2021 Annual Report
Jasper National Park
Download the 2021 Annual Report (PDF 2.7 MB)
On behalf of the people of Canada, Parks Canada protects and presents nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage, and fosters public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure the ecological and commemorative integrity of these places for present and future generations.
Despite the challenges of a second year of park operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, a great deal of important and varied work continued in 2021. As with 2020, changing public health protocols, including continued restrictions on international travel, presented ongoing challenges to service delivery and park administration.
This report presents highlights of Parks Canada’s work to protect and present Jasper National Park’s natural and cultural heritage in 2021.
Photo: Matt Quiring Matt Quiring
During the 2021 calendar year, 2.1 million visitors came to Jasper National Park. This was an increase of approximately 23% over 2020. In comparison to the average visitation over the previous three years, visitation remains 12% lower, due in part to the pandemic-induced absence of group tours and the closure of Whistlers Campground for improvements. June through August experienced slight decreases in visitation compared to pre-COVID-19 levels, while September through December experienced the highest visitation recorded over the past decade. Similar to 2020, the park experienced a significant drop in group tour visitation in 2021, compared to pre-COVID-19 levels.
Winter in Jasper
Of the 2.1 million visitors in 2021, 296,000 arrived during the winter months (January to March). This was a 31% increase compared to 2020, yet 25% lower than pre-pandemic levels.
Parks Canada’s winter-specific services continued to support safe and diverse experiences in 2021. This included clearing and maintaining over 300 km of roads, administering avalanche management along highways, maintaining scenic road corridors for sightseeing and wildlife watching, ensuring access to more than 40 day-use sites and trailheads, and offering over 40 km of groomed cross-country (Nordic) skiing and flat-packed trails (an increase of 7 km over 2020).
Since Jasper National Park began monitoring winter trail use in 2016, there has been steady growth in the use of cross-country ski trails, with average daily use increasing by 40% from 2020 to 2021.
In 2021, the Friends of Jasper National Park, a non-profit organization, received approval from Parks Canada to begin a volunteer-run program to flat-pack winter trails using a specialized piece of equipment called a Snowdog. The group fundraised $22,000 to purchase the equipment, acquire a storage shed, and provide training for volunteers. The program aims to flat-pack over 50 km of winter trails for bikers, walkers and snowshoers.
Reopening Whistlers Campground
Whistlers Campground, the largest campground in Parks Canada’s national system, reopened on July 12, 2021, after being closed for two years to undergo significant upgrades to facilities and infrastructure. The updated campground welcomed approximately 52,000 campers over the 2021 camping season, with new accessible shower and washroom facilities, a registration centre, freshly paved roads, and wayfinding signs. All 781 campsites were upgraded for visitor comfort, and 30 accessible campsites were created. In addition, waste management and pedestrian trail systems were upgraded, and all underground water, sanitary and electrical utilities were replaced.
These upgrades will ensure that Jasper National Park continues to welcome visitors to Whistlers Campground for the next 50 years. Finishing touches and warranty work continued following the reopening of the campground, and work is ongoing to restore campground vegetation, following the construction and excavation of the project and the required removal of mountain pine beetle-affected and hazard trees.
Many visitors continued to seek wilderness experiences in the park’s expansive backcountry in 2021. The park’s more than 80 backcountry campgrounds were enjoyed by over 18,600 campers, an increase from approximately 14,500 recorded in 2020.
During the months of July and August, the popular Skyline, Tonquin Valley and Maligne Lake backcountry areas experienced 94% occupancy. Thirteen of the park’s fifteen backcountry trail networks experienced their busiest season on record.
|Backcountry campers||~ 7,000||~ 7,500||~ 7,500||~ 8,500||~ 6,500||~ 6,500||~ 6,000||~ 7,500|
|Backcountry campers||~ 8,500||~ 9,500||~ 13,500||~ 17,000||~ 14,650||~ 14,700||~ 14,750||~ 18,500|
Frontcountry camping and day-use services
Jasper welcomed more than 385,000 campers in the frontcountry during the main camping season. This was a significant increase from 2020, likely due to the reopening of Whistlers Campground, and a return to normal seasonal operations. Average occupancy within frontcountry campgrounds was 74%, which was an increase of 6% from 2020.
