State of the Park Assessment 2018

Banff National Park

Overview of Indicators

Based on monitoring data for a national suite of indicators, “State of the Park” assessments are used to communicate the overall condition of key aspects of the park. These assessments are undertaken every ten years to support identifying key management issues the next park management plan.

There are six groups of key indicators: ecological integrity, cultural resources, external relations, Indigenous relations, visitor experience and built assets. Using established thresholds, indicators are rated as: Good, Fair, or Poor

Ecological Integrity

Forest: Good

Tundra: Good

Freshwater: Poor

Cultural Resources

Archaeological sites: Fair

Building and engineering works: Fair

Landscapes and landscape features: Not rated

Objects: Fair

External Relations

Outreach, digital and media: Good

Support: Good

Indigenous Relations

Accessibility and knowledge: Not rated

Support and respect: Not rated

Partnerships: Not rated

Visitor Experience

Visits: Good

Enjoyment: Good

Learning: Good

Satisfaction: Fair

Built Assets

Buildings: Fair

Dams: Fair

Highways and roads: Good

Vehicular Bridges: Good

Visitor Facilities: Good

Ecological Integrity Indicators

The long-term ecological integrity condition monitoring program in Banff National Park has changed considerably since the last State of Park assessment in 2008, for greater consistency with national indicators, and to provide a more comprehensive assessment. These changes include a new indicator (Tundra). Because of the relative recency of these changes, 2 measures (Alpine extent and Amphibian Occupancy) are unrated for this report, and there is no direction of change (trend arrow) for some other indicators. However, the indicators and measures are now confirmed and will provide a solid basis for comparative analysis in future reporting. It should be noted that in some cases, improvement to ecological conditions requires action over decades and may not be evident within the 10 year period of the report.  

The Forest and Tundra indicators and measures were largely rated as “good”. Only the Area Burned by Condition Class measure is rated as poor, and this rating reflects decades of fire suppression; the effects of which cannot be restored over a 10 year period. Two measures - winter wildlife corridors and goats - rated as fair. Restoration of wildlife movement corridors has progressed steadily over the last decade however, it has not met the ecological thresholds to be rated in “good” condition which compare corridor use to other high functioning corridors (control sites) in the park. For goats as the Sensitive Large Mammal Species, the measure condition reflects a relatively small study area and may not be representative of the park as a whole.
Since the last State of the Park Report, the indicator for the aquatic ecosystem aspects (now Freshwater) and most of the measures that support it have changed. These changes have resulted in more robust data on the total state of the park’s freshwater systems. The overall water quality in the park  is rated as good and stable throughout most of the park. Because these changes occurred partway through the 10 year period, there is insufficient data to determine an overall trend.

The poor connectivity rating stems from historically poor culvert design and placement, while  the ratings for Lake Fish Index and Stream Fish Occupancy (two measures of native biodiversity) resulted from historical stocking of non-native fish species. Future improvements to the condition of these measures is possible with continued restoration of native species, removal of non-native species, and culvert improvements or replacements.  Recent actions such as removal of the 40 Mile Dam, culvert upgrades on the Trans-Canada Highway, and successful removal of non-native fish from Rainbow Lake and Cascade Creek, demonstrate progress on aquatic connectivity, with more work to be done. The unintended introduction of Whirling Disease into Alberta's watersheds presents a new threat to native biodiversity (lake and stream indices) as well as species at risk such as the Westslope Cutthroat Trout.  

Forest ecosystems Good (Improving)

Monitoring and removal of invasive plants, the restoration of natural processes such as fire, and actions to decrease wildlife mortality have all contributed to improving conditions.


Area burned condition class: Poor (stable)

Non-native vegetation: Good (stable)

Terrestrial birds: Good (stable)

Multi-species mammal occupancy:Good (stable)

Winter wildlife corridors:Fair (stable)

Alpine Tundra (treeless, high elevation) ecosystems Good (Stable)

Birds, small mammals, and non-native vegetation measures are all in good condition. Mountain goat populations are in fair condition. This ecosystem may be affected by broad issues like climate change that cannot be addressed solely at the park level.


