Parks Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

A History of Canada's National Parks
Volume IV
by W.F. Lothian

Chapter 9
Guardians of the Wild


In the preservation and administration of our national park heritage, the Park Warden Service fills an exacting and continuous role. For more than 75 years, these guardians of the wild have functioned as fire rangers, game guardians, fishery inspectors, police officers and members of mountain search and rescue teams. They also have, through long association with park visitors, served with distinction as information and public relations officers. Through changing seasons, in fine weather and foul, they fulfill a most important function in national park administration as conservation officers, counsellors and as friends in times of need.

An 'accident victim' is lowered to safety in a mine rescue basket at a park warden mountain rescue school in Banff National Park.

Brun, a registered stallion bred national park saddle horses at the Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch.

Chief Park Warden Howard Sibbald (right) and Park Warden Charles Phillips with new fire truck at Rocky Mountains (Banff) Park in 1915.

First Forest Ranger

The first person delegated to perform the duties of forest ranger in Rocky Mountains (Banff) National Park, following its creation in 1887, was John Connor. In its early days the national park suffered greatly from forest fires, many of which occurred along the right of way of the newly completed Canadian Pacific Railway. Connor's duties consisted mainly of making daily patrols along the railway line in a handcar, and in recruiting fire suppression crews when fire swept down the Bow River valley on the embryo town of Banff. Connor also was called upon by Superintendent Stewart to perform clerical duties as required. The date of Connor's appointment is not known, but he was one of a large group of Banff citizens recommended by the superintendent in 1887 for a lease on a townsite lot. Connor once held leasehold rights to a lot on Banff Avenue now occupied in part by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Connor died in November 1890, and his widow conveyed her interest in the property to another party. No record of Connor's successor as forest ranger is available from existing departmental files.

Forest and game protection was apparently carried on in a haphazard manner in Banff and other western parks until 1909, when the park warden service was organized. Annual reports of the park superintendents indicate that a fire well under way was very difficult to control, unless providential rains intervened to extinguish it. In May 1903, a fire raged for three days a few miles west of Banff Station. In his annual report for 1906, Superintendent Douglas noted that twice-daily patrols of the railway line had prevented what might have developed into disastrous fires, caused by sparks from passing trains; but it was impossible, he said, to prevent fires from spreading. He recommended a special appropriation to combat, detect and suppress fires, especially if the prevailing dry seasons continued.1 Two years later he again complained about the difficulty in protecting both forests and game, and recommended the appointment of permanent staff whose duties would combine those of both game and fire warden.

Warden Service Organized

Superintendent Douglas's hopes for a protective service were realized in 1909. On June 21, 1909, the National Parks general regulations were revised by order in council, enabling the Minister of the Interior to appoint "game guardians" with authority to enforce the laws and regulations within the parks.2 Each game guardian was given a badge of office, which he was required to display "on every occasion when he is exercising the authority of his office." The new regulations also authorized better control of travel through the parks by visitors and better control of the lighting of open fires; to prevent railway fires, they required that every locomotive passing through a park be equipped with the most improved device to prevent the escape of fire from the smokestack, furnace or ashpan of the engine.

Better game and fire protection also was anticipated by new clauses in the regulations. Besides the rigid protection of all game, these clauses provided for the sealing of firearms carried by visitors through the parks, the control of dogs, the establishment of a season for sport fishing, and the prohibition of illegal fishing practices such as netting or trapping fish or exploding dynamite in park waters.

A forecast of the proposed organization of the warden service was contained in the report of the Commissioner of Parks for the year ending March 31, 1909. It read as follows:

They (the wardens) will patrol all portions of the parks and regular patrol trails, and small cabins will be constructed in different portions of the parks where the men can remain overnight and avoid the necessity of packing tents, etc. with them. Each will be furnished with a saddle pony and a pack pony carrying supplies, so that they can remain out for several days at a time or as long as their patrol duty in any locality may require.

... The instituting of a systematic patrol and the adoption of more stringent fire regulations in respect to the care of camp-fires by tourists should have the effect of greatly reducing the danger from this source and assist us in the effort to preserve the forests of the parks in the state of primeval nature which is one of their chief charms.3

The new warden service for Banff Park, consisting of three permanent officers, was headed by Howard E. Sibbald as chief fire and game warden. Sibbald had rare qualifications, having been raised and educated in the early west. His father, Andrew Sibbald, was a pioneer teacher in the Northwest Territories, who had trekked across the prairie from Winnipeg in 1875 to take charge of the Methodist Mission at Morley, Northwest Territories. Consequently, his son Howard had a background of more than 30 years of living and travelling in the foothill and mountain region of what is now Alberta, assimilating a vast practical knowledge of the area.

In the years following 1909, Sibbald developed, with the encouragement of the Commissioner of Parks, improved practices in game and fire protection, trail construction, forest patrols and other functions of a warden service. Before 1909 a few game guardians and fire rangers had been employed on a seasonal basis, but they were handicapped by a lack of direction and the statutory authority to carry out their duties effectively.

In 1913 Sibbald undertook a forest survey of the Bow River valley within the park. The following year he advocated cutting a fireguard west of the Cave and Basin Springs at Banff as a protective measure against fires. Although this work had been advocated by the Whitcher report of 1886, it was not completed until 1916. A fire lookout was stationed at the weather observatory on Sulphur Mountain, and the telephone line from that point to Banff was reconditioned. Concurrently, in 1914, a start was made in the construction of a field forest telephone system, which eventually provided communication from all warden districts and main patrol cabins to park headquarters. By March, 1915, a 28-mile line had been constructed from Banff to Canmore, and another line 9 miles long was built from the warden's cabin at the eastern end of Lake Minnewanka to its western end. Later, lines were extended to Stoney Creek up the Cascade River, to Healy Creek where it enters Bow River, and to Castle Mountain.

Fire Pump Developed

From five years of practical experience, Sibbald found that the warden service was handicapped for want of modern fire suppression equipment. For years, fires had been fought with green pine tops, wet gunny sacks, axes, shovels, mattocks and water pails. What was required was a mechanical device whereby water could be taken from a natural source of supply to the scene of a fire in sufficient quantities to make the use of such equipment practicable. Commissioner of Parks J.B. Harkin referred the problem to the Board of Railway Commissioners, where it was turned over to Harry C. Johnson, its fire inspector, for a solution.4

Johnson studied various types and arrangements of engines and pumps available. Keeping in mind the vital matters of weight, portability and easy manipulation, he decided upon a marine type of two-cylinder gasoline motor of about six horse-power to supply energy. This was coupled to a special rotary pump, and the assembly, with necessary attachments, was mounted on a single base. After testing, in which many factors were considered, a gasoline portable pumping unit designated No. 1 was built. This combination was found to be capable of pumping 20 gallons of water per minute and lifting water to a height of 172 feet. During a capacity test, water was pumped through 1,500 feet of 1-1/2 inch hose to a height of approximately 85 feet.5 The unit weighed 118 pounds stripped and 143 pounds with an oaken base. Two pumping units could be transported on a single horse, with hose carried by a second animal.

Units of the new pump were tested in two locations in Ottawa, one at the foot of the Rideau Canal locks, and the other in the yards of the Grand Trunk Railway. Tests also were carried out in both Banff and Jasper Parks, as photographs in possession of the National Parks Branch confirm. In field service, it was planned to use pumping units in relays, whereby No. 1 pump would supply water to No. 2 pump, which in turn would supply a third unit, and so on. To permit rapid transport along park roads, a Ford automobile chassis was purchased and equipped with a suitable box body capable of carrying hose and pump units as required. In addition, a specially designed wagon three feet wide and capable of being hauled either by hand or by horse, was built for use on park trails.

In its field tests, the fire engine and pump exceeded expectations. Chief Warden Sibbald reported that "we carried the water in one instance over a steep hill 200 feet high, and along a clearing for 600 feet, the gauge showing a pressure of from 85 to 90 pounds." Park Warden Charles Phillips reported that the whole apparatus was given a very fair four-day test at the Alien Detention Camp near Castle Mountain, where large piles of brush and small timber were burned in perfect safety. During the season of 1915, in which the new equipment was introduced, the park superintendent purchased a motor launch from a Banff boat operator for use by wardens engaged in fire and game patrols on Lake Minnewanka.

Modifications of the original motor-driven fire pump units were made during subsequent years, although the basic design was retained. In his annual report for 1920-21, the Commissioner of Parks reported that the great success which had attended the use of the portable firefighting equipment developed for the Branch suggested the construction of a larger engine to use in combatting fires along motor roads in the parks. Consequently, the branch ordered for use in Banff Park a new 3/4 ton Reo chassis, on which was installed a pumping unit capable of delivering 130 gallons of water per minute at a pressure of 120 pounds per inch. The new fire truck also was equipped with 2,000 feet of 2-1/2 inch linen hose.

The original type of fire pump used by the park warden service of the various parks has long since been supplanted by more advanced types. The newer fire pumps presently in use are of a more compact design, are lighter and thus easier to transport. Consequently they are more adaptable for varying situations which must be met. The 1915 fire pump unit, however, was a great step forward in helping to combat and control an ever-present threat to national parks — forest fires. Its creator, Harry Johnson, lived to witness many changes, for he died at Ottawa in January, 1980 — 99 years old.

Forest Conservation Stressed

With practical fire-fighting equipment now assured, Commissioner Harkin next instituted a campaign of public education about the need to prevent forest fires. As he observed in his annual report for 1915-16: "Practically, there are only two kinds of fires, so far as the parks are concerned: those arising from human causes and those caused by lightning. We cannot prevent fires that are caused by lightning but those of human origin are nearly always the result of carelessness or ignorance. It is simply another case of 'not knowing it was loaded', because the necessity for care is not realized."

The commissioner arranged for the printing of suitable fire-warning notices on articles that were commonly used in the woods, so that a warning should constantly be before park visitors when they were liable to start fires. Two leading Canadian manufacturers of matches agreed to print warnings on practically all the match boxes they sold. Eddy's matches boxes, both large and small, carried the admonition: "Do not throw away burning matches, especially in the woods. Printed at the request of the Dominion Government." Notices were inserted in rifle and shotgun ammunition boxes; labels affixed to axes by Canadian manufacturers called to attention the need for fire prevention in the forest; and a leading tent manufacturer in Ottawa inserted on its trade-name label the words, "Save the Forests. Extinguish your campfire thoroughly." The Bell Telephone Company, the Canadian railway companies, operators of livery rigs and pony concessions, and hotel owners in the parks, also cooperated in conveying the need for care in the use of fire.6

Consequently, the users of park highways and trails were confronted, at suitable places and intervals, with metal or linen signs stressing the need for care in the use of campfires, matches, tobacco products and any other medium that could cause a devastating forest fire.

Park Trails

Many of the earliest walking trails developed in the western national parks were constructed and maintained by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company for the benefit of guests at their mountain park hotels. Glacier House in Glacier Park was closed in 1925 and dismantled four years later, but Canadian Pacific trail maintenance crews continued their operations in the vicinity of Chateau Lake Louise, Lake O'Hara, Emerald Lake Lodge and Yoho Valley Camp until the end of the 1952 season. The maintenance of these trails was then taken over by the park superintendents. Saddle pony trails, however, were the responsibility of the national park administration. They not only permitted visitors to enjoy outings on horseback far beyond the confines of park townsites, but also provided routes for patrols and for the transport of fire-fighting equipment by the park warden service as required. In turn, many of the earlier and more important horse trails were widened and improved to the status of fire roads, capable of accommodating motor vehicles engaged in various phases of park administration.

One of the earliest riding trails developed by the superintendent in Banff Park led from the town of Banff to Lake Louise Station, then known as Laggan. It followed the valley of the Bow River along the north side, and was improved by Superintendent Douglas in 1904-05. After the park warden service was organized, trail development got under way in earnest; and at the end of the 1911 season, the superintendent was able to report that 167 miles of horse trails had been constructed. In 1912, trails were cut from Canmore to White Man Pass, a distance of four miles, at a cost of $100; Brewster Creek trail was extended for 3 miles at a cost of $100; and a trail extension from the logging road up Spray River to Spray Lakes was built for $300. At that figure, it was a bargain for a 12 mile stretch. By April 1, 1914, the number of trails either constructed or improved in Banff Park numbered 60, and entailed 759 miles of construction. The shortest trail listed was one mile; the longest, from Banff to Laggan, was 38 miles.

Similar trail development work was undertaken in other national parks. In 1909, Lake O'Hara, one of the most beautiful lakes in Yoho Park, was made accessible by pack trail from the railway line at Hector. Forest ranger "Kootenai" Brown reported in 1911 that a trail had been constructed from Cameron Falls, in Waterton Lakes Park, southerly along the west side of the upper lake to the international boundary, a distance of 5 miles. Jasper National Park, then the largest in the park system, offered almost unlimited opportunities for trail development, and eventually the length of trails in that park exceeded 580 miles. One of the longest led from Jasper southerly to the summit of Sunwapta Pass, a distance of 70 miles. It joined up at the pass with the trail system in Banff Park to the south, and provided a continuous saddle-pony trip through the mountain ranges from Lake Louise to Jasper, a distance of about 142 miles. The route is now followed, with a few deviations, by the inter-park Icefields Highway. By the end of 1955, the total length of the national park trail system, excluding that of Wood Buffalo Park, was 2,300 miles.

Trail Riding and Hiking

Although the improvement and development of motor roads in the national parks cut heavily into the horse livery business in the mountain parks, riding was given a decided lift when the Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies was formed in 1924. This organization was sponsored by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company to encourage travel on horseback through the central Canadian Rockies; to encourage life outdoors; to assist in preserving national parks for public enjoyment; and to conserve the native wildlife. The organization meeting was held in Yoho Valley; Dr. C.D. Walcott, of the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, was named honorary president, and J.M. Wardle, chief parks engineer at Banff, was elected president. At this meeting a plaque was unveiled to commemorate the services of Tom Wilson, one of the best known guides in the Rockies, who was believed to be the first white man to see Lake Louise, Emerald Lake and the Yoho Valley. The annual ride, which has been carried on for years, usually involves a five-day outing with overnight stops at prearranged camps, with a final windup at the Banff Springs Hotel or Chateau Lake Louise.

A companion group who preferred to explore the national park trail system on foot was organized in 1933 by J.M. Gibbon, then general publicity agent of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He had the assistance of others interested in hiking, and the group was named the Skyline Trail Hikers. The annual hike is carried out along the lines of the trail rides, with a planned itinerary and overnight stops in tents. These outings are conducted as all-expense tours with everything supplied except clothing and personal effects.

Warden District Organization

After its organization in 1909, the small force of game and fire guardians — since termed the park warden service — grew slowly. For want of roads and trails, early patrols were concentrated on areas paralleling railway lines, where motorized velocipedes were used. Following the opening of the Banff-Calgary coach road in 1911, and the completion of a road to Castle Mountain and Vermilion Pass, the construction of a system of trails and fire roads got under way. Patrols were extended and overnight accommodation provided for the warden staff in the form of patrol cabins. Warden districts were laid out, and permanent warden cabins erected at key points where hunting parties planning to enter park territory might be intercepted. Among the earliest cabins constructed in Banff Park were those on the Kananaskis River and on Panther River in the northeast section of the park. The original Panther River log cabin with its sign Warden Patrol Cabin — Rocky Mountain Park No. 3, was declared an historic building in 1976, and was moved to grounds of the Archives of the Canadian Rockies in Banff towinsite on August 29, 1977. The sign carries the signatures of many of the original wardens who sought shelter within the cabin's walls.

By April, 1914, warden accommodation on park trails had been increased to nine units, and in 1914-15 five more were added. These were at White Man Pass, Healy Creek, Ghost River, Cuthead Creek and Vermilion Pass. As the commissioner of parks observed in his annual report for that year: "The value of these cabins in the forest service can hardly be overestimated. They enable the men to almost indefinitely prolong their patrols when, in other circumstances, they would be compelled to return to town or some other habitation each night."

Current policy was not to restrict the use of cabins to the warden force. They were available to all travellers in the vicinity, subject to reasonable care in their use. As explained by Park Superintendent Clarke in his annual report, the house rules were summarized by a notice in each cabin which read:

In his absence, it may be used by campers, but must be left clean. Any person who takes from this cabin any tool or utensil, except for the purpose of fighting a forest fire, is liable to a fine of $100.8

Early Warden Stations

Most of the early warden headquarters or district cabins were peeled log structures. Usually they were complemented by a separate stable and barn and by an equipment building, sometimes attached to the main residence. Water supply was obtained from wells or by tapping a nearby stream. A supply of firewood usually was available nearby. Lighting was supplied by kerosene lanterns and lamps, later replaced by gasoline lights, and eventually by Delco electric lighting units. Most of the early structures have since disappeared. They have been replaced by attractive bungalows finished in wood siding, and designed to include office space, together with modern plumbing, heating and cooking equipment.

A wardens' workday equipment varied according to the location of his station, but items issued from wardens' stores in each park were bound to include hand pumps, motor-driven fire pumps, axes, shovels, mattocks or grub hoes, crosscut saws, water pails and bags, lanterns and a first aid kit. Small hand tools including files, grinders, a hammer, a handsaw and drills also were supplied. Pumping units might be of either rotary or centrifugal type. Each warden also was issued with a good supply of linen hose for use with fire pumps. Most wardens were provided with one or two riding horses, several packhorses for carrying supplies on patrols, and at least one corral in which to keep their animals from straying. Normal equipment also included a saddle, halters, harness, robes and other equine necessities.

Warden Uniforms

For years, wardens wore no special uniform. Many of the early wardens in the mountain parks were recruited from packers and guides, who favored clothing similar to that worn by men whose duties required the use of horses. Hats invariably were of the cowboy type, although Howard Sibbald and some of his early assistants affected a stiff-brimmed Stetson type hat similar to that used today by boy scouts. Each warden, of course, wore his badge of office.

After long deliberation, the National Parks Bureau in 1938 issued each warden with a formal uniform, designed and tailored by Tip Top Tailors of Toronto, Ontario. The fabric was a dark green wool whipcord topped off by a light brown hat with a semisoft rolled brim. A warden's issue included tunic, breeches, slacks, Stetson hat, badge, riding boots, ankle boots, shirts, belt, ties, parka, raincoat and overalls.9 The uniform was issued to wardens at half the actual cost, the other half being absorbed by the department. Wearing the uniform was mandatory while the warden was on duty, except in special cases when permission for non-use was granted by the park superintendent. Former Chief Warden J.C. Holroyd was issued with badge No. 10, believed to be the lowest number issued. Although withdrawn from service in favor of a bilingual issue, this badge number has been perpetuated, and is still in use in the warden service.

Personnel Expansion

Boundary changes affecting Banff and Jasper Parks from 1911 to 1917 influenced the size of these parks, and also affected the organization of warden districts. The last major boundary changes were made in 1930 with the passing of the National Parks Act. At that time several hundred square miles of territory, considered to be of more value for resource development than for national park purposes were withdrawn. From 1930 onwards, a greatly expanded system of roads, trails and telephone lines helped improve communication between warden stations and park headquarters, making possible a more permanent organization of game and forest protective forces.

Some idea of the increase in warden personnel may be gained from a comparison of permanent and temporary staff positions in 1937 with those in 1957. In 1937-38 department estimates provided for 10 supervising or chief park wardens, 49 permanent park wardens and 13 temporary wardens spread over 17 parks. For 1957-58, the number of park warden positions listed in the annual park estimates included 14 supervising wardens, 72 permanent park wardens and 15 temporary park wardens. The average warden districts in the two largest parks, Banff and Jasper, were 230 and 300 square miles respectively.

Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch

The saddle horse has been an integral part of the national park warden service since its inception. During the formative years of the service, horses provided the principal means of transportation for the wardens, for they were particularly suited for travel on narrow mountain trails where vehicles could not penetrate. As fire roads and improved secondary roads were developed throughout the national park system, the motor vehicle partially supplanted the saddle horse for the transportation of fire fighting equipment, for patrol duties and for personal use, but a substantial number of horses have been maintained in the mountain parks and to a lesser extent in other park regions.

Before 1917 the winter grazing of park horses was carried out at suitable areas either within or outside park boundaries. Since 1917, most horses not retained at various park headquarters have been transferred to an area north of the Red Deer River and just east of the main range of the Canadian Rockies. Known for years as the Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch, it contains an area of 9,750 acres and embraces a beautiful rolling landscape, partly wooded, and covered with prairie grass over several hundred acres. Its name is believed to be the Stoney Assiniboine Indian for "Little Prairie in the Mountains".

Early Occupation

In the early days, access to Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch was from the east by road through the town of Sundre, Alberta, and thence by trail up the valley of the Red Deer River. Later, fire trails and fire roads were constructed north from Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park up Cascade River, Cuthead Creek, and Wigmore Creek, and over Snow Creek Pass to Red Deer River. The site of the ranch and its amazing possibilities as a horse-grazing area were first brought to the attention of the Department of the Interior in 1904, when Jim and Bill Brewster of Banff applied for a grazing lease in the vicinity; they wished to graze some 300 horses used mainly in Banff and Yoho Parks. The ranch then formed part of Rocky Mountains (Banff) Park, and the application was rejected on the advice of the Departmental legal adviser, as inconsistent with the provisions of the Rocky Mountains Park Act. The Brewsters, however, resubmitted applications for grazing privilieges in 1905 and 1907; the third application, in 1907, was approved by the minister, Frank Oliver.10 A condition of continued operation was a formal survey by the lessee of the land to be covered by a grazing lease.

In March, 1909, the Brewsters had 48 cattle and 150 horses on their ranch, together with a cabin and barns. The ranch, in charge of Frank Sibbald, was used to raise and "break" horses for an extensive guide and outfitting business. Meanwhile, some difficulty had developed in the issue of a grazing lease, although arrears of rental were collected by the park superintendent. By January 10, 1910, a submission to Privy Council recommending the issue of a lease, renewable on a yearly basis, was ready for the signature of the minister, but it was returned to the Superintendent of Forestry, then responsible for park administration, endorsed "No action at present".11

Ranch Withdrawn from Park

In June, 1911, the area of Rocky Mountains Park was substantially reduced, and Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch was left outside the new park boundaries as part of the Rocky Mountains Forest Reserve. Consequently the Forestry Branch of the Department of the Interior took over the administration of the reserve. From 1911 to 1915, national park records contained no correspondence concerning the ranch, although its occupation by the Brewster Trading Company was continued. Early in 1915, Superintendent S.J. Clarke of Rocky Mountains Park advised the Commissioner of Parks that the ranch occupied a strategic position in relation to the protection of the park's wildlife. It was pointed out that the main trail from Banff to Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch ran through the principal breeding grounds of the Rocky Mountain or bighorn sheep. Some of the ranch employees had been convicted in the past of poaching within the park, and Clarke recommended termination of the Brewster grazing privileges which had been enjoyed by permissive lease, although lacking formal documentation. The recommendation was approved by the minister, and the Superintendent of Forestry was instructed to have the ranch property vacated by the occupants, now incorporated as the Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranching Company Limited. L.S. Crosby, a director of the company, requested time to relocate the business; but meanwhile, the Department of the Interior had instructed the Department of Justice to institute legal proceedings to obtain repossession of the ranch lands.

