Maligne Canyon, formed
160 million years ago, is bounded on the
northeast by Colin and Queen Elizabeth
ranges; to the southwest are the more
rounded slopes of the Maligne range. The
Maligne River, named by Father de Smet,
who attempted to cross the wicked
river in 1846, cut easily into limestone
beds, carving its way down into layers
of rock, making a V-shaped valley between
the ranges. Waterfalls plunge 120 metres
to join the Athabasca River on its way
to the Arctic. Glacial ice up to 300 metres
thick flowed down to the Athabasca carrying
rocks scraped off the sides of the mountains,
widening the valley into a U-shape and
leaving behind the Maligne Lake. Mary
Schaffer discovered Maligne Lake in 1908,
by following the directions of Stoney
Indians, and rafted down its length (22
kilometres) naming the mountain peaks.
At an altitude of 1800 metres and ringed
by snow-capped mountains, it is both the
largest lake in the Rockies and the largest
glacially formed lake in North America.
The canyon is one of the three places
in Alberta where black swifts are known
to nest, and the Harlequin duck, endangered
in eastern Canada, migrates inland to
nest and feed here. Mosses and ferns live
in potholes in the rock and fossils of
snails, sea lilies and lampshells are
found where ripple marks of ancient waves
are imprinted on the rocks.
places native people in the Athabasca
Valley as long ago as 9000 years, shortly
after the big glaciers receded. They were
boreal forest people from the northeast,
mountain people from the west and plains
people from the southeast, all nomadic
hunters and fishers who moved across the
valleys for thousands of years. The Sarcee
culture had established itself by the
time the European fur traders arrived,
preceded by their small pox and guns,
both carried by the eastern tribes such
as the Iroquois, who quickly drove out
the original inhabitants. David Thompson's
expedition in 1811, to find a northern
route over the Rockies, resulted in the
building of a North West Company depot.
It was later replaced with Jasper House.
The Grand Trunk Railway, a competitor
of the Canadian Pacific, reached Jasper
in 1908 and Jasper National Park was established.
Aboriginal and Metis land was expropriated
- except for Lewis and Suzette Swifts'
ranch, which they defended at gunpoint
and succeeded in keeping as a land grant,
refusing the $6000 buyout. It cost the
federal government $227,850 to buy that
parcel of land in 1962. In 1912, Grand
Trunk officially opened its line from
Edmonton to Jasper. Now called the Canadian
National, it crosses the park and brings
employment to many residents of Jasper.