Non-native vegetation: Good

Alpine birds: Good

Alpine extent: Not rated

Sensitive alpine species - goat: Fair (stable)

Sensitive alpine species - pika: Good (stable)

Freshwater ecosystems Poor (Stable)

While water quality is rated as ‘good’, decades of poor culvert design and placement, and historical stocking of non-native fish in park waters resulted in an overall poor rating. Some recent progress has been made with culvert replacements and 40 Mile dam removal.


Connectivity: Poor (stable)

Amphibian occupancy: Not rated

Lake fish index: Poor (stable)

Water quality: Good (stable)

Stream fish occupancy: Fair

Cultural Resource Indicators

There are 14 national historic designations within Banff National Park. These include:

  • 2 operational national historic sites
  • 2 national historic events
  • 4 non-operational national historic site
  • 2 heritage railway stations
  • 1 non-Parks Canada national historic site
  • 1 heritage river 
  • 2 people of national historic significance

Archeological Sites: Fair

There are 808 archaeological sites in Banff National Park. Most of these are in the main river valleys, but traces of Indigenous occupation have been found throughout the park, including the high alpine areas. By virtue of their location, many of these sites are subject to (and threatened by) natural processes; and some suffer from cumulative effects of development and area use. No trend data is available because this is a revised rating system not applied previously. It is anticipated that some natural deterioration over time is occurring.

Buildings and Engineering Works: Fair

Banff National Park has 22 Federal Heritage Buildings.  Concerted investment in protecting these resources in recent years has resulted in 5 of these in good condition, 11 in fair condition, and 6 in poor condition. Additionally, 6 historic building conservation maintenance plans have been completed to ensure long-term protection of these buildings.

Landscapes and Landscape Features: Not Rated

To date, cultural landscape sites have not been identified in Banff National Park, therefore no evaluation has taken place. Identification of key landscapes in future could support Indigenous connections with the land and strengthen historic associations.

Objects: Fair

Objects not on display in locations such as the Banff Park Museum, are stored at the Banff CRM Collection and Archives, Parks Canada Winnipeg and Calgary Offices. Trend information is not available for this report, as a complete re-assessment of all objects was not possible. It is anticipated that some deterioration over time is occurring due to lack of specialised storage facilities.


310 Objects of other heritage value: Fair

Objects of other heritage value (Archaeological): Fair

Cultural Resource Indicators - National Historic Sites

National Historic Sites administered by Parks Canada within Banff National Park:

  1. The Cave and Basin is the birthplace of Canada’s national park system, located in the town of Banff. The protection and preservation of the Cave and Basin in 1885, and it’s designation as a National Historic Site in 1981, are prime examples of Parks Canada’s mandate in action. From its thermal waters and historic bathing pavillion to the surrounding wetlands and the wildlife that inhabit it, this site offers visitors the opportunity to understand the value of these protected places. An updated management plan for this site will be finalised after public and Indigenous review has taken place in the winter/spring of 2019.
  2. The Banff Park Museum is the oldest natural history museum in western Canada. It is housed in a monumental 1903 log building in downtown Banff. The museum holds more than 5,000 natural history specimens collected from the park around the early 1900s. An updated management plan for this site has been drafted. It will be finalised for approval in 2019.
  3. The Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station was built as part of the International Geophysical Year in 1957-1958. Until 1978, Geophysicists studied cosmic rays and space particles entering the atmosphere from the station perched above the town of Banff. A management statement for this site has been completed.
  4. Howse Pass was designated in 1978 to recognise the importance of this mountain pass as a travel route for the Ktunaxa First Nation who used it to reach bison herds east of the Rockies, and as the route used by David Thompson of the Northwest Company to travel west of the Rockies and establish his first post in the Columbia River basin. The site is a large, 30-km long wilderness landscape that stretches from the confluence of the Howse and North Saskatchewan rivers in Banff National Park across the Continental Divide to the confluence of the Blaeberry River and Cairnes Creek in the province of British Columbia. The pass is a remote site that retains a strong sense of place. A Management Statement for the site was approved in 2017.
  5. The Abbot Pass Refuge Cabin is a Classified Federal Heritage Building located on the Continental Divide along the boundary between Yoho National Park and Banff National Park. The cabin was built in 1922 on a high col between Mount Lefroy and Mount Victoria to provide a refuge for mountaineers. In 2005, the building was in fair condition (Commemorative Integrity Evaluation 2005/6). Today the building is in good condition (informal assessment 2017, structural assessment: VanRijn 2014). Since 2012 the roof has been replaced and repairs have been made to the stone mortar. There are no archaeological sites/objects or historical objects associated with this national historic site. Environmental risks and hazards will be mitigated where feasible to protect the integrity of the building. A Management Statement for the site has been drafted
External Relations Indicators