On September 18, 1917, the boundaries of Rocky Mountains Park were extended under authority of an order in council, and Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch again became part of the park.12 Later that year, the Department regained possession and from then onwards, the ranch was used as headquarters of a park warden district, and as a winter grazing area for park horses.

Many years later, the writer discussed with W.A. (Bill) Brewster, his company's use of the ranch. Brewster conceded there may have been some infractions of the park game regulations, but he believed that employees of the Brewster ranch often were blamed for poaching actually carried on by others who had ready access to the area. Meanwhile, the Brewster organization had relocated its ranching activities elsewhere outside park boundaries.

Early Buildings Replaced

Over the years, considerable building construction was carried on in the Ya-Ha-Tinda area by park authorities. A one-room bunkhouse was erected in 1918, along with a garage and a barn with stabling facilities. The bunkhouse was still occupied as staff quarters in 1977. A ranch house, containing a kitchen, living room and two bedrooms was added in 1920. Constructed of logs, it had few modern features. Water came from an outside well, and sanitary features were primitive, providing little comfort to ranch residents in winter.

During World War II, a few buildings were added to the establishment. A one-story log residence for farm laborers was erected in 1942, together with a two-story log barn, incorporating a tack room and stall space for nine horses. The upper story was given over to storage space for oats and hay. A blacksmith shop was built in 1946.

The postwar years witnessed considerably building development in all national parks, and Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch shared some of the funds provided. A frame storage shed for a tractor and other farm implements was built there in 1951. It was complemented in 1952 by another frame building for the storage of fire-suppression equipment, along with storage facilities for gasoline and oil.

A new ranch house built in 1960 for the ranch foreman and his wife undoubtedly brought joy to its occupants. Designed as a fully modern building, it contained three bedrooms, a large living room and a substantial kitchen which served as a mess hall for spring and autumn labor crews engaged in seasonal roundups of horses. The old ranch house was demolished in 1961.

Further additions included a small bungalow hauled to the site from Banff, which was made available to the assistant foreman. It had once formed a unit of the Carrot Creek Bungalow Camp on the Trans-Canada Highway east of Banff. A new powerhouse was constructed in 1960 to house a Delco lighting plant, and in 1963 the ranch acquired a new stable. A quonset building, 34 by 92 feet, it provided stall space for 43 horses. The powerhouse was replaced in 1975 by a metal fire-resistant building.

Jurisdictional Difficulties

When the Transfer of Natural Resources Agreement with Alberta was being negotiated, arrangements were made for substantial reductions in the areas of Banff and Jasper National Parks. These reductions were confirmed by enactment of the National Parks Act in May, 1930. The Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch was included in one of the areas to be withdrawn from Banff Park, but a reservation was made under the Dominion Lands Act on March 14, 1930 by order in council, so that it might be reserved for grazing purposes.13

Provincial authorities for many years thereafter were reluctant to recognize the interest of the federal government in the ranch area, believed to contain 18 square miles. They appeared to be particularly concerned with the ownership of mines and minerals, no doubt because of the interest of individuals and companies engaged in oil exploration. The ranch lies some 1-1/3 miles northeast of the park boundary, and unsuccessful efforts were made with the province to negotiate a corridor that would permit incorporation of the ranch in the park. In 1956 a legal survey of the ranch boundaries was made. By following a strict interpretation of the "metes and bounds" description under which the ranch was reserved for park grazing in 1930, a substantial area of choice grazing land was excluded by the new plan of survey.14

In May, 1956, it was learned that the Province of Alberta had issued a permit for oil and gas exploration in the ranch area. The Department of Justice was requested to provide an opinion on the ownership of mineral rights beneath ranch lands. On June 19, 1956, the Deputy Minister of Justice advised that the national park administration should take the position that the Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch area included the mines and minerals when the ranch was retained by Canada, by virtue of Section 18 of the Natural Resources Agreement with Alberta. Subsequently, the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources obtained authority from the Governor in Council to enter into an agreement with two Canadian oil companies for the right to explore lands within the ranch for oil and gas.15

Agreement with Province

Eventually, a compromise on land jurisdiction was reached with the province. In September, 1957, Alberta's Deputy Minister of Mines and Minerals, H.H. Sommerville, visited Ottawa and discussed the ownership of mines and minerals beneath the ranch with Assistant Deputy Minister Frank Cunningham of the federal Department of Northern Affairs. They agreed that although the ranch was under reservation when the Transfer of Natural Resources Acts were passed in 1930, there was no real reason for Canada to have retained the mines and minerals. Sommerville suggested that the federal government formally surrender the land comprising the ranch, including mines and minerals, and receive back from the province title to surface rights only.

This proposal was accepted, and, under authority of the Governor General in Council, the administration and control of Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch as described in the 1930 reservation was transferred to the Province of Alberta on February 7, 1958.16 In return, a duplicate certificate of title to the surface area of the ranch dated April 29, 1958 as shown on the latest plan of survey confirmed May 8, 1957, was subsequently received from the province by the director of the National Parks Branch. This action effectively terminated the dispute over the ownership of Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch.

Present Status

Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch now serves a dual purpose. It provides winter grazing for horses transported from the national parks in the Rocky and Selkirk Mountains, and serves as a site for breeding and raising horses suitable for use by the national park warden service. The range will accommodate upwards of 200 horses, which normally are transported by truck to the ranch. Horses are brought from as far west as Glacier and Mount Revelstoke Parks in British Columbia, and from Jasper Park to the north. They are either fed and watered in corrals near the ranch administrative buildings, or moved as required to various ranges to prevent overgrazing.

Records of the horse-breeding activity began in 1938 with the use of a registered thoroughbred stud called September; they have been faithfully maintained since then. Horse breeding was undertaken to improve the quality of horses required to meet the particular needs of the national park warden service. In 1961 Superintendent D.B. Coombs of Banff National Park, accepted the gift of a registered Percheron stallion to the ranch; it was hoped this would produce an improved strain of packhorses. Later, the breeding stock consisted of quarter-horse stallions, registered stallions and a number of suitable mares. Some of the mares were acquired from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan, primarily because they were not black, and consequently undesirable for police purposes.

For the six-year period from 1960 to 1966 inclusive, the total number of foals born was 133. In 1968, the RCMP closed its remount station at Fort Walsh and re-established it at Pakenham, Ontario. A number cross-bred mares, together with a registered stallion known as Brun, were donated to the National Parks Branch and were transported to Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch. Brun had been a race-horse before being donated to the Police in 1962 by a California sportsman, R.J. McGowan, and prior to his departure from Fort Walsh, had sired 32 foals. After his acquisition by the Superintendent of Banff National Park, Brun assisted in the production of fine offspring, which were trained as riding horses. One of Brun's progeny was from a mare named Minx. This filly, now a brood mare, is a full sister to Burmese, a horse presented to the Queen and ridden by her at the ceremony of Trooping the Color. The sire, Brun, later was destroyed at Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch.

In the normal course of events, foals are taken in hand by ranch personnel at foaling. They are handled, gentled and trained until they reach the age of three years. Then they are allocated to one or more warden districts in the western national parks. A unique method of naming horses born at Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch was adopted in 1964, when all foals born that year were given names commencing with the letter 'A'. The following year, the names of new horses began with the letter 'B', and so on. Hence Isaac was born and named in 1972, and Morgan in 1976. Consequently, their ages can quickly be determined from their names.

The ranch area is shared with the park horses by a large herd of native elk, which has been known to number as many as 1,200 at one time. This intrusion of game animals from Banff National Park and adjacent provincial lands sometimes places considerable pressure on the available forage. In 1962 a special hunting season for elk was opened by the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Service to save the winter pasture. The hunting of elk during the provincial hunting season has since been encouraged, although hunters must confine their use of privately-owned vehicles to the road through the ranch.

Public Use of Ranch

Public use of the ranch for recreation other than hunting has increased consistent with the improvement of the access road from Sundre to the east. In turn, road improvement followed gas and oil exploration by drilling. Three wells drilled between 1951 and 1976 proved unsuccessful. All were in the vicinity but not on the ranch property.

Camping, hiking, riding and fishing are among the recreations enjoyed by visitors in a beautiful setting. A rudimentary campground was established on Bighorn Creek in 1960. Most visitors are drawn from Alberta although residents of the United States and Europe now are finding their way to the ranch. Visitors are not permitted to graze their horses on ranch land, but are free to ride the range at will.

The warden service has maintained a deep interest in Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch over the years, for it is there that one of a warden's most faithful helpmates — the horse — is born, trained and wintered. In the mountain parks of western Canada, and in Elk Island Park, horses are still the principal means of transportation for back-country travel. Through close association, a deep and lasting affection exists among wardens for their horses.

Park Warden Training

When Howard Sibbald organized the first group of men to serve as fire patrolmen and game protection officers in 1909, the force was called the Fire and Game Warden Service. Wardens then were gathered from various walks of life, but principally from guides and packers, to perform briefly outlined duties in districts larger than some of our present-day national parks. The work took them along railway lines by motorized velocipede, over roads and trails by horse, on foot or by canoe in summer. In winter, patrols were accomplished on snowshoes. Headquarters or district cabins were widely separated, and patrol cabins sometimes were built by wardens to their personal needs. A notable cabin-builder was E.W. "Bill" Peyto, who served as a warden in Banff National Park from 1918 to 1933. Before his service as a warden, Peyto was one of the best-known guides and packers in the central Rockies; and in the course of his prospecting excursions he discovered a large deposit of talc southwest of Redearth Creek in what is now Kootenay National Park. More about this deposit and its development as a mine will be found in the next chapter.

After World War I, increased travel to the national parks and greater use of roads and trails indicated a need to extend protection to visitors as well as to the creatures of the wild. Recognition of this need expanded the field of park warden activity. It was realized that the duties and functions of park wardens would become more complex, and in turn require the development of special skills and abilities through proper training.

First Warden Schools

The first warden training school was held in Rocky Mountains (Banff) Park in 1925. The early schools gave instruction not only in the use of hand tools and fire hose but also in the use of "newfangled" equipment such as motor-driven fire pumps, automobiles and fire trucks. Qualified instructors, however, were few in number. One superintendent overcame this problem by escorting driver trainees to a local well-fenced race track. The warden in training and his motorized mount were then detained in the enclosure until his driving performance brought no more cheers from the spectators.17

By 1928 a number of parks were holding annual refresher training classes, some of them in alternating sessions of one week's duration. The scope of the training classes was extended to include field telephone maintenance, trail construction methods, wildlife management, first aid and horse packing. In Banff Park, the schools concluded with a wardens' annual rifle shoot. During the early 1940s general warden training classes covered a wide range of subjects, and guest lecturers were invited to provide instruction in various fields. A few shortwave radios capable of two-way communication had been acquired, and in some parks these were a source of interest and bewilderment. The first regional warden school was held at Banff in 1942, when arrangements were made for attendance by wardens from the four national parks in British Columbia.

Training for wardens involving a broader outlook took form during the following decade. In 1950 and in 1951, composite conservation schools were convened at the Banff School of Fine Arts in Banff for wardens from the western national parks, the Yukon and Northwest Territories, and for rangers from the Alberta Forest Service. The session continued for almost one month. This training scheme, however, was abandoned when the Alberta Forestry Service withdrew its representation to concentrate on a Forestry Training School at the provincial level.

Snowcraft Schools

The first national parks ski and snowcraft school was held in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, early in 1949, attended by wardens from Banff and Yoho Parks. In 1951, the school was held in Glacier National Park British Columbia. Wardens in attendance were provided with the latest equipment in boots, skis and poles, and were given a rigorous course by qualified instructors. In the years following, the ski school was held in either Banff or Glacier National Park.

