting & deploying fire suppression crews.

Driven by an uptick of forest fires caused by the sparks of passing trains, the Park officially established its Warden service in 1909, and a new team was developed to serve as both fire and game wardens with chief warden Howard E. Sibbald at the helm.

Having grown up on the Canadian frontie, Sibbald brought a special sense of wilderness know-how to the position. He significantly improved preservation practices by increasing fire protection, trail construction, and forest patrol services – even implementing a fire lookout & telephone service between warden cabins to facilitate quicker communication.

To this day, Banff National Park’s warden service has maintained its guard, continuing to aid in the protection & preservation of the wondrous wilds of Canada’s first national park – still operating out of warden cabins like Redearth Creek Cabin No. 31 above.

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