A key goal of Parks Canada’s external relations program is to inform, influence and involve Canadians in opportunities that deepen their understanding of and appreciation for national parks.  Since the last State of the Park Report, External Relations activities and efforts have evolved with changing societal expectations and technologies. Accordingly, Banff National Park has shared the results of its programs and achievements in conservation through in-person outreach, media relations, promotional campaigns and a strong web and social media presence that includes 8 social media channels. As a result, the External Relations program in Banff reaches hundreds of thousands of people outside the park, each year. All indicators are rated as “good” , with an  improving trend. 

Outreach: Good (improving)

National park content is shared with audiences in Toronto/ Vancouver/Calgary through national social and electronic media stories, in-person activities, and partnered programs with organisations such as the Calgary Zoo, Telus Science World, and the Royal Ontario Museum. The number of contacts varies annually depending on the type of programs / activities implemented, but the overall trend is upward. Outreach efforts are augmented by strong promotional activities and collaboration with the tourism industry given that the regional markets comprise 50% of the park’s visitation. Banff National Park  invests in promotional campaigns as a means to influence trip planning and visitor behaviour while they are in the park. For instance,  in 2016/17 Parks Canada  implemented a campaign to increase transit ridership and raise awareness of transit offers and generated 29,000,000 impressions; and in 2017/2018 a winter campaign to increase awareness of planning ahead, resulted in over 1.6 million internet impressions.


Contacts - “Contact” is defined as a meaningful interaction of at least 30 seconds with Parks Canada staff: Good (improving)

Digital CommunicationsGood (improving)

Over the past 10 years, communication approaches have evolved substantially and Parks Canada’s approach now includes strategic use of tools such as You Tube, Twitter and Facebook., with significant success. For example, Banff National Park Facebook reach grew to over 8 million people (a 280% increase) while website views reached over 5.8 million (a 20% increase)

Followers, Reach, Engagement, Page views, Impressions (the number of times an ad is displayed through a web, newspaper, mobile medium): Good (improving)

Media RelationsGood (improving)

Media interest in Banff has increased steadily over the last decade, with Banff featuring prominently in  stories across Canada and around the world. This activity is important for Canadians and others to understand the value or national parks and their contribution to the environment and national identity.

Requests and responses; coverage in local, regional, national and international media outlets: Good (improving)

SupportGood (stable)

Volunteers continue to support the park through on the ground effort.


Number of volunteers and volunteer hours: Good (stable),

Indigenous Relations Indicators

After a long history of exclusion of Indigenous Peoples from the park, Parks Canada recognises that Indigenous presence and meaningful participation in the park is key to a successful future, and to offering an authentic experience to the world. There is a long road ahead to build respectful, trusting relationships and for Parks Canada to fully understand Indigenous past, current perspectives, and priorities. Re-establishing this connection of Indigenous groups with their traditional lands is a priority for Parks Canada.