In February, 1955, three wardens from the mountain national parks in Canada were sent to Alta, Utah, for an avalanche rescue course. On their return, a winter training school was held at Banff where, in addition to alpine ski training, basic instruction was provided in the causes and results of avalanches, and methods of avalanche rescue work.

During the ensuing years, this form of rescue training has taken on a wider implication. The development of additional ski centres in the national parks of the Canadian Rockies has attracted thousands of winter visitors interested in this sport. However, in spite of an intensive educational program about the dangers in avalanche-prone areas, casualties still occur among skiers who venture into areas designated unsafe. Rescue equipment is maintained in the vicinity of all developed ski areas, and skiers travelling afield are warned to register with park wardens and to ascertain the location of field telephone stations from which to call for assistance.

Mountain Rescue Responsibility

The popularity of mountain climbing with visitors unskilled in the sport became apparent in the early 1950s. This development also added responsibilities to the national park warden service, in rescuing stranded or injured climbers. For many years the superintendents of Banff, Yoho and Glacier parks — which were centres for activities sponsored by the Alpine Club of Canada — relied on the professional guide service maintained by Canadian Pacific Railway Company for assistance in emergencies. Its guides, recruited mainly from Switzerland, had served the needs of guests at the company's mountain hotels since 1899. They were stationed originally at Glacier House hotel in Glacier Park. After this famous hostelry was closed in 1925, the guides were relocated at Chateau Lake Louise. The families of the guides lived in a small colony two miles west of Golden, British Columbia, known as Edelweiss.

Early Swiss Guides

The first Swiss guide to climb in the Selkirk Mountains was Peter Sarbach of Zermatt, Switzerland, who accompanied a few members of the Alpine Club of Great Britain to Glacier and Banff in 1897. Sarbach's visit is commemorated by Mount Sarbach on the Banff-Jasper Highway. In 1899 the CPR brought out Edward Feuz and Christian Hasler from Interlaken, Switzerland, to Glacier House. The following year, Hasler was detailed to the Mount Stephen Hotel at Field in Yoho Park, and Edward Feuz was joined at Glacier by Karl Schlunnegar, Frederick Mitchell and Jacob Muller. In subsequent years these guides were followed by others, some of them lineal descendants of members of the original group. They included Edward Feuz, Jr. (1903), his brothers Ernest (1909) and Walter (1912); and Christian Hasler, Jr. (1912). Another notable addition was Rudolf Aemmer in 1912.18 Following World War II, mountain climbing held less attraction for the hotel guests, and replacements for the older professional guides were becoming hard to obtain. The third generation of the original guides showed no interest in following the occupation of their fathers, and in 1950, the CPR recruited Walter Perren and Edmond Petrig as the last guides from Europe to supplement the remaining guide staff. In 1954 the railway company learned that Walter Perren, the chief guide, was not prepared to renew his contract when it expired the following year. In view of the difficulty experienced in recruiting a suitable replacement, the company decided to discontinue its guide service in 1955.

Spectacular Rescues

Over the years the Swiss guides conducted visitors on innumerable climbs, and also participated, in cooperation with park wardens, in the rescue of persons injured or trapped at high altitudes. In 1954 one of the most tragic alpine accidents on record in the Canadian Rockies occurred on the south peak of Mount Victoria, at the western end of Lake Louise. On July 30 a group of young women from Mexico, accompanied by a Mexican guide, Eduardo Sanvincente, completed the ascent of the south peak of the mountain from the alpine hut in Abbot's Pass between Mounts Victoria and Lefroy. The climbing party, on two ropes, had made the final ascent up the steep eastern snow-covered face of the peak, rather than by a longer but safer route along the rock ridge from the summit of the pass. All were equipped with crampons on their boots, which provided good footing on ice and hard snow, but were useless on snow which had warmed and softened in the sun. While retracing their route down the steep face of the peak, one of three women roped to the guide lost her footing in the snow and fell. In so doing she pulled the others down. The entire party of four then slid down the precipitous slope and over a precipice to Lefroy Glacier, 2000 feet below. All were killed. The remaining three climbers on the other rope, now unable to obtain a secure footing, remained on the slope in hope of rescue.19

The accident had been witnessed through binoculars by an employee of Brewster Transport at Chateau Lake Louise. Walter Feuz, one of the staff employed at the hotel, also had been following the progress of the climbers with the aid of binoculars, and noticed that only three of the seven were still on the mountain face. The accident was reported promptly to the hotel manager who organized a search and rescue party. The rescuers, headed by guide Ernest Feuz, were transported up the lake by boat to its western end by Walter Feuz. They located the bodies of the climbers in Abbot Pass, and proceeded up to the alpine hut. Here they found an eighth member of the party, who had not participated in the climb, and who not only was unaware of the accident but spoke no English.

Ernest Feuz, who had an intimate knowledge of the peak, made the final rescue dash, accompanied by Charles Rowland, a summer employee at Chateau Lake Louise. Normally a one-hour climb, it was accomplished in 35 minutes. They reached the three stranded members of the climbing party shortly after 7 p.m. and had them back in the alpine hut at 9.40 p.m. Later all four women were escorted down to the tea house at the foot of the Plain of Six Glaciers, where they were fed and put to bed. Although all of the victims, including the guide, were experienced climbers, apparently their ignorance of changeable conditions on steep snow-covered slopes in the Rockies contributed to the accident.20

Tragedy on Mount Temple

On July 11, 1955, another regrettable incident occurred on Mount Temple, near Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. A group of 16 boys, members of the Wilderness Club of Philadelphia, were caught high up on the slopes of the mountain by an avalanche, which took the lives of seven of the party. Although the mountain, which rises to a height of 11,636 feet above sea level and 5,400 feet above Moraine Lake, is not rated as a difficult climb, avalanche conditions prevail in early summer, and climbs undertaken without expert guidance can be hazardous.

Accompanied by the camp counselor, William Oeser, the 16 boys made their way up to the 8,500 foot mark, where the counselor and five boys dropped out. The remaining 11, under the leadership of two 16-year-old boys, decided to press on. On reaching an elevation of 9,500 feet, the party sensed danger from the sound of falling avalanches and turned back. Outfitted only in summer clothing, and equipped with only two light manila ropes, the group was engulfed in a small avalanche which buried four boys, injured three and left the others in various states of shock. One boy, Peter Smith, was sent down the mountain for help, and on the way informed the counsellor of the accident. About an hour after the accident Smith reached Moraine Lake, where park warden Woodworth began organizing a rescue party of experienced mountaineers. Two wardens, Gilstrof and Schuarte, reached the avalanche site ahead of the main party, and Gilstrof started down the mountain with one boy on his back.

Later, wardens Perren and Pittaway jointed Schuarte, who had made progress in digging out the missing boys. A second rescue party, under chief warden Herb Ashley, joined the search, and by 3 a.m., all seven victims had been accounted for, including one boy who had died from exposure to cold and rain. The rescue mission was completed by 7 a.m. the day after the accident.

A coroner's inquest revealed that the party was inadequately dressed for the climb, that no prior information on the route of the proposed climb had been obtained, that the ropes carried were below the standard required for mountain climbing, and that the party had failed to register out with the Moraine Lake park warden as required by park regulations. The coroner concluded that the boys were the victims of their own youthful enthusiasm and inexperience.21

Stricter Park Regulations

The Mount Victoria accident, together with other incidents requiring the assistance of park wardens and others in rescue operations, prompted national park authorities to review existing regulations governing field outings and climbs. For many years, park visitors who proposed excursions in areas of national parks distant from highways were required to register out at places provided by the park superintendent, usually at a park warden station. In December, 1954, the existing regulation was amended to include mountain climbing. As revised, the regulation required any person planning to climb a mountain "before departure to register with the Superintendent or at such place as may be provided by the Superintendent, the names and addresses of the members of the party, the date of departure, the route to be traveled, the proposed duration of their stay in such park...and such other information as may be required by the Superintendent".22 In effect, the district park warden would have prior knowledge of any excursion involving danger and also have some idea of when the return of the person registered might be expected.

Climbing Expert Engaged

After the Canadian Pacific Railway Company disbanded its Swiss guide service in 1955, Walter Perren was engaged by the superintendent of Banff Park on May 1 as a member of the park warden service. His first assignment was to initiate a mountain climbing and rescue program for park wardens. The first rescue school was held in June, 1955, at Cuthead in Banff National Park. The second, which was attended by several members of the RCMP, was held the following October. Similar schools were repeated annually under the direction of Chief Warden Perren until his death in 1967.

The schools usually took the form of two-week sessions with about 30 students in attendance. Wardens with little or no climbing experience were first taught the basic skills. In following stages the wardens were advanced, with the use of suitable equipment, to the point where they could participate in a difficult climb, or serve as a member of a climbing party or rescue team. The final stage involved further experience and instruction that would qualify a warden to lead a climbing party or direct a rescue operation.

Death Takes a Holiday

By 1961 the wardens who had graduated from the climbing and rescue school had reached a high state of proficiency. While none would claim that the graduates filled the climbing boots of the former Swiss guides, they completed some notable rescues. Their activities also influenced compliance by alpine-oriented visitors with park climbing regulations. During 1961 some 1245 parties registered out under the regulation for climbs in Banff National Park — twice the number recorded in 1955. A spectacular rescue, carried out five years later in August 1966, involved Chief Warden Perren and District Warden Walter McPhee of Banff Park. Two experienced climbers from Calgary became marooned on Mount Babel, a 10,175-foot peak between Moraine and Consolation Lakes in the Lake Louise District. One climber had slipped, fallen and broken his wrist. Both men by then were trapped on a spike-like ledge. Cries for help reached the ears of another party in the vicinity, and help was summoned through the district warden. A rescue team was then airlifted by helicopter to a landing site on the mountain within access of an anchor area. Warden Bill Vroom was lowered by block and tackle in a Gramminger seat — a form of bosun's chair — over a 150-foot overhang. Later he was brought up again with the injured man in the seat. A second descent followed, and, with the aid of the tackle and seat, the second climber and his rescuer were winched up the precipice to safety. The formal report of the incident finished with the words: "Although blessed with good weather, unbeatable men and fine equipment, the rescue crew in their ultimate success offered a silent prayer, thankful that death had taken a holiday."23

Warden training and techniques are under constant scrutiny to minimize hazards and improve the rescue service. The highest number of rescues carried out in any single year in the western parks was 134, a record established by the warden service in 1975. At the time of writing Parks Canada was the only organization in North America allowed to belong to the International Commission of Alpine Rescue.

Training in Atlantic Parks

Composite training for national park wardens was extended to staff of the Atlantic parks in the winter of 1954, when the first warden school in that region was held in Fundy National Park, New Brunswick. Frank A. Bryant, superintendent of Kootenay National Park, who for many years had been a park warden and a chief park warden, presided as officer in charge. The course, which extended from February 22 to March 3, covered a wide variety of subjects in addition to practical warden training. Talks, followed by question periods, on park history and administration, wildlife conservation, forestry and fire prevention practices were given by officers of the National Parks Branch from Ottawa. An officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police also lectured on the role of a park warden as a police officer. Altogether nine wardens from three Atlantic parks — Cape Breton Highlands, Prince Edward Island and Fundy — were in attendance.

Two years later, in September 1956, the second school for wardens in the Atlantic provinces also was held in Fundy Park, under the direction of D.J. Learmonth, national parks forester at Ottawa. Besides personnel from the Atlantic parks, the school was attended by three wardens from Gatineau Park near Ottawa, which is administered by the National Capital Commission. Later, following the establishment of an Atlantic regional office at Halifax, warden schools were held on an annual basis at various parks within the region.