During peak months, increased traffic congestion and overflowing parking areas were observed, leading to access and egress issues at some day-use areas and trailheads. Parks Canada will work to address these issues for future seasons.
Shoulder season cycling
In the spring of 2021, the park promoted a unique opportunity for cyclists to experience motorist-free sections of three main roadways: Lac Beauvert Road; a 7.6-km stretch of Highway 93A; and Edith Cavell Road. This promotion attracted close to 900 cyclists.
Jasper National Park counts the number of people using trails at 37 sites. Collecting data from specific sites is important to the future development of visitor use management tools.
Average daily users at the park’s most popular trails during the high visitor use season:
- Athabasca Falls – 2,000
- Maligne Canyon – 1,850
- Sunwapta Falls – 1,300
- Toe of the Athabasca Glacier – 840
- Valley of the Five Lakes – 430
- Path of the Glacier Trail (Edith Cavell) – 620
- Mary Schäffer Trail – 200
- Lake Annette Trail – 200
- Wilcox Pass Trail – 100
In total, more than 1 million day-users experienced Jasper National Park’s 1,100-km network of trails.
Trail work and maintenance
In 2021, Parks Canada continued to focus efforts on improving and maintaining priority areas within Jasper’s vast trail network. Maintenance and improvement work focussed on over 200 km of high-use frontcountry and day-use trails, as well as priority backcountry areas like the Brazeau, Tonquin Valley and Skyline trails. In general, maintenance included removing fallen trees blocking trails, and addressing drainage, sloughing and erosion issues. Bridge replacement and repair work occurred along the Virl, Dorothy and Christine Lakes Trail, as well as within the Brazeau and Tonquin Valley. Repairs were also completed along the Sunwapta Falls footbridge.
Additional trail work occurred along the Hochi Mini Trail, led by the Friends of Jasper National Park (FJNP). The project prioritized realignment of the trail away from an existing wetland, and was carried out by volunteers who contributed hundreds of hours of work. Parks Canada will continue to work with FJNP on areas of mutual interest, to improve the park’s trail experience.
Parks Canada carried out additional maintenance and repairs to park facilities including replacing fire pits, levelling campsites, removing trees affected by mountain pine beetle at Wabasso and Wapiti campgrounds, and installing two new outhouses at Mile 12 along Highway 16 near The Overlander trailhead and Leech Lake. Improvements to the park’s radio infrastructure, serving internal and emergency services, were also completed.
Roving compliance inspections continued to form part of regular campground operations in 2021. With youth employment funding, the park provided additional compliance coverage during peak periods at beaches and other day-use areas. Roving teams talked to visitors about behaviours and expectations to support safe and enjoyable visits and reduce potential impacts to wildlife and the environment. They also answered questions, provided basic visitor information, and reminded visitors of rules and regulations related to food storage, garbage disposal and responsible behaviour.
Careless driving’s tragic results
Jasper National Park is well known for wildlife viewing opportunities, with visitors regularly seeing wildlife along park roadways. Parks Canada uses signage, reduced speed zones in areas known to be wildlife crossings, and a range of information in publications, on its website, and in social media, to remind travellers of their responsibilities for viewing wildlife safely.
In July 2021, Parks Canada responded to a report that a black bear cub had been run over and killed on Maligne Lake Road. A quick-thinking witness captured the unfortunate incident on video. The video shows one vehicle passing another on a double-solid line, on a curve, with limited visibility. The passing vehicle hit the cub as the cub crossed the road with two other bears. Further investigation found that the driver had published a photo of the bears on social media. The photo had been taken from the driver’s seat of the moving vehicle.
Distracted and careless driving can have serious consequences. In this case, the driver appeared in court, was charged with careless driving and fined $2,000.
Visitors have an important role to play in the safety of wildlife and people in Jasper National Park. The same driving care and attention one would expect in a school zone is required in the park.
Each year, Jasper’s Visitor Safety team responds to emergency situations within the park and takes measures to reduce hazards to visitors, including avalanche control operations.
Visitor Safety statistics from 2021:
- One hundred and sixty emergency calls were actioned by Visitor Safety, with 56% between June and September.
- Forty-five percent of emergency calls involved someone with significant injuries. Four deaths were recorded from three separate incidents.
- An average of 1.2 emergency calls were received each day in August (36 total), making August the busiest month for emergency calls in 2021.
- One hundred and seventy controlled avalanches were initiated by Parks Canada avalanche control operations (during planned road closures), using 3,330 kg of high explosives, to reduce the likelihood of uncontrolled avalanches reaching roads.
- An estimated 1.8 million kg of snow was removed from highways as a result of avalanche control operations.
In the winter of 2021, Jasper welcomed two new park wardens to the team, to bring the total number of wardens to six. They got to work right away helping ensure compliance with conservation measures to protect the Southern Mountain population of woodland caribou. Park wardens also assisted with changes to the seasonal closures of caribou habitat.
In the spring and summer, park wardens began patrolling trails using e-bikes for the first time, allowing them to quickly respond to incidents in the backcountry. Park wardens also used skis, boats, horses and helicopters to visit all the boundary regions of Jasper National Park.
The law enforcement team worked closely with human-wildlife conflict specialists, wildlife guardians and others to implement a renewed Notice of Restriction to regulate roadside wildlife viewing. The restriction required visitors to stay in their vehicles when viewing wildlife from the roadside, to reduce opportunities for human-wildlife conflict. As a team, Jasper Field Unit staff responded to hundreds of wildlife traffic jams and were happy to see most visitors respecting the rules and giving wildlife space.
Outreach and education
Virtual education programs
In 2021, the Palisades Stewardship Education Centre, which offers public education programs and hosts groups for a wide variety of events, focussed their efforts almost exclusively on virtual education. In spring, the team presented an educational session on woodland caribou as part of a 10-program series showcasing national parks from across the country. The English event was seen by an estimated 4,000 students, and the French presentation by 500 students, from across Canada.
The success of this program prompted the formation of the Mountain Parks Peak Discovery Series, a collaborative effort among the mountain national parks to create a series of virtual educational programs focussed on mountain national park topics. The 12-program series is underway and will continue until the end of the 2021–2022 school year. The live and recorded views are averaging 1,800 students for each English program and 400 for the French.
Jasper National Park delivered a social media campaign called #ParksSmart designed to educate visitors on proper COVID-19 hygiene and park etiquette. The campaign saw increased distribution and engagement with park audiences, reaching over 150,000 people. Topics included:
- COVID-19 hygiene and etiquette
- human-wildlife coexistence issues and behaviours
- leave no trace practices
- park site congestion and visitor use management
- Parks Canada regulations
For a second straight year, pandemic restrictions prohibited scheduled park interpretation presentations. Wildlife guardian interpreters remained operational as an essential service and continued to operate with modifications to meet COVID-19 protocols. Unscheduled interpreter services were provided on a roving basis, in the form of pop-up stations at campgrounds and the busiest day-use areas. Preparations are underway for return to a full park interpreter service in 2022.
Natural and cultural resource conservation
Photo: Parks Canada Parks Canada
The vegetation restoration program provides for the stewardship of lands affected by human and natural disturbances. Achieving diverse and representative native vegetation cover is the goal for all restoration activities. The most significant threat to ecosystem health after a disturbance is the establishment and proliferation of invasive non-native plant (NNP) species.
In 2021, key restoration achievements included the following:
- Over 1,800 kg of NNP species (i.e. spotted knapweed, orange hawkweed and Dalmatian toadflax), were mechanically removed from areas in and around Jasper townsite.
- Native grass and forb seed were collected, to be used for future park restoration projects.
- More than 1,800 Douglas-fir saplings were transplanted into frontcountry campgrounds, to assist in the restoration of areas from which beetle-killed trees had been removed. Throughout the summer months, these sites were monitored for sapling survival.
- Multiple restoration projects were undertaken on trails and in grasslands to restore landscape level biodiversity. Trail restoration projects took place on the Valley of the Five Lakes Trail and along Patricia Lake.
Southern Mountain caribou conservation
On August 10, 2021, the Government of Canada announced it was allocating $24 million in funding for caribou conservation in Jasper National Park.
Three herds of caribou continue to persist in Jasper National Park. The Tonquin herd is estimated to have 49–55 caribou, and the Brazeau herd fewer than 15 (2020 estimate). These two herds have had low but stable numbers since 2015; however, the number of female caribou is small, with an estimated nine in the Tonquin and less than five in the Brazeau. The À la Pêche herd has about 150 individuals (2018 estimate), that spend time in and outside the park, on Jasper’s northern boundary.
To collect more information about caribou in the Tonquin herd, Parks Canada worked with experienced professionals to fit ten female caribou with GPS collars between March 2021 and March 2022. This monitoring will allow a better understanding of the causes of mortality (where, when and how), in the Tonquin herd, and how to prevent caribou deaths.
As a commitment of the Multi-species Action Plan for Jasper National Park, Parks Canada is continuing to develop a proposal for a conservation breeding program to help rebuild caribou populations. The proposal underwent a comprehensive review by external experts in January 2021. The review concluded that there is strong scientific support for using conservation breeding to increase caribou populations in Jasper National Park. Parks Canada began an impact assessment and contracted a detailed facility design for the proposed program in 2021. Consultation with Indigenous partners, stakeholders and the public will begin in spring–summer 2022.
Seasonal area closures have been implemented within the park since 2009, to prevent people from creating trails into caribou habitat that wolves could then use to prey on caribou in areas that would otherwise be inaccessible. In 2021, the length of seasonal area closures in the Tonquin, Brazeau and À la Pêche caribou ranges of Jasper National Park was extended by three months (from November 1 to May 15), and the boundaries of area closures in the Brazeau caribou range were expanded. These changes offer stronger protection for the Tonquin and Brazeau herds, increasing chances of successfully rebuilding caribou herds in the park.
Find more information at parkscanada.ca/caribou-jasper.
Human-wildlife coexistence (HWC) is a program that works to provide a healthy balance between visitor and wildlife safety and visitor experience. It also emphasizes healthy wildlife populations in Jasper National Park. For many visitors, viewing wildlife is their primary goal, while others prefer activities like climbing, biking or hiking – which also brings them close to wildlife. Effective HWC management practices supports positive experiences while reducing the frequency and severity of negative encounters between people and wildlife. In 2021, HWC staff responded to over 3,000 incidents; 147 of these had human safety concerns (e.g. bluff charge, follow, contact).
Over the past decade, grizzly bear occurrence and habituation in the main valley surrounding the Jasper townsite has increased. The presence of these bears is likely influenced by three linked factors: learned behaviour from mothers; “human-shield” effect where mother grizzlies can avoid dangerous males; and, attractants in the high human-use areas (earlier and increased green vegetation availability in the spring, and availability of elk calves). In spring/summer 2021, wildlife specialists regularly managed 26 grizzly bears (including 6 sets of mothers and cubs) to facilitate human – wildlife coexistence and provide space and security for grizzly bears. It is likely that grizzly bears will continue to seek out the productive habitat around the Jasper townsite, and that visitors will continue to experience interactions between bears and humans.
In 2021, Jasper National Park continued with its Restricted Activity Order to facilitate safe wildlife viewing for all species, requiring visitors to remain within their vehicle when within 100m of large carnivores. This mandate was well received by both new and returning visitors.
Aquatic invasive species (AIS)
Quagga and zebra mussels are the aquatic invasive species of greatest concern for Jasper waters. These mussels attach to all kinds of boats and water gear. Humans using contaminated boats and gear spread these non-native mussels from one body of water to the next, which can decrease water quality, clog water intake systems, damage infrastructure, and cause other negative impacts. To date, zebra and quagga mussels are not present in Alberta; however, once established, these mussels are almost impossible to remove.
In December 2021, the Government of Canada announced $14.7 million in funding to address AIS in national parks within Alberta and British Columbia. This funding will support research and monitoring to detect AIS, as well as inspection and decontamination services for watercraft and gear.
Wildfire risk reduction
Parks Canada completed many projects to reduce wildfire risk in the park over the last year. Crews cut, removed, piled and burned dead and dying trees from forested areas affected by mountain pine beetle, while protecting Douglas-fir, other live trees and wetland areas. Wildfire risk reduction projects took place in areas surrounding critical infrastructure and the Jasper townsite, as well as at the municipal cemetery, Lake Annette and Lake Edith areas, Maligne Canyon and Sunwapta Falls resort. Townsite-related work was completed in collaboration with the Municipality of Jasper.
