December 5, 2018

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The History of Yoho National Park and the Discovery of its Fossils

November 8, 2018


In 1884, the Canadian Pacific Railway reached the Kicking Horse Valley where it established the town of Field. The railway opened the valley to tourists, adventurers, and scientists, including R.G. McConnell, a geologist with the Geological Survey of Canada. In early September 1886, McConnell climbed the flank of Mt. Stephen where he discovered a rich fossil bed 520 metres (1,700 feet) above Field.




In 1886, the Government of Canada established the young country’s second national park, only twenty eight years after the first European, James Hector, laid eyes on the area. The tiny Yoho National Park encompassed only 26 square kilometres at the base of Mount Stephen. The park was subsequently expanded four more times before the current-day boundaries were established.


In the early 1900s, Charles Walcott came to study Yoho’s trilobites. In 1909, while searching for other fossil sites, Walcott discovered the well-preserved soft-bodied fossils of the Burgess Shale on the ridge between Wapta Mountain and Mount Field.



Today, the value of Yoho National Park lies in its conservation. By reading the messages in the mountains, the climate record and the fossils, the visitor can reflect upon the history of our planet and come away with a heightened sense of awareness.


Revised for web format from “A Geoscience Guide to the Burgess Shale” by Murray Coppold and Wayne Powell, a Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation publication. To purchase this book, please go to: the Yoho National Park Visitors Centre, Alpine Book Peddlers,, or

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