Historically the lands that comprise modern day Banff National Park were used by many Indigenous peoples for travel, sustenance, ceremony and trade. Today, the main portion of Banff National Park lies in Treaty 7 Territory, with the far northern parts of the park falling within the areas held under Treaties 6 and 8.  The park is also part of the Homeland for the Métis People.

Parks Canada is in the early days of building its relationship with these groups and in understanding their history, interests and perspectives on this lands. The indicators and measures of the relationship between Parks Canada and Indigenous peoples should be collaboratively determined based on shared understanding and evaluation of what is meaningful to both parties. The indicators and measures listed on the left of this page have not yet been discussed with the groups concerned, so rating at this stage would be premature.  

Progress is being made however; and in recent years Parks Canada and various Indigenous groups (in particular with the Treaty 7 nations and the Métis Nation) have engaged in numerous activities together and relationship building has begun. Some activities include:

  • Regular harvesting of medicines, ochre and teepee poles for traditional use
  • Settling and implementing Castle Mountain Land Timber Claim and developing implementation protocols with the Siksika First Nation
  • Holding story telling, cultural activities, and ceremonies at various park locations
  • Establishing Indigenous youth summer employment opportunities, and awareness training for staff
  • Establishing an Indigenous Advisory Circle for the park in 2018

Indigenous Partnerships: Not rated


Indigenous Collaboration in Heritage Place Planning and Management: Not rated

Indigenous Collaboration in Heritage Place Operations: Not rated

Indigenous Accessibility: Not rated


Indigenous Partner Access to Heritage Place Traditional Lands & Activities:Not rated

Mutual Respect: Not rated


Team Member Commitment to Building Mutual Respect, Trust and Understanding with Indigenous Partners: Not rated

Extent of Reconciliation with Local Indigenous Communities: Not rated

Incorporation of Traditional Knowledge: Not rated


Incorporation of Traditional Knowledge: Not rated

Use of Indigenous Languages: Not rated

Support for Indigenous Communities: Not rated


Economic Opportunities for Indigenous Peoples: Not rated

Capacity Building for Indigenous Peoples: Not rated


Visitor Experience Indicators

The Visitor Experience (VE) indicator ratings are based on results of the 2011 and 2018 Banff National Park Visitor Information Program (VIP) survey. Scores are in the higher ranges with the exception of the learning measure which is consistent with other national parks.

Although the national park experiences high visitation and many front country facilities are at or near capacity, visitors are being offered a wide range of opportunities and the quality of the experience remains very high.

Numerous actions have been undertaken to ensure continued quality visitor experiences. including:

  • Significant improvements to a wide variety of infrastructure (i.e. campground utilities, washroom facilities).
  • Increased staff on the ground to serve visitors at visitor centres, campgrounds and day use areas.
  • Introduced transit options to and within the park, and other traffic management initiatives.
  • Improved roadway and parking infrastructure along the Trans-Canada Highway and secondary roads.
  • Improved campground utility infrastructure, including 31 new o’TENTik units.
  • Enhanced signage throughout the park

Visits: Good (improving)

Visitation increased by 29.6% between 2011/12 and 2017/18. This represents an increase of 954,877 visitors over this period. In 2017/18, Parks Canada’s 150th; anniversary, park entry was free. While the percentage increase was smaller, the absolute number of visitors was greater than at any other location in the Parks Canada system. Visitation will continue to increase and be focused on key destinations such as the town of Banff, Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka and Johnston Canyon.


Attendance: Good (improving)

Enjoyment: Good (Stable)

Visitors continue to enjoy Banff National Park with 97% enjoying their visit, surpassing the goal of 90% set in the 2010 Park Management Plan. Satisfaction levels with availability of activities (90%) and condition of facilities (90%) continued to be high and while satisfaction with staff demonstrating passion (91%) increased.


