Bow Falls and Banff Springs Hotel


Banff Avenue.  Lowell Silverman photography, 2014

My dad and I arrived in Banff, Alberta on the afternoon of October 18, 2014 after driving the Icefields Parkway, Bow Valley Parkway, and Trans-Canada Highway from Jasper.  Banff is a pleasant—if highly commercialized—town.  Even in the shoulder season, it was pretty crowded.  It’s a pretty amazing location to build a town; I’m guessing that even locals never tire of looking down Banff Avenue straight toward Cascade Mountain.  (If they do get tired of looking at it, they should move to Delaware, because clearly such topographical beauty is wasted on them!)

Banff Downtown
Banff Avenue points straight towards Cascade Mountain

Bow River

My mom joined us from the East Coast that afternoon after first flying to Calgary and then taking the bus to Banff.  We picked her up at the bus depot.  After checking into our hotel we headed southeast of town to the Bow River, a spot my parents were familiar with from previous visits.  Now that it was early evening, the river was in shadow but sunlight still caught the high peaks nearby.

1 Bow River
HDR image of the Bow River and surrounding mountains

The photographic highlight of the visit was capturing a perfect play of light on one of Mount Rundle’s peaks.  Rundle is a unique looking mountain with a row of tilted looking peaks that remind me of the wicked teeth on a circular saw blade.

4 Mt Rundle IR Vertical

Though the scene was bland in color photographs, the play of sunlight on the mountain breaking through a layer of clouds created a wonderful opportunity in infrared.  I’d like to think I was channeling Ansel Adams while making the image.

7 Bow Falls Vertical

The following morning, we returned to the same spot and visited nearby Bow Falls.  The falls seems longer than it is high; though it’s neat looking, it reminds me more of a particularly rough stretch of rapids than a waterfall.


Banff Springs Hotel

Banff Springs Hotel seen from the north side of the Bow River

Not far from the falls, the Banff Springs Hotel stands overlooking the Bow River.  One of many railroad hotels, the original opened in 1888.  Building Canada’s first transcontinental railway had been very costly for the Canadian Pacific Railway.   CPR head William Cornelius Van Horne’s cunning plan was to develop a tourist infrastructure that would not only increase the number of passengers, but also make the company money once they arrived at their destination.

Banff Springs Hotel as seen from near the main entrance

Van Horne is widely quoted (though with various wording) as saying something along the lines of “Since we can’t export the scenery, we’ll have to import the tourists.”

8 Banff Springs

Following renovations and a fire, the current Banff Springs Hotel structure dates to 1928.  My parents stayed here during their honeymoon a few decades ago.  Back in 1888 when the hotel opened, a room was $3.50 a night.  These days it’s a Fairmont property now and you’d be hard-pressed to spend less than C$550 (about $400 US) per night now.  The main level common areas of the hotel are quite impressive.  Downstairs is a sort of mini-mall with boutique shops as well as a spa.  The patio out back has an excellent view of Cascade Mountain.

11 Banff Springs

10b Cascade Mtn

Ironically, despite the railroad’s role in developing Banff as a tourist center, the town lost regular passenger rail service when Via Rail rerouted their Canadian in 1990.  Banff’s old CPR-built railway station is served by passenger trains only seasonally on the pricey Rocky Mountaineer.

Banff Railway Station

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