Natural history

Rogers Pass National Historic Site

Rogers Pass National Historic Site is located entirely within Glacier National Park. The site extends 18 km along the Trans-Canada Highway between Loop Brook in the west and Stoney Creek in the east, and from the valley bottom to the adjacent mountain tops.

Glacier National Park protects for all time a portion of the Columbia Mountains Natural Region of southeastern British Columbia. It is characterized by steep, angular mountains and deep, narrow valleys, numerous ice fields and glaciers, waterfalls, countless avalanche paths and tremendous precipitation.

The Columbia Mountains are very different from the better-known Rocky Mountain ranges east of Golden. Columbia Mountains geology, climate, plant and animal life are distinct. The Columbias are about 70 million years older than the Rockies, and there are at least 400 glaciers within the boundaries of the park. At low elevations, the interior cedar-hemlock rainforests share many species with the rainforests of Canada's west coast. At high elevations, snow covers the ground for 10 months of the year, if it melts at all.

Glacier National Park contains three ecoregions that vary in climate, vegetation, soils and wildlife. More than half of Glacier lies in the alpine tundra zone, above the limit of tree growth, with much of the rest of the park encompassing sub-alpine forests and meadows. The ecologically important cedar-hemlock rainforests of the valley bottoms form a small proportion of the park.

Cutting vertically through these three zones are countless avalanche paths. Characterized by unstable snow masses in winter and high levels of solar radiation in summer, they are home to several specialized species such as MacGillivray's warbler and mountain alder, and offer important spring and fall foraging areas for bears.

Glacier National Park protects 1,349 sq. km of the Selkirk and Purcell Ranges of the Columbia Mountains, including portions of critical habitats for threatened and endangered wildlife such as the grizzly bear and the mountain caribou. Mountain goats, black and grizzly bears can be seen along the highway through Rogers Pass, and in winter, huge flocks of finches feed on the road surface itself.

Of special note in Glacier are the Nakimu and Mount Tupper cave systems. With over five km of passages, the Nakimu Caves are among the most extensive cave systems in British Columbia. They were an important tourist attraction during the heyday of Glacier House, with horse-drawn carriage access, a teahouse and guided tours on the underground catwalks and stairways.

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