Enjoyed visit: Good (stable)

Satisfaction with availability of services: Fair (declining)

Satisfaction with availability of activities: Good (stable)

Satisfaction with staff demonstrating passion: Good (stable)

Satisfaction with condition of facilities: Good (stable)

Learning: Good (stable)

Learning scores were generally lower, consistent with other national parks, this measure increased to 74% of visitors indicating they learned something about the natural heritage of Banff National Park


Learned something about the natural heritage of the place: Good (stable)

Satisfaction:Fair (stable)

Overall visit satisfaction continues to be very high at 96%. Satisfaction with information prior to arrival dropped to 88%, but satisfaction with the value received for entry fees increased to 84%.


Overall visit satisfaction: Good (stable)

Satisfaction with information prior to arrival: Fair (stable)

Satisfaction with value for entry fee: Fair (stable)

Built Asset Indicators

Banff National Park (BNP) has 1,279 assets listed in the Parks Canada asset database worth approximately $2.3 billion. The portfolio is comprised of a wide range of assets as noted in the list below as well as various operational assets such as utilities, grounds, communications, etc. 

Buildings: Fair

There are 522 buildings within BNP; this includes all operations buildings, museums/exhibits/attraction buildings, staff housing owned by Parks Canada and buildings supporting visitor experience operations. These are rated as in fair condition.

Dams: Fair

Parks Canada operates two dams within the Park, both located on Johnson Lake. A third dam at Lake Minnewanka, is operated by a third party. After post-flood repairs/upgrades in 2013, the dams are in fair condition. The west dam is showing some signs of seepage but remains a low risk.

Highways and Roads: Good

Highways within Banff National Park consist of 82 kilometers of four-lane divided Trans-Canada Highway, as well as the northern 10.5 kilometres of  Highway 93 South and 122 kilometers of Highway 93 North (the Icefields Parkway). This makes up the single largest component of the asset portfolio and is in good condition. All other secondary, operational and campground roads are grouped in the ‘Roads’ category,  includes roads such as the Sunshine Access Road, the Moraine Lake Road and the Bow Valley Parkway. This category is also rated as ‘good’.

Vehicular Bridges: Good

BNP contains 147 vehicular bridges which are mostly comprised of structures on the TCH but not included in the highways component noted above. Significant maintenance has improved the overall condition rating. Individual bridge condition ratings tend to be either good or poor, with very few rated as fair.

Visitor Facilities: Good

Visitor Facilities includes all campgrounds, trails, parking lots, pedestrian bridges, picnic areas  etc. with Banff National Park that directly contribute to visitor experiences (excluding all buildings). Recent actions have improved the overall condition of the park’s visitor facilities.

Key Issues

Aquatic Biodiversity

There are a number of current and anticipated challenges that must be addressed to move Banff’s aquatic ecosystems into a better condition. These include: non-native fish impacts on biodiversity in lakes and streams throughout the Park; the likely impacts of whirling disease on native species including West Slope Cutthroat Trout – a Species at Risk; declining populations of native Lake Trout in Lake Minnewanka, the threat of aquatic invasive species, such as quagga muscle and mud snail; and lack of aquatic connectivity impacting native biodiversity by preventing aquatic organisms from accessing key habitats and by disrupting alluvial processes that promote biodiversity

Climate Change

Climate change can have broad reaching impacts on native biodiversity, habitats, species at risk, prevalence of parasites/disease, distribution and persistence of non-native or invasive species, fire cycles and wildfire risks, hydrology (flood frequency and severity, water quantity), which in turn may affect water quality, nutrient levels, and wastewater management. It may also result in changes to visitation levels and patterns of human use within the park. Current infrastructure, management strategies and operations, and park capacity have not been evaluated in this context. The results may necessitate different approaches to management and monitoring to adapt positively.  