Annual Warden Gymkhana

The ancient adage, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" applies to park wardens as it does to everyone else. And this was reason enough for an annual horse gymkhana staged by the wardens of the mountain national parks for several years at Hillsdale, in Banff National Park. The gathering was conceived by warden Wally McPhee of the Banff park warden service, during the annual roundup of park horses and their transfer to winter grazing grounds at Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch northeast of Banff. During overnight stays with wardens along the route to the ranch, McPhee found that conversations usually led to talk on the abilities of their favorite horses. Bragging led to arguments, and arguments to challenges. McPhee entered a few private contests before realizing that a fair comparison of horses could be made only by simultaneous competition under uniform conditions.24 The basic concept was that the wardens should get together to demonstrate the ability of both men and horses in a spirit of friendly competition. Events staged should demonstrate skills and knowledge related to the duties and activities of a park warden.

A committee of wardens organized the first competition in 1963, held at Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch. After a second gymkhana on the same site in 1964, interest was so great that a more central location was sought. A large natural clearing known as Hillsdale, 12 miles west of Banff, provided an ideal site for the annual event during the next seven years. The events involved the use of both riding and pack horses. Occasionally, wives or lady friends of the wardens took part in mounted versions of the egg-and-spoon race and other contests. These gatherings not only encouraged the wardens to take more interest in their horses, but also provided an opportunity for all park staff to engage in an annual get-together.

Hazards of Employment

Improved means of communication, better roads and trails, modern accommodation and an increased use of motor vehicles all have changed the day-to-day life of a park warden. Those employed on rescue missions, or detailed to perform one of many other hazardous tasks, run some risk of personal injury or even loss of life. Fortunately, casualties have been rare during the past few decades. Some 40 years ago, however, the hazards of employment encountered by wardens were more pronounced.

In September 1929 Percy Hamilton Goodair, a Jasper Park warden, was killed by a grizzly bear. Stationed in Tonquin Valley, some 16 miles by road and trail from Jasper towinsite, Warden Goodair had failed to make his usual report by field telephone to the chief park warden's office in Jasper. A search party organized by the park superintendent found Goodair lying dead under two feet of fresh snow not far from his district cabin. A detailed examination of the area around his cabin, suggested an unexpected confrontation with a female grizzly bear.

Goodair had maintained a woodpile down a path from his cabin. An inquest at Jasper concluded that on his way for fuel the warden had suddenly met a grizzly. The presence of a sow bear with two cubs in the valley that summer had been known, and it was presumed that during a snowfall, the warden had unknowingly come between the mother bear and its offspring. Apparently the bear had lashed out with deadly claws and severed an artery under Goodair's arm. The warden had made a vain effort to plug the wound with a coloured sash that he habitually wore, but had collapsed on the trail before he could reach the cabin and telephone for help.

Among Goodair's effects was found a note expressing the wish that, should any unforeseen calamity befall him, he might be buried in the wilderness he loved. His wish received the approval of the Commissioner of Parks in Ottawa, and Goodair lies buried on a site near the now-vanished cabin which overlooked the spectacular Amethyst Lakes. A commemorative stone, set in a chained-off enclosure, records his name, his life-span (1877-1929) and the epitaph, "We cherish his memory in our hearts."25

Murder at Riding Mountain

Another fatality which occurred in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, on July 13, 1932, has remained an unsolved crime. Park warden Lawrence Lee, stationed at the Russell (now Deep Lake) station, was shot dead through a kitchen window while eating his evening meal. His wife, a bride for only five days, also was gunned down by the unknown assailant but survived the ordeal.

Earlier that day, Lee was visited by a friend, Bob Hand, who later became a park warden. During their discussion they heard the sound of a gunshot in the vicinity of the park boundary to the southwest. Lee left to investigate, while Hand rode north towards Birdtail Valley, where he was checking cattle grazing under permit. After his return, Lee completed a few chores and sat down to dinner in the kitchen. While eating he was shot dead through a window that looked out over a woodpile four feet high.26

Mrs. Lee ran to the telephone connected with park headquarters and managed to complete a call for help before she too was shot in the jaw through another open window. As recalled later by Mrs. Lee, the murderer then entered the room through the window, stepped over the prostrate body of the injured woman, and entered the warden's office. There he tore three pages from the warden's diary and disappeared. Mrs. Lee survived the shooting, and was able to assist Superintendent Smart and officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the intensive investigation that followed. She was able to describe the intruder as he appeared from the waist down as she lay on the floor, but his identification and apprehension proved impossible. While no clues to a motive for the crime were found, it is quite possible that the assailant was a resident of a settled area south of the park boundary, from which game-poaching activities were frequently launched. After recovery Mrs. Lee moved to Winnipeg, and engaged in newspaper work with the Free Press Prairie Farmer.

Hunting the Hunted

In October 1935 a park warden became a member of a posse organized to hunt for the murderers of two policemen in Banff National Park. Three young Doukhobors named Posnikoff, Voiken and Kalmanoff, suspected of shopbreaking, were picked up by two RCMP officers at Benito, Manitoba, in the early hours of Saturday, October 5. On the way to Pelly, Saskatchewan, for questioning, the suspects disarmed and killed their escorts, Constables Shaw and Wainwright, and drove off in the blood-spattered car after dumping their bodies in a ditch.

By nightfall a description of the missing officers and their car had been broadcast. On Monday the bodies of the missing police officers were discovered. The trail of the fugitives was traced to Exshaw, Alberta, when they had purchased gasoline. Police at Canmore and Banff were advised that men answering the descriptions of those wanted were in the neighborhood. A road block was set up on the main highway between the two towns, and the missing car and men were intercepted. In a shoot-out that followed, an RCMP sergeant was killed and a constable fatally wounded. The ringleader of the group, Posnikoff, also was killed by gunfire, but the other two took to the woods.

The day following, a band of armed citizens from Banff set out in a whirling snowstorm, intent on capturing the murderers alive. Park warden Bill Neish, stationed at Mosquito Creek on the Banff-Jasper Highway, heard of the impending manhunt on the radio and determined to take part. Without obtaining permission from the chief park warden, he left for Banff that night. On the following morning he saw two men crossing a clearing and called on them to stop. Neither paid any heed to the command, and Neish brought one man down with his first shot. The other fugitive opened fire on Neish from the cover of a fallen tree. Neish responded with a shot through the tree that disabled his antagonist. Both wounded men were brought into Banff, where they died in hospital. According to Dan McCowan, a noted author and lecturer who lived at Banff for years, Neish's monthly diary for October, 1935, aroused considerable interest when it reached the National Parks Branch at Ottawa for review. Opposite the date of October 8 was the entry "killed two bandits". Not being familiar with the events of that day in faraway Banff National Park, the officer responsible for a review of the diaries requested additional information. Back came a terse supplement, "Snowing to beat Hell."27

Dangers Still Remain

The foregoing examples of the risks, dangers and misfortunes that may confront park wardens are unusual or extreme. But they demonstrate that the nature of their work entails exposure to hazards of many kinds. In December 1972 wardens Marak and Brink lost their lives in a highway accident while on routine patrol in Banff National Park west of Lake Louise. A coroner's inquest blamed ice on the highway for the accident.

Rescue work for wardens usually begins when some member of the public has failed to exercise, care, judgment or plain common sense. Undue familiarity with wild animals, although forbidden, still occurs with regrettable results. Weather, carelessness or ignorance of park regulations can also contribute to accidents. Misfortune in various forms may visit even a warden, and if negligent, his pride suffers accordingly. Nevertheless the hazards of employment are a challenge that bring individual wardens together as a team.

Combatting Forest Fires

An ever-present threat to our national parks is forest fires which, from the earliest days of exploration, have ravaged these areas. Conflagrations which marred the landscape and despoiled the habitat of native wildlife have been attributed to various causes. Some have been caused, perhaps unwittingly, by the hand of man. Untended camp fires, the careless use of matches and tobacco products, and, in earlier days, sparks from locomotives, have touched off untold numbers of blazes. Other fires have been the result of deliberate incendiarism. On the other hand, many of the most hard-fought fires had their origin in lightning strikes, especially in periods of extreme drought and heat, when even a spark might touch off a bonfire. Whatever their origin, all fires in national parks are of particular concern to the warden service.

For years, one of the most conspicuous landmarks at Banff in Banff National Park was a fire burn on the north slope of Sulphur Mountain. It occurred late in the 19th century, and even today the outline of the burned-over area, stretching more than a mile up the wooded slope above the townsite, is visible in a lighter shade of green where newer growth has regenerated the devastated area. The sites of many other fires have also recovered their verdure, but one of the latest, which occurred in the vicinity of Vermilion Pass in 1968, will take years to heal.

Kootenay Park Holocaust

During the half-century since its establishment, Kootenay National Park in British Columbia has experienced two memorable fires. The first, long known as the "great fire", started on July 6, 1926, on the Upper Kootenay River, about four miles northwest of Kootenay Crossing on the Banff-Windermere Highway. This fire was the tenth outbreak to occur in a hot dry summer in that park, and it raged for nearly six weeks during which no rain fell. Early efforts of an emergency crew to control the fire were nullified by a 30-mile an hour wind. After crowning, the fire swept south to the Banff-Windermere Highway, which follows the valleys of the Vermilion and Kootenay Rivers. Fanned by a prevailing wind, the fire then roared north and east into the Vermilion River valley. It also jumped the Kootenay River and burned south along both banks. Before it was checked, the fire had swept up the Vermilion River for several miles, and south along the Kootenay River for another four.

Altogether, a timbered area of approximately 15,000 acres was burned before the fire was brought under control. More than 200 men were recruited from all ranks of the National Park Service as fire-fighters. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company contributed the services of 30 men, together with trucks and hose, who were joined by volunteers from the Columbia River valley and from points as far east as Calgary. Operations were directed by park superintendent Howard Sibbald and chief engineer J.M. Wardle. In the course of the fire, the Banff-Windermere Highway was closed for a short period. Through the efforts of the firefighters, all bridges, park warden stations and other buildings in the area were saved from destruction.

On the seventh day of the fire, July 13, a tragedy occurred. A four-door automobile driven by L.I. Watt of Edmonton, containing his wife, two children and Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Nesbitt, entered the fire zone en route from Vancouver to Edmonton, by way of the Banff-Windermere Highway. They had been warned that driving was hazardous, and after crossing the Kootenay River bridge the party encountered heavy smoke. They decided to turn back and eventually pulled up against a cut-bank where heavy windfall bordered the highway. According to a report forwarded to Ottawa by chief engineer Wardle from Banff, the women did not wish to leave the car, but the two men set out to find a small lake or pond that would offer shelter. Later the two men were rescued by members of the fire crew, but the women and children died from burns, shock and suffocation. Subsequent investigation disclosed that, had the party driven on a short distance from where they had turned back, they could have taken shelter in either a highway culvert or a small pond.28

Drought and high winds continued for the duration of the fire, which was fought almost exclusively by muscle power, portable fire-fighting units and other equipment developed by the National Parks Service. In his annual report for 1926-27, Commissioner of Parks J.B. Harkin called attention to the devotion to duty by parks personnel during the fire, and observed that "the superintendent was in charge of the operation and for six weeks was never in bed."29 The fireswept area, over a period of 30 years, was completely regenerated by a heavy growth of lodgepole pine. Only the lighter tone of the new forest cover revealed the location and extent of one of the biggest fires in Canada's national parks.

Fire Again Strikes Kootenay

From 1956 to 1965 several fires were kindled by lightning strikes in Kootenay Park, but the only significant one was that which burned over an area of about 22 acres on the slopes of Storm Mountain southeast of the Banff-Windermere Highway in July 1961. It was brought under control after two days of hard work by the park wardens. Seven years later this popular park was visited by a second holocaust which, in intensity and in rapidity of advance, rivalled that of 1926.

On the afternoon of July 9, 1968, thunderheads and lightning, but no rain, were observed at Marble Canyon campground, four miles south of the park boundary at Vermilion Pass. John Royko, a campground attendant, recalled a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning a few minutes before he saw a fire burning up on the lower slope of Mount Whymper northwest of the campground. Almost simultaneously, park warden Ron Morrison spotted the fire from the Marble Canyon warden station. After reporting the fire to Warden Hanley at Kootenay Crossing, Morrison loaded hand tools into his truck, picked up Royko and an assistant, and headed for the fire. Meanwhile park headquarters at Radium Hot Springs had been alerted, and by late afternoon a fire crew of 13 men in charge of Warden Winkler from Sinclair Canyon had arrived at the fire.30

Fire Advances Rapidly

By early evening the fire had spread to an area of 600 acres, in spite of the efforts of Morrison, Hanley and three assistants. Prevailing wind and heat precluded any hope of getting in front of the fire, and efforts were made to head off the blaze on northwest and southeast flanks. More fire pumps were brought into action, but with little success in an area filled with dead timber. Meanwhile Winkler had requested help from Banff National Park in the form of men and tractors. Later about 35 men in charge of Chief Park Warden Corrigal arrived from Banff, and the combined fire crews and equipment were brought into action.

On the morning of the second day of the fire, July 10, a crew of 68 men, three tractors and numerous power pumps and hand tools were used to fight the fire. Additional fire fighters were obtained from Banff and from Cranbrook, British Columbia. The possibility of using water bombers from a temporary base on the Trans-Canada Highway also was investigated. By afternoon, the fire had advanced up Vermilion River Valley and crossed into Banff National Park. By this time three aircraft equipped for water bombing and two observation planes had arrived at a temporary landing strip on the Trans-Canada near Taylor Creek.

Hikers Rescued

That same day a hiker and two children were rescued from an area near Stanley Glacier in the northeast section of Kootenay Park. The presence of the party in what was considered a hazardous area was reported to the fire crew by the man's wife, who was parked in an automobile beside the highway near the start of a walking trail to the glacier. After the fire jumped the highway to the northeast side, a helicopter was flown in to evacuate the man and his children.

On the fourth day of the fire, July 12, fire crews were augmented by 125 men from Canada's armed forces, who manned water tankers operating along the Banff-Windermere Highway and the Storm Mountain fire line east of Vermilion Pass. That day, too, all fire control operations were merged under Steve Kun, superintendent of Banff Park, who was a professional forester. Kun assumed control of the allocation of supplies, manpower and equipment between the Banff and Kootenay fronts of the fire, and was responsible for reports to regional headquarters. By this time Nature was lending a helping hand; cloudy and cooler weather combined with falling rain to clear much of the smoke and reduce the overall effort required.

Fire Contained

On Saturday, July 13, the fire was largely in check, although occasional water bombing and helicopter water drops were being made where flare-ups occurred. The Canadian army personnel were released on Monday, July 15, and three days later fire crew personnel had been reduced to 30 men with six held in reserve. By Saturday, July 20, all aircraft had been released and the operation had been shifted from fire-fighting to cleanup. Transient workers were dispersed the following day, and most of the park personnel returned to normal duties. Altogether, the fire had consumed about 6,500 acres of timbered land. Of this area, about 70 percent lay within Kootenay Park and the rest in Banff Park.

At a board of review convened at western regional park headquarters in Calgary from July 23 to 26, problems experienced in fighting the fire were discussed at length. Recommendations involving communication, manpower, organization and equipment were made for combating any conflagration that might occur in future. In the light of personnel involved, equipment used and experience gained, the 1968 Kootenay-Banff fire was one to be remembered.

Fires in Other Parks

Most of the national parks in the Canadian Rockies and the Selkirk mountains have experienced substantial damage from fire. On August 20, 1934, a severe fire occurred in the valley of the Howse River west of Saskatchewan River Crossing in Banff National Park. It burned for 19 days and consumed timber on 300 acres of land before park warden J.W. Gladstone and an assisting force were able to extinguish it. Six years later, in 1940, another spectacular fire spread rapidly down the Howse River valley. It was caused by lightning and burned over nearly 9,800 acres.

Banff Park suffered another extensive blaze known as the Flints Park fire. It occurred up the valley of the Cascade River and burned over an estimated 1,800 acres. Caused by an abandoned campfire which was not properly extinguished, it raged from July 28 well into the month of August.

Yoho National Park, west of Banff Park, has also had numerous fires. The so-called Porcupine fire of August, 1928, consumed some 12,200 acres before being put out. An unusual conflagration devastated part of Timber berth No. 406 in Yoho Park in July, 1960. This berth, which was granted in 1905, was held for years by a succession of owners before timber-cutting began. In 1960, the mill site caught fire through the carelessness of an employee of a subcontractor who was carrying on lumbering operations. Before the blaze could be extinguished, the adjoining forest in Block "A" of the berth was ignited. The fire eventually consumed 2,000 acres of prime timber and was extinguished by national park forces at a cost of $70,000. A second fire started by lightning in August, 1971, burned over 9,900 acres of the already lumbered Block "C" at the upper end of the Amiskwi River valley.

Devastation in the East

The more recently established national parks in the Atlantic provinces, with one exception, have been fortunate in escaping serious forest fires. In 1947 Cape Breton Highlands Park in northern Nova Scotia had two large and destructive blazes. These were attributed to abnormal fire hazard conditions and subnormal precipitation during the early months of the year. The two fires accounted for burned-over areas totalling 4,330 acres, as well as an additional area of 2,000 acres of provincial lands adjoining the park east of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The fire on the eastern side of the park was concentrated on high land west of Ingonish settlement between Cameron and Dundas Brooks, and involved about 280 acres. The larger and more serious fire started in the valley of Mackenzie River south of Pleasant Bay, a small fishing village on the Gulf of St. Lawrence at the foot of Mackenzie Mountain. This fire swept through the heavily wooded gorge of the Mackenzie River and over high land to the northeast. Much of the forest cover destroyed was hardwood, including stands of yellow birch. Although the settlement of Pleasant Bay was saved from destruction by a combined force of park wardens and local residents, the fire jumped the Grande Anse River to the north and ignited forested land between that stream and the Red River. Regeneration of the burned-over lands has been slow, and the fire burn is one of the conspicuous, regrettable sights from the spectacular Cabot Trail, which winds down Mackenzie Mountain by a steep grade.

Northern Conflagrations

Abnormal forest fires in national parks have not been confined to those in the Canadian cordillera or in the Atlantic provinces. The record for burned-over park areas in recent years is held by Wood Buffalo National Park, the greater part of which lies in northern Alberta, and the rest in the Northwest Territories. The park's area of 17,300 square miles is largely inaccessible, except by helicopter. It contains only two main roads, both in the northern sector of the park, and fires in other areas are consequently difficult to reach.

In spite of its immense size and remote location, Wood Buffalo Park had an average burned-over area of less than 12 square miles per year up to 1969. In 1970, fires swept over many sections of the park and about 302 square miles of forest were consumed. The following year, the total area affected by fires was about 500 square miles. Funds expended in fire suppression were enormous. One fire which occurred in 1970 burned over 85,000 acres and cost $750,000 to extinguish. The total cost of fire suppression in the park during 1970 was $1.6 million, and in 1971, more than $2.2 million. Major fires occurred in the Birch Mountains in the southern part of the park; in the Caribou Mountain area to the northwest; and along the north bank of the Peace River but outside of the licensed timber berths.

Difficulty in obtaining funds for the leasing of water-bomber aircraft and hiring fire fighters contributed to the cost of extinguishing the 1970 and 1971 fires, which might have been arrested in the early stages. By 1972, however, these problems had been overcome. The park had been divided into fire priority zones and authority obtained for hiring fire fighters and aircraft under contract. With the aid of a squad of fire fighters recruited from the native population, and the use of an air tanker, patrol and command aircraft, and a helicopter used for the transportation of fire crew, fire losses were reduced later on the average of about 1.5 acres per fire.

The fire hazard in the Peace-Athabasca delta caused by a lowered water table was reduced by occasional ice jams which occurred on the Peace River in spring and flooded adjacent areas. Water also was diverted from the Athabasca River to relieve low water conditions.

In May, 1958, wardens and chief park wardens from national parks in the western provinces were sent to Yukon Territory to assist in suppressing major fires devastating that area. Several hundreds of square miles of fire-swept land were involved, and at one time the city of Whitehorse was endangered.

In 1960 the Province of Newfoundland declared a state of emergency owing to the large number of large fires burning in the province. Eight wardens and chief wardens were made available from western national parks to assist the Canadian armed forces in directing fire-fighting operations. Those taking part were commended for their services by Premier Smallwood.


Although forest fires have denuded portions of many national parks of desirable forest cover, they have some redeeming qualities. Intensive fire control in the parks and elsewhere has resulted in a buildup of large quantities of dead fuels including needles, branches, trees and other vegetation. This natural accumulation is ready to flare up at the first opportunity, whether from a lightning strike or a neglected campfire. When outbreaks develop into conflagrations, they require much effort and expense to bring them under control. On the other hand, well controlled fires, under way when the weather indicates a period of low fire hazard, have a beneficial effect. They not only dispose of undesirable fuel accumulations but also areas impaired by forest insect infestation. Consequently these fires, in normal circumstances, prepare the landscape for regeneration by a desirable growth of new forest cover.

Long Service Achieved

The attractions of a career involving life in the great outdoors no doubt influenced many young men to join the national park warden service. In the formative years of the service, good health, a rugged constitution and the ability to ride a horse probably were among the primary qualifications. Later, with the gradual introduction of motor vehicles and motorized equipment in the growing phases of warden activity, some mechanical knowledge also proved helpful. Undoubtedly, the service of many wardens who entered the park service in the early 1920s, bridged the period of transition from the days of horses to those of horsepower. Gradually, other qualifications became factors in the selection of staff, as the warden service became a source of recruitment for other park positions. Especially desirable was educational attainment, particularly in various forms of ecological science.

Complete records of service by park wardens are no longer available, although most parks have accurate lists of chief park wardens. Many of these were graduates from the lower rank, and their combined service occasionally exceeded 25 years. Few, however, have equalled that of John Tocher of Yoho National Park who, on retirement in 1962, had completed nearly 41 years in the park warden service.

In the chief warden class, honours among retired personnel were shared by George Davies of Prince Albert National Park, with 28 years of service; R.W. Langford, who had 27 years of combined service in Jasper and Yoho Parks; and J.C. Holroyd, with 27 years of service as warden and chief park warden in Waterton Lakes Park. In 1977, Charles W. Hanscome, chief park warden in Prince Edward Island Park, had completed 29 years of service there and in Fundy National Park. That service was equalled the same year by warden Jim McLaughlin of Fundy Park.

Also in the quarter-century group were R.H. Mann, with 26 years in Glacier and Mount Revelstoke Parks; Robert T. Hand with more than 25 years in Riding Mountain, Waterton Lakes and Banff National Parks; and Herbert (Bert) Pittaway in Waterton Lakes, Banff, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke Parks, returning to Banff before retiring.

Warden to Superintendent

The national park warden service has provided numerous opportunities for promotion to administrative positions in what is now Parks Canada. The first chief park warden, Howard Sibbald, was named acting superintendent, and later superintendent, of Kootenay Park following its establishment in 1920. It was a timely and well deserved appointment, and no doubt established a precedent for the later promotion of other talented park wardens. Another chief park warden, Herbert Knight of Waterton Lakes Park, after 11 years in that position at Waterton Lakes Park was appointed acting superintendent in 1930. Two years later he became superintendent, a position he filled until 1939, when he was transferred to Prince Albert Park. His service spanned 27 years.

K. Bruce Mitchell entered the park warden service in 1940, became chief park warden of Banff Park in 1946, and assistant superintendent in 1952. In 1955 he was appointed superintendent of Riding Mountain Park. He also served as superintendent of Kootenay Park from 1960 to 1963, and in a similar capacity at Jasper Park from 1963 to 1967. He ended his service as a division head in western regional headquarters at Calgary

Another graduate of the Banff Park warden service was G.H.W. Ashley. He occupied in turn the positions of superintendent of Kootenay, Prince Albert and Elk Island National Parks. Everett Doak and Maurice McCarron, both natives of New Brunswick, filled in succession the duties of chief park warden at Point Pelee Park in Ontario. Doak later served as park superintendent at Cape Breton Highlands, Yoho, Terra Nova and Kejimkujik Parks, before accepting administrative posts at regional headquarters in Winnipeg and Halifax. McCarron, who began his service in 1948 as a park warden in Fundy Park, was appointed superintendent in 1958 of the three national parks then existing in Ontario — Point Pelee, Georgian Bay Islands and St. Lawrence Islands. He later served as superintendent in Cape Breton Highlands, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke and Prince Edward Island National Parks.

Other chief park wardens who graduated to the position of park superintendent included Frank Bryant at Kootenay Park, George A. Balding at St. Lawrence Islands Park, Thomas Ross at Elk Island and Waterton Lakes Parks, John Malfair at Prince Albert and Kejimkujik Parks, Jack Holroyd at Pacific Rim Park and Frank Camp at Point Pelee and Pacific Rim Parks.

With the development and expansion of regional park headquarters, there were more opportunities for park superintendents and chief park wardens to qualify for responsible administrative posts. Consequently, many division heads or officers responsible for training field personnel were drawn from these categories. Among them were James A. Sime, who between 1947 and 1966 served as park warden and later as chief park warden in six national parks, five of them in the Canadian Rockies. From 1967 until he retired late in 1979, he was responsible for park warden training and administration in the Natural Resources Division at the Western Region office in Calgary.

Free Housing Abolished

For years, park superintendents and members of the park warden service were provided with free living accommodation, a concession reflected in their salaries. After World War II, a review of salaries and job perquisites was undertaken, and park superintendents were required to pay for housing at a rate based on a percentage of their salaries. Practically all dwellings occupied by superintendents were situated within park townsites or subdivisions. Meanwhile, members of the warden service who occupied Crown-Owned housing were not required to pay rent until 1956. That year all federal government employees were obliged under the provisions of the Crown-Owned Housing Regulations to pay a rental for dwellings occupied, together with a charge for heat, electrical and other services in cases where such services were provided by a department of government.31

The change in policy, instituted by the federal Treasury Board, followed a study of inconsistencies and anomalies in the remuneration received by civil servants. Some of them enjoyed the privilege of occupying Crown-Owned housing, while others had to supply their own accommodation. An appraisal of some 4,000 government-owned dwellings in Canada was undertaken at the request of Treasury Board by the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, aided by assistance of staff of the director, Veterans' Land Act. Urban units were appraised by CMHC and rural units by VLA. All appraisals were reviewed by officers of CMHC at Ottawa.

A formula for both appraisals and rentals was approved at a meeting of department representatives with the secretary of the Treasury Board on November 30, 1953. Present day value of dwellings was determined by the depreciated reproduction value, with depreciation limited to 60 percent, provided the structure was sound and habitable. Actual rent was set at 8 percent for buildings in urban areas and at 6.5 percent in rural areas. The monthly cost of services was not provided for in rents proposed.

The Crown-Owned Housing Regulations were approved by Treasury Board on March 16, 1956 and became effective November 1, 1956. By a separate minute, the board also approved a schedule which established monthly charges for all Crown-Owned housing administered by the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, including dwellings in the national parks. In a circular issued by the Personnel Division of the National Parks Branch, it was pointed out that in nearly all cases where rents already were being charged, they were based on a percentage of salary — not always the salary actually paid, but the maximum salary for the class. Both flat rates of rental, and those on a percentage basis, had been established some years before. Meanwhile construction costs had risen substantially, along with rents charged by commercial landlords. Since employees living in other than government-owned houses had to pay increased housing costs, it was considered that people living in government houses should not enjoy a preferred position over those who did not.32

The circular also noted that the new rents did not include charges for heat, light, water services or furniture. Where possible, tenants in government houses were expected to arrange for their own services or furniture. In cases where it was more practical for the department to provide fuel and light, an additional charge would be made. To ensure that no employee would suffer hardship, the new rental policy provided that no tenant would be expected to pay more than 20 percent of his actual salary for rent, and not more than an additional 5 percent of his actual salary or $250 per year, whichever was less, for fuel, electricity and other services, and furniture. Rents established in 1956 ranged from $35 to $100 per month for dwellings occupied by park superintendents, and from $15 to $45 for those used by park wardens living outside townsites. Periodic rent reviews undertaken in the years following raised the rentals payable by government employees, consistent with the accelerating cost of construction and maintenance.

Amendments and New Regulations

The Crown-Owned Housing Regulations were amended on May 1, 1959, effective July 1, 1959, to provide for monthly rates covering dormitory accommodation in areas such as work camps and campgrounds.33 The rates established varied according to the number of persons accommodated in one room, with single occupancy of a room rated at $20 per month. In May, 1964, Treasury Board revoked the regulations which had been established in March, 1956, and replaced them with the Public Service Living Accommodation Regulations, effective July 31, 1964.34 The new regulations followed closely in content the original Crown-Owned Housing Regulations, but provided that the rents effective from time to time would be those recommended by the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Compensation Increased

Any monetary loss sustained by members of the park warden service following the enactment of the Crown-Owned Housing Regulations was offset largely by an increase in the salaries of the various grades of that job occupational class. Over the years, park warden salaries, while probably adequate, never provided the recipients with any sense of affluence. Their rates of pay, however, were related closely to those paid to many other classes of the Canadian civil service.

Before and throughout World War II, the maximum annual salary of a park warden Grade I was $1,500; for Grade II, $1,740; and for a supervising warden, $2,160. Most civil servants received substantial increases during the fiscal year 1947-48. Maximum salary ranges for park wardens in Grades I and II and for supervising wardens (now designated chief park wardens in three grades) were increased by amounts varying from 25 to 31 percent. The new maximum salary for the highest grade was $3,000. Later adjustments made between 1951 and 1955 raised warden compensation substantially.

In 1955-56, the year before the Crown-Owned Housing Regulations became effective, the maximum salary for Grade I park wardens was $3,000, and for Grade II $3,360. Chief park wardens could expect a maximum salary of $3,600 in Grade I, $4,020 in Grade II, $4,380 in Grade III.35 Meanwhile the cost of living was on the upswing, and the warden service, in common with other segments of the Canadian public service, shared in general salary increases which were reflected in the annual department estimates. In 1958 the three prevailing grades of chief park warden were dropped, and the position was redesignated simply as chief park warden. In Banff and Jasper National Parks, the chief park wardens occupying Grade III were reclassified as National Park Officer I.

Periodic salary reviews by the Civil Service Commission and Treasury Board, and the increases subsequently granted, were radically changed in 1967, when the Public Service of Canada came under new legislation. The new legislation involved collective bargaining, through a designated bargaining agent, by occupational groups for changes in salary or wage scales. Salaries and wages were now influenced by the national cost of living index, and designated bargaining agents negotiated new wage scales for periods agreed upon.

The park warden grades were assigned to the General Technical group (GT), which was subdivided into six grades. Seasonal wardens fell within Group GT-1, and permanent wardens within Group GT-2 or higher. Classification was subject to circumstances, such as the size and location of the park concerned and the responsibilities entailed. By 1978 seasonal wardens were paid $13,400 to $14,500 year, park wardens $15,400 to $16,750 and supervising wardens $17,200 to $18,800. The salaries of chief park wardens varied according to location and responsibility, ranging from $19,400 to $26,900 a year. Traditionally, salaries for Banff and Jasper National Parks normally exceeded those of other parks. Warden salaries, in common with those of other public servants, were subject to indexing against the cost of living, and by 1980 substantial increases had been negotiated.

Employment Status Altered

The revocation of the Civil Service Act effective March 23, 1967, and its replacement on the same date by the Public Service Employment Act and the Public Service Staff Regulations Act, resulted in substantial changes in the status and working conditions of the national park warden service.36 Under the new legislation the park warden service, like other occupational groups in the public service, was required to select as its bargaining agent an employee organization which then was certified by the Public Service Staff Relations Board. In turn, the bargaining agent negotiated a collective agreement on behalf of the occupation group. In effect, the warden service, like other occupational groups in the Public Service, now functions as an organized labor union.

Collective agreements are negotiated by bargaining agents such as the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which is the agent for the park warden service. Such agreements are governed in part by the legislation outlined above, and by the Public Service Terms and Conditions of Employment Regulations promulgated by the Treasury Board of Canada under Section 7 of the Financial Administration Act.37 These regulations contain authority for prescribing hours of work, statutory holidays, various forms of leave, rates of pay and pay for overtime.

Shorter Work Day

One of the notable features of the collective agreement negotiated under the new legislation was that which relieved the park warden service of an indefinite work day that, in exceptional or emergency circumstances, might extend to 24 hours. From the inception of the warden service up to the 1960s, wardens were expected to work and did work long hours with no expectation of overtime by either employee or employer. It was a way of life. Recompense for extra time worked during the busy summer season was obtained during winter months when visitor traffic, fires, wild animal problems and other activities slowed down. Currently, the work week stipulated in the collective agreement, is comparable to that enjoyed by staff of other segments of the National Parks Service, such as administrative personnel. Another feature in the collective agreement calls for payment in cash for time worked over and above the hours stipulated in the collective agreement.

Here it seems opportune to recall the contribution made by the wives of park wardens. For years they served — without remuneration — as stenographers, information officers, issuers of licenses and permits during their husbands' absence on duty, as weather recorders and as hosts to casual visitors. Without their cooperation, the services provided to the public at warden stations would have been seriously impaired. As a retired former chief park warden observed to the writer, "the wives of wardens were, in fact, assistant park wardens in every sense of the word."

Changing Role of the Park Warden

The foregoing paragraphs provide some idea of the varied functions, activities and accomplishments of the national park warden service. The broadening of the wardens' duties and activities, and the resultant increase in their value of the department and the nation, reflected a gradual transition. A need to improve the overall function of the warden service, to provide for their greater participation in the preservation and management of the national parks and their diverse and valuable resources, had been recognized by senior park administrators by the 1960s. Following the publication in October, 1962, of the Report of the Royal Commission on Government Organization, (better known as the "Glassco Report") the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources explored the possibility of using more fully the management concepts recommended by the commission.38

A comprehensive study was undertaken in 1963-64 by a firm of management consultants, Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Company, in cooperation with the department's Management Services Division created in 1963. This study identified weaknesses in certain phases of department management.39 It supported the royal commission's recommendation that there be greater delegation of responsibility and accountability in administering the national parks. Early in 1966 James A. Sime, then chief park warden at Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, was transferred to the administrative staff of the National Parks Branch in Ottawa.

During his long public service, Jim Sime had served both as a warden and as chief park warden in several of Canada's national parks, and was fully conversant with warden service problems. Consequently the warden function was the subject of considerable discussion between Sime and J.J.L. Charron, chief of the Operations Division in the National Parks Service. Eventually the department's Management Services Division was requested to examine the warden function in the course of a management study carried out in Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan, during 1967. Its report included a recommendation that a full-scale study of the park warden service be undertaken. Subsequently Sime was assigned to the task along with Donald E. Shuler, a recent recruit to the National Parks Service in Ottawa. Shuler has considerable field experience in the United States National Forest Service, and was competent in the preparation of reports.

Warden Study Undertaken

Meanwhile, staff attending the chief park wardens' conference held at Jasper in January 1967 had been given advance notice that changes in the duties and functions of the wardens might be expected. Consequently some ground work had been laid for the anticipated study.

In assessing the assignment, the study team reviewed the National Parks Act and the 1964 Statement of National Park Policy to determine the validity of the resources management concept. An analytical approach was then used to determine the various activities involved in managing the natural resources of the parks. Through a process of elimination, a program for natural resources management by wardens was outlined and referred to the directors of the various regions of national park administration for comment. Interviews also were conducted in the Atlantic and Western regions, where field personnel were requested to outline their views on the role of the park warden service and to offer suggestions for improving it. Following these interviews the conclusions of the study team were presented, and further comment and observations were solicited.

The biennial conference of national park superintendents was held in Ottawa from October 16 to 20, 1967. During the conference, Sime presented a preliminary report on the role of the park warden service. A discussion period followed, and copies of the preliminary report were later forwarded to regional directors for detailed consideration and comment by regional staff and park superintendents. The concepts and principles embodied in the preliminary report were given enthusiastic approval, and suggestions for improvements were later included in the final report. This was approved by the director of the National Parks Branch on June 21, 1968.40 Copies of the report, entitled "The Park Warden Function in the National Park Service", were then printed for official distribution.

The Study Recommendations

The recommendations contained in the report of the Sime-Shuler study were predicated on three main conclusions:

(1) An accurate resources inventory for each park was needed to facilitate the development of an effective resource management plan. As envisioned, the inventory would contain studies necessary to establish the identity, extent, condition, trend and/or carrying capacity of the resource base of the park.

(2) There should be detailed plans for the management of the parks natural resources. Such plans would designate management objectives and provide for continuity in management.

(3) As collection and integration of such information would require considerable effort and time, the preparation of an interim resources management plan would be required as an integral part of the provisional master plan for each park. It would also be necessary to establish objectives or goals on completion of a comprehensive resources plan.41

The Warden Function

An analysis of the warden functions required to implement a resources management plan established four phases of management:

(1) Natural resources management

(2) Public relations

(3) Public safety

(4) Law enforcement.

In resource management, a park warden's duties would include planning and undertaking resources protection activities; carrying out resources programs required by the various management plans, and protecting resources from misuse or over-use; carrying out field studies as required or directed; and observing and analyzing resource conditions.

The report gave prominence to the role of a park warden in public relations. It said a warden should be in a position to supply park visitors with information not only of a general character, but also of an interpretive nature in cooperation with the park naturalist. Consequently, besides answering queries through personal contact, the warden should assist the interpretive programs by providing information on public safety, resource management and natural features or conditions observed in the parks.

Public Safety

The park warden has a vital role in matters of public safety. Park visitors may, unintentionally, be exposed to physical danger while visiting a park, mainly through unfamiliarity with physical surroundings. Consequently, park wardens are expected to render assistance where required when visitors find themselves in difficulty - while skiing, mountain climbing, hiking or horseback riding along park trails, boating or swimming in lakes, streams or ocean. Training in safety and rescue techniques will therefore be a requisite of warden employment.

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement should not be considered a primary function of a park warden. However, to be effective in both resource management and public safety duties, a warden must often enforce laws or park regulations. As a result, laws or regulations designed to protect resources from misuse by visitors, or to protect visitors from the natural hazards in the parks, should be the responsibility of the warden service. On the other hand, laws which protect human beings or their property from other human beings should be the responsibility of police officers. In all cases, wardens are expected to maintain proper liaison and cooperation with the recognized policy authority in the park concerned.

Maintenance and Construction

Sime and Shuler supported a finding of the Management Services Division study, that wardens should no longer be responsible for maintenance and construction. Instead, except in emergencies, these functions should become the responsibility of the park maintenance and construction forces.

Warden Responsibility

The report noted that the wardens' responsibilities in many existing warden districts failed to offer sufficient challenge and satisfaction to well qualified incumbents. In those places the wardens' time and potential were not effectively used. Moreover, broad variations existed in the tasks and responsibilities of wardens in different parks and districts, and these were not reflected in grade structure.

Warden Grade Structure

The existing grade structure — Park Warden and Chief Park Warden, each having two grades — was found unsuitable by the study team. In effect, Park Warden I was only a training level, as the three remaining grades made no allowance for the significant variation in job content and responsibility which existed in both warden and chief warden categories throughout the national park system. Consequently, the report said, a meaningful and satisfying career progression within the existing warden organization was not possible. The investigators therefore recommended a new career structure broad enough to reflect all significant variations in job content and responsibility. Accordingly, they proposed a special assessment of each park and the elaboration of warden responsibilities, from which a logical grade structure might ensue. They also recommended the establishment of three recruitment levels which would provide for different salaries according to educational attainment:

(1) With minimum academic qualifications for university entrance.

(2) With graduation from a two-year technical school course in resource management, or the equivalent in training and experience.

(3) With university graduation.

As envisioned, a service-wide list of wardens qualified for promotion would be established and reviewed regularly. Ranking would be based on objective appraisals of experience, work performance and personal suitability. As vacancies occurred, appointments would be made accordingly.


Reorganization of the warden service was recommended in the manner suggested by the Ottawa-based Management Services Division. This called for the appointment of an operations manager in each park to supervise the warden function, the interpretive function and the visitor services function. The warden service would be staffed by officers in three grades — chief warden, supervisory warden and park warden. Instead of being left to his own initiative, a park warden would then be responsible for achieving goals established by a planned management program. Accurate observation, reporting, supervision, and application of technical knowledge would comprise the principal factors in his new job.

Proposed Training Program

Difficulties were expected in the transition of the wardens from their earlier role to a newer one, but it was believed that these could be resolved through planning and good personnel management. Factors to be overcome included a lack of formal education, coupled with the prevailing average age of the wardens. On the other hand, many of the wardens had the advantage of technical school and university training. Consequently, the report recommended a diversified training program geared to the special needs of the wardens. Listed among the means possible were departmental training courses, correspondence courses, university courses and technical school courses in resource management.

The report stressed the need for a career development program that would systematically allow wardens to receive the training required to prepare them for advancement. Before assignment to a park, recruits in future would participate in a national parks training program not exceeding six months in duration. After this an assessment would be made to determine whether or not they would be retained.

Implementation of the Study

The reorganization of the park warden service began in 1968. In due course, the wardens were required to accept more responsibility for resource management, search and rescue activities, public relations and park protection. The objectives of the reorganization were explained during a conference of chief park wardens held that year at Carleton Place, Ontario, from March 4 to 7.42 Training was continued in other parks and centers until 1975, when the Parks Canada National Training Center was established in Jasper National Park. Formerly known as the Palisades Ranch, this complex contains a number of buildings which, after renovation, offered excellent residential training facilities for various categories of Parks Canada employees.


Changes in the functions and organization of the park warden service have profoundly affected its personnel. From being officers concerned mainly with fire and game protection and search and rescue operations, they now have become skilled resource managers. Each warden will help maintain the national parks — so far as authorized development permits — as examples of the nation's finest unspoiled natural resources. In the face of growing visitor use, he will assist in maintaining the wildlife population in balance with the available food, restock lakes and streams with game fish, and control and help prevent forest fires. He also will be called on to conduct scientific field studies, protect natural resources from misuse or impairment, and be responsible for the safety of visitors, for rescue work when necessary, and also for public relations. As resource management programs are developed in each park, the park warden service will take on increased responsibilities, undreamed of in 1909, when the original group of fire and game wardens was appointed.

However, regardless of new responsibilities imposed by a changing technology, the main duties of the wardens will remain as originally envisaged. They are essentially those required to function as a "guardian of the wild".


1 Annual Report, Rocky Mountains Park of Canada, 1905-06, p. 17

2 Order in Council P.C. 1340, June 21, 1909. (Regulations of the National Parks of Canada), Sections 75-77

3 Annual Report, Commissioner of National Parks, 1908-09, p. 8

4 Harkin, J.B. Fire Protection in National Parks. Seventh Annual Report of the Commission of Conservation, Ottawa, 1916

5 Johnson, H.C. Better Apparatus for Fire Fighting. Canadian Forestry Journal, January, 1916.

6 Harkin, J.B. Fire Protection in National Parks

7 Annual Report, Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, 1954-55, p. 60

8 Annual Report, Commissioner of National Parks, 1914-15, p. 24

9 Manual for the Guidance of Field Officers in the National Parks of Canada. Chapter VI, p. 3. Department of Mines and Resources, Ottawa, 1948

10 National Parks file B. 42-3, Vol. 1

11 Ibid.

12 Order in Council P.C. 2594, September 18, 1917

13 Order in Council P.C. 565, March 14, 1930

14 Canada Lands Surveys Records Plain No. 43042

15 Order in Council P.C. 1956-1011, July 5, 1956

16 Order in Council P.C. 1958-207, February 7, 1958

17 Learmonth, D.J. What's New in Warden Training. Intercom, Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, September, 1963

18 Coombs, D.B. Rescue Methods in Canada's National Parks. Intercom, April, 1962

19 Canadian Alpine Journal, Alpine Club of Canada, 1955, p. 79

20 Frontier Guide to Enchanted Banff and Lake Louise. Vol. 10. Frontier Unlimited, Calgary, Alberta, 1966

21 Ibid.

22 Order in Council P.C. 1954-1918, December 8, 1954

23 Intercom, Winter, 1966. Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Ottawa

24 Ibid.

25 Marty, Sid. Men for the Mountains. McLelland and Stewart, Toronto, 1978

26 Parks Canada file C-3520-100. Memorandum Nov. 17, 1977, Director, Western Region to Director, National Parks, Ottawa, enclosing notes and comment from James Sime on the original manuscript

27 McCowan, Dan. Hill Top Tales. Macmillan of Canada, Ltd., Toronto

28 National Parks Branch File K. 186. Report of J.M. Wardle to Commissioner of National Parks concerning 1926 fire. Public Archives of Canada, R.G. 84, Vol. 372

29 Annual Report, Commissioner of National Parks for year 1926-27, p. 14

30 Learmonth, D.J. The Kootenay National Park Fire, 1968. National Park Documentation Centre, Ottawa (Originally on Parks Canada file B. 186)

31 Treasury Board Minute 498800, March 16, 1956

32 National Parks Branch file U. 170-6, Vol. 4. Circular memorandum May 11, 1956

33 Treasury Board Minute 547250, May 1, 1959

34 Treasury Board Minute 626000, May 21, 1964

35 Estimates of the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, Fiscal year 1955-56. King's Printer, Ottawa

36 Public Service Employment Act. Chap. 71, Statutes of Canada, 1966-67. Public Service Staff Relations Act. Chap. 72, Statutes of Canada, 1966-67

37 Treasury Board Minute 665757, March 2, 1967

38 Report of the Royal Commission on Government Organization. Queen's Printer, Ottawa, 1962

39 Annual Report, Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, 1964-65, p. 55

40 The Park Warden Function in the National Parks Service — A report compiled by J.A. Sime and D.E. Shuler. National and Historic Parks Branch, Ottawa, 1968

41 Ibid.

42 Annual Report, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1967-68, p. 126

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