The jagged peaks and u-shaped valleys in Kananaskis Country are
12,000 year-old reminders of the last ice age. They were
revealed as kilometre-thick, million-year old glaciers melted to
The actual mountains were formed over the course of 200 million
years. Tectonic plates forced layers of rock to pile, break,
and fold into mountains. The mountains which resulted from
this pressure were originally much taller than today's post-glacier
The rock itself is mainly limestone made from layers of
fossilized sea creatures. These creatures lived hundreds of
millions of years ago in the inland sea that covered southern
Alberta. Evidence of this is seen in ancient coral reefs, oyster
beds and shark teeth in Kananaskis Country.
Archaeological evidence of humans in Kananaskis Country goes
back over 8000 years. The Stoney-Nakoda, Siksika, Blood,
and Kootenai First Nations all have deep connection to this
Captain John Palliser chose the name Kananaskis 150 years ago
on his expedition through the area.
The name comes from the Cree "Kin-e-a-kis" - the name of a
warrior who survived an axe blow to the head.
Kananaskis Country - An Experiment that Worked
As early as 1902, parts of Kananaskis Country were included in
the Rocky Mountain National Park (now Banff National Park). This land was
removed in 1911. It was eventually turned over to the
Government of Alberta in 1930.
In 1972, the Alberta Wilderness Association proposed a
wilderness area west of Calgary in the Elbow, Sheep and Kananaskis
That same year, the Environment Conservation Authority
identified a need to set aside this area to protect watershed and
to provide resource development, tourism and recreation
Banff-Cochrane MLA Clarence Copithorne, a rancher in the
Jumpingpound area, recognized the growing pressure on the eastern
slopes from Calgarians wishing to escape the city in the late 1960s
and early 1970s. As Minister of Highways, Copithorne planned to
upgrade the road into the Kananaskis Valley to divert people away
Calgary architect and environmentalist Bill Milne challenged
the government to consult the public about the highway upgrade.
Through Mr. Milne, the Government of Alberta received over 48,000
responses to a survey about the future of the eastern slopes.
The majority supported creating a large protected area.
Many say Mr. Milne and Minister Copithorne convