Yoho National Park – Field, British Columbia - Atlas Obscura

Yoho National Park

Fossils, railroads, and waterfalls! 


Almost onomatopoetic, “Yoho” comes from the Cree word for “amazement.” Featuring the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Yoho National Park offers incredible scenic views and stunning waterfalls, as well as unusual mixture of prehistoric fossils and modern development.

At 4,900 feet above sea level, the Burgess Shale was a boon for paleontologists when Charles Walcott discovered it in 1909. This sedimentary rock contains fossils from the Cambrian Era, more than 500 million years ago. These fossils, some of the oldest on earth, depict the first multicellular creatures on the planet. In particular, the Burgess Shale helps scientists because the fossils capture the soft parts of the bodies with remarkable clarity, an important factor when studying invertebrates. The fossils influenced the development of taxonomies and our understanding of early life on earth. (UNESCO declared the Shale a World Heritage Site in 1981.)

Yoho also features one of the engineering marvels of the railroad era. To bridge the divide between Eastern and Western Canada, the government built a railroad in the late 1800s. And laying tracks across the Rocky Mountains is even harder than it sounds. The Chief Engineer on the project designed a tunnels to spiral in and out of the mountains. Rather than a direct climb, the train followed a switchback of sorts, emerging ever higher as it twisted out of the mountains. The Spiral Tunnels are on view as a historical site of Canada in Yoho.

Part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, Yoho is connected to Banff, Jasper, and Kootenay National Parks. Grizzly bears live throughout these parks. There are 60 bears or so in total, including 16 reproductive females. They mostly live in the Northern portions of Banff National Park. The Canadian National Parks strive to protect the habitat of the endangered bear, while also protecting park visitors.

Finally, the park has an unusual geological formation: a natural bridge. Eventually, water will wear away the rock.

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