Managing Increasing Visitation

While park visitation has continued to rise steadily. This visitation has largely been concentrated at key destinations. For many years, Parks Canada’s innovative programs (e.g. transit systems, education and promotion, active management of visitors and wildlife, etc.) have ensured that these increases have not been to the detriment of the park’s natural or cultural resources, or to the visitor experience.  Some park infrastructure and facilities in key destinations are at or near capacity, so managing further visitation increases will be challenging. Understanding the impacts of increasing visitation for park character, resources, and experience is critical to effective management in the future. Additional or new approaches to addressing these challenges may be required. 

Improving Indigenous Relations and Connections with the Park

After a long history of exclusion of Indigenous Peoples from the park, Parks Canada recognises that Indigenous presence and meaningful participation in the park is key to a successful future, and to offering an authentic experience to the world. There is a long road ahead to build respectful, trusting relationships and for Parks Canada to fully understand Indigenous past, current perspectives, and priorities. Re-establishing this connection of Indigenous groups with their traditional lands is a priority for Parks Canada.

Appendix 1: Species at Risk Indicators


Changes in species conservation status or trends
Banff National Park contains seven SARA Schedule 1 listed species, with five species being listed within the last 10 years.  

Key information and threats
Key threats that could negatively influence SAR in BNP include:
- habitat change due to historic fire suppression, introduction of non-native species and climate change.
- lack of basic information on distribution and population status inside the park for bird and bat species
- spread of white-nose syndrome within bat species and whirling disease within westslope cutthroat trout
- management of park infrastructure containing bat maternity roosts or hibernacula

Results of management actions
BNP has received extra funding (CoRe) to undertake the following SAR activities: 
- conservation and restoration of WBP, application of prescribed fire to renew habitats, and monitoring of wolves in former caribou habitat.

Completion of recovery documents or other legal requirements
Critical habitat defined for the Banff Springs Snail. 
Critical habitat for Whitebark Pine, Caribou and Westslope Cutthroat trout, all in draft form. 
Federal recovery strategies completed for flycatcher, BS snail, trout, nighthawk and caribou.
Federal recovery strategies for Little Brown Myotis and Whitebark Pine, in draft form.
Approved SARA Multi-species Action Plan for BNP completed for all 7 species.



 Species Conservation Target Outcome

Banff Springs Snail


Ability to Influence: High

 Maintain self-sustaining populations and habitats

Implement Recovery Strategy
Recovery strategy and designation of Critical Habitat completed.
Reintroduced into two unoccupied habitats.
Ongoing protection, research and monitoring.
 Westslope Cutthroat Trout (AB Population)
Ability to Influence: Medium

Protect and maintain pure popn’s at self-sustaining levels and re-establish additional pure popn’s within historical home range

Recovery strategy in place.
Research to identify additional critical habitat.
Efforts to reduce impacts of whirling disease.
Aquatic restoration – removal of non-natives.
Education and outreach.
 Common Nighthawk
Ability to Influence: Low
 Maintain occupancy at confirmed sites in appropriate habitat
Identified sites protected from potential human use impacts.

Little Brown Myotis


Ability to Influence: Low

 Maintain current distribution.

Protect known hibernacula and maternity roosts
Acoustic, visual and net surveys ongoing.
One hibernacula detected and protected.
Known maternity roosts managed.
Limiting human-caused spread of WNS.
Enhanced communications.

Olive-sided Flycatcher


Ability to Influence: Low

 Protect individuals and maintain habitat
Protection of nest sites through application of NPA, SARA and construction BMPs.
Habitat maintenance and enhancement through active management (fire).
 Whitebark Pine
Ability to Influence: Medium
 Establish self-sustaining, rust-resistant population throughout species range
Seeds collected and planting begun
Use of prescribed/wildfire to create habitat
Ongoing mapping/protection
Outreach communications
 Woodland Caribou (South. Mtn. Population)
Ability to Influence: Medium
 Establish stable to increasing numbers for the Jasper/Banff NP Local Population Unit
Draft critical habitat identified
Supporting caribou conservation initiatives.



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