To ensure the safety of campers and campground infrastructure, trees affected by mountain pine beetle were removed in both Wapiti and Wabasso campgrounds during the winter.
Staff assistance with wildfire efforts
Parks Canada is a member of the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) and assists partners with additional resources through international agreements when there is significant need. In 2021, seventeen staff members travelled to various parts of the country to assist with the unprecedented wildfire season. Six members of Jasper’s fire management team and another three non-dedicated fire staff members were deployed to British Columbia as part of Parks Canada’s Incident Management Teams. Jasper National Park also sent two four-person crews of fire fighters to assist with wildfire efforts in British Columbia and Manitoba.
In April 2021, Parks Canada began conducting a Vegetation Resources Inventory (VRI) for the first time, to map vegetation types across the entire 11,228 km2 of the national park.
The VRI will be conducted over the next two years, and the resulting inventory will be used to assess the impacts of mountain pine beetle and other pests on forests; to locate sensitive vegetation; and to track changes in important habitat types due to insects, disease, fire and climate change. The VRI will also be used to improve the management of sensitive species such as whitebark pine and caribou, and important habitats including grasslands, alpine meadows and avalanche paths. Jasper National Park’s VRI will provide a foundation for habitat modelling, wildlife management and conservation initiatives.
Whitebark pine conservation
The whitebark pine is an endangered species vital to the health of the treeline ecosystem. It is impacted by white pine blister rust (an invasive species), mountain pine beetle, historic fire suppression and climate change. In 2021, Parks Canada continued its whitebark pine restoration program and planted an additional 8,000 whitebark pine saplings in high-elevation areas. Since the beginning of the restoration program in 2015, over 20,000 whitebark pine seedlings have been planted in the park.
As part of Parks Canada’s efforts to reach Canadians everywhere, and to increase the awareness of this special tree, Jasper National Park staff created a 10-minute bilingual Facebook Live video on whitebark pine and restoration efforts.
Accidental finds of artifacts
When a member of the public or a Parks Canada employee finds something they feel may be historically significant, the find is reported to Jasper National Park’s Cultural Resource Management team for a preliminary review. An incidental finds report is generated and sent to Parks Canada archaeologists for review; if warranted, the information is placed in the Parks Canada archaeological database. There were at least 15 of these reports in 2021. Found items included sinkholes, cabin/wood structures, and a rock hammer.
Strengthening relationships with Indigenous peoples
Jasper National Park’s Indigenous Relations team continued, in 2021, to work with more than 25 Indigenous groups with traditional ties to the lands now known as Jasper National Park. Work included discussion of park management and operational issues, as well as specific consultation and engagement for park projects.
In 2021, the Jasper Indigenous Relations team published new content regarding Indigenous connections on the Jasper National Park website. This resource provides some historical background and introduction to Parks Canada’s continuing relationships with Indigenous peoples connected to the Jasper area. It also provides a summary of current engagements between Indigenous partners and Parks Canada, and presents information on interpretation activities and events offered by Indigenous interpreters. The intent of this webpage is to raise awareness of historical and contemporary processes and make information on Indigenous connections to Jasper accessible to everyone.
Site renaming and systemic racism
In 2020, Indigenous partners advised Parks Canada that the use of the name Pocahontas on park sites was inappropriate and insensitive, and that the name should be replaced with a name that was both historically and culturally appropriate. In 2021, Indigenous partner communities continued to guide Parks Canada in taking meaningful action to identify and address this example of racism and discrimination in place names and infrastructure. In fall 2021, the decision to remove the name Pocahontas and replace it with the interim name Miette was taken by consensus by Indigenous partners. The intention behind choosing an interim name was to remove the inappropriate term as swiftly as possible while continuing discussions with Indigenous partner communities on a permanent name change.
After more than 10 years of development, 2021 saw the initiation of construction on the Jasper Indigenous Exhibit. The 300 m2 plaza will feature a bronze sculpture, pathways, seating, artwork, landscaping and informational panels developed in partnership with over 17 Indigenous partner groups. These panels will help to tell the stories of Indigenous partners, in their own words, as well as recognize the forced removal and exclusion of Indigenous peoples from Jasper National Park. The exhibit is expected to open in the fall of 2022.
Reconnection with the land
Reconnecting with the land is an important step towards addressing a number of systemic issues that date back to the creation of the national park system. Throughout 2021, Indigenous partners continued to come to Jasper for healing, ceremony and enjoyment, and the Cultural Use Area continued to be an important site for Indigenous partners to gather, camp and host spiritual and community events. Established in 2012, the Cultural Use Area is a location set aside for Indigenous partners whose communities have traditionally used the lands now within the park, to enable gatherings, retreats and ceremony. Partners accessed the Cultural Use Area to host 21 events over the summer and fall.
Indigenous engagement for fire management
Recognizing that Indigenous partners are stewards of the land, and respecting Indigenous Knowledge, the Indigenous Relations team, in collaboration with the Resource Conservation Fire team, began discussions with Indigenous partners about fire stewardship.
In 2021, Jasper National Park completed three virtual sessions with Indigenous partners with the following goals:
- to discuss fire management in general;
- to gauge interest and document concerns related to fire management planning; and
- to specifically address wildfire risk reduction at the Cultural Use Area.
This engagement will culminate in a wildfire risk reduction project at the Cultural Use Area, and will lead to further discussions on an interim fire management plan throughout 2022.
Park management planning
Photo: Matt Quiring Matt Quiring
Development of the park’s new management plan continued in 2021, setting out key strategies and objectives to guide the management and operation of the park over a 10-year timeframe.
After being postponed by the pandemic during 2020, consultations on a draft management plan were carried out virtually, over the spring and summer of 2021. Consultations garnered feedback from 22 different Indigenous partner groups and 17 stakeholder groups; over 2,400 comments and letters were received from stakeholders and the public. This feedback was used to refine and finalize the plan, which will be approved and tabled in Parliament in spring 2022. Following approval, Parks Canada will continue to engage with Indigenous partners, the public and stakeholders to implement the plan and make the collective vision for Jasper National Park a reality.
- Conserving Natural and Cultural Heritage for Future Generations;
- True to Place Experiences;
- Strengthening Indigenous Relations;
- Connect, Collaborate and Learn Together;
- Managing Development; and
- Climate Change and Adaptation.
Parks Canada regulates all planning and development in Jasper National Park. Development permits ensure that development occurs in accordance with development policies and regulations like zoning and design requirements. In 2021, Parks Canada issued 173 development permits, primarily in the Town of Jasper. Permits were for a wide variety of projects, ranging from new homes and renovations, to fences and decks.
Parks Canada worked closely with the Municipality of Jasper on a number projects in 2021, including an initiative to enable the deposition of clean fill (such as topsoil, vegetation, overburden and aggregate) in Marmot Pit.
A joint task force was established to ensure residential leases in the Cabin Creek area (most of which are set to expire in June 2022) can be renewed in time. This included working through a process for review of encroachments and other municipal interests.
On a national level, Parks Canada’s review of several regulations under the Canada National Parks Act pertaining to development within the townsite and park is ongoing. Once completed, this initiative will help streamline and modernize development processes.
Improving access to information
Updates to the Jasper development office’s website improved public access to development information and requirements. Updates included the uploading of land use policies and guidelines in a streamlined, user-friendly format, and the launch of an interactive land use zoning map.
Collaboration continued with the Jasper Community Housing Corporation on housing initiatives to provide more rental and leased units in town while respecting the legislated town boundary.
Parks Canada is also continuing to increase its own housing units, with construction nearing completion on a new five-plex and a duplex.
Commercial floor area allocation
Under the Canada National Parks Act, limits have been placed on the amount of commercial floor area that can be developed in national park communities. Under the Act, the total amount of commercial floor area in the Town of Jasper cannot exceed 118,222m2. At the time the cap was established, in 2001, there was 9,290m2 of commercial area available to be developed. As properties are developed and redeveloped, the amount of commercial floor area has changed over time.
The table below summarizes the current state of the Town of Jasper’s CFA allocation.
|Commercial Floor Area (CFA) Allocation Summary||CFA (m2)||Percentage of CFA available since 2001 (9,290 m2)|
|Developed CFA since 2001||4,460.42||48.01%|
|CFA currently allocated, but not developed||3,163.95||34.06%|
|CFA undeveloped in commercial districts||1,665.83||17.93%|
|CFA undeveloped in Store and Services District||0||0%|
Jasper National Park Stats 2021
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