Established by a special act of the British Columbia legislature in 1913, Mount Robson Park is the second oldest park in the Province of British Columbia's park system. It was designated as a world heritage site, part of the Rocky Mountains World Heritage Site, in 1990 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Mount Robson has a colourful early history of trade and transportation. From the early 1800s with trappers, explorers, hunters, prospectors, and ordinary folks seeking the end of the rainbow, to the present day.
Transportation is still an important part of the park with a national highway (Highway 16), a national railway, a national fiber optics system, and a major pipeline that connect the prairies to the Pacific Ocean. Now as then, all transportation corridors are confined to a narrow valley bottom strip keeping the vast majority of the park as wilderness.
Many locations in the park recognize the role played by early explorers. Magnificent Overland Falls, at the park's western entrance, honours the journey undertaken in 1862 by 115 men and one woman, through the Yellowhead Pass.
The Texqakallt Nation, the earliest known inhabitants of the upper Fraser area, called Mount Robson 'Yuh-hai-has-kun' meaning 'the mountain of the spiral road'. This referred to the layered appearance of the huge mountain. Although not always given credit, Indigenous peoples played a major role in the early exploration and trading in the Yellowhead Pass—Tete Jaune area. They guided and provided game to those who may have otherwise floundered.
Mount Robson Park provides full representation of the North Continental Ranges’ landscape. The park protects a complex mountain ecosystem represented by four biogeoclimatic zones.
From Interior Cedar Hemlock (ICH) in the valley bottoms, the vegetation communities change as the elevation increases. Sub-boreal Spruce (SBS), Englemann Spruce-subalpine Fir (ESSF) and finally up slope to the Alpine Tundra (AT) zone.
As these vegetation communities change, so do the birds and animals. The diversity of species is very much a product of elevation change. 182 species of birds have been recorded in the park. Predator-prey relationships are maintained within the 80% of the park-zoned wilderness. Vast areas and intact watersheds carry a wilderness conservation zoning label where all human use is unsupported by facility or trail development. In fact, our most important 'customers' in these large wilderness areas are the wide variety of flora and fauna that depend on an undisturbed, intact wilderness.
In addition to protecting the largest peak in the entire Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson at 12,972 feet / 3,954 m, the park also protects the imposing Ramparts formation that forms a portion of our border with Jasper National Park. Beautiful, expansive alpine areas, clear rivers, lakes, and highly valued wetland habitat is also protected.
While big mountains and imposing rock formations inspire and awe us, the main feature of the park, at least from a conservation perspective, is the headwaters of the Fraser River. Protected for all time within Mount Robson Park are the headwaters of one of the world's great rivers. Coming into the province of British Columbia from Alberta, one crosses over a small, crystal clear creek. It's almost beyond belief that this is the same river that empties into the Pacific Ocean, over 1,200km away in Vancouver. The source of the great river lies in the south east corner of the park in Fraser Pass. Imagine dipping your cup and drinking the water from the start of one of the great rivers on this planet.
Future generations will no doubt praise the wisdom of protecting over 100km of the Fraser River's headwaters within Mount Robson Park.
Recent boundary additions on the west end of the park, the result of the Robson Valley Land, Resource Management Plan, will add important Interior Cedar Hemlock variants. These additions also help make the previous straight line boundary more logical from a management and ecological perspective.
In order to maintain viable levels of species and genetic diversity, it is critically important to consider how the land is managed on a larger scale. Working with our neighbors, be it the National Parks or the various forest companies, remains a high priority to ensure Mount Robson Park does not become an isolated biological 'island'.
To date, 42 species of mammals, four amphibians, one reptile, and 182 species of birds have been recorded in the park. These species are typical of the moist, western slope of the Rocky Mountains.
From the valley-bottom-loving moose to the mountain goats and golden eagles of the Alpine Tundra Zone, all four biogeoclimactic zones within the park provide habitat for varied species that favor the unique characteristics found in each zone. This is not to say that species like grizzly bear or mule deer find suitable habitats in only one zone, but generally certain zones or elevations attract specific species.
Excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing are available within the park. On one drive through the highway corridor in late May, park staff observed mule deer, whitetail deer, moose, elk, wolf, coyote, black bear, grizzly bear, and a large variety of waterfowl.
In the spring, cow elk become extremely protective of their new calves. Moose and deer also actively defend their young, but the elk seem most prone to short tempers when confronted with anything they perceive as a threat to their young. In the fall, the males of these species that can become aggressive. The mating or rutting season in September and October can make even the most seemingly docile elk, moose, or deer aggressive.
Although they are beautiful to look at, keep clear of all wildlife and give them the space they need to ensure their safety and yours. Binoculars are a great aid to the traveler in Mount Robson Park. Mountain slopes, slide paths and cliffs can be safely examined from the highway corridor. Mountain goats and grizzly bears can often be spotted.
A long tradition in Mount Robson Park, the Bird Blitz takes place in June each year. Bird enthusiasts from far and wide come to enjoy the beautiful spring scenery as well as the opportunity to observe and count the parks incredible bird population. A number of the valleys in the park have no routes or trails and extremely low levels of human use. This is in keeping with our belief that wilderness means wild and the grizzly bears, caribou, wolverines, and other wild species seem quite happy to keep it that way.