A Brief History of Jasper National Park
JASPER, Alberta – Jasper National Park owes its beauty to millions of years of development, but the community with which it shares its name owes its existence to fur and railroads.
Archaelogical evidence found in the Athabasca Valley within the park indicates people lived in the area as many as 9,000 years ago, shortly after the big glaciers receded. Coming from the northeast, the west and the southeast, these early people were nomadic hunters and fishers who ranged across the valleys for thousands of years. Eventually, the Sarcee culture established itself in the area; these were the people European fur traders encountered in their first forays into Jasper. However, eastern tribes such as the Iroquois, who possessed guns and carried smallpox, drove the Sarcee out.
In 1811, David Thompson led an expedition to find a northern route over the Rockies. He established a North West Company trading depot that was run by a clerk named Jasper Hawes, from whom the town and the park take their name. In 1907, following the trail blazed for 200 years by the great fur trading companies of the north, both Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and the Canadian Nothern Railway, railway firms looking to unite Canada, came to the area. The Grand Trunk established a small community, which was named after one of the company executives. However, two years later, the executive resigned, and the town was renamed after the clerk who gave his name to the trading post nearly 100 years earlier.
In 1930, Canada passed the National Parks Act, and the area known as the Jasper Forest Park officially became the Jasper National Park. It also became a single entity covering more than 10,000 square kilometers, and in the next decade businessmen who saw the park as a prime skiing destination and tourists built up the area. An all-season road between Jasper and Edmonton opened in 1937; the Icefields Parkway to Banff was completed in 1940. The tourism industry in Jasper has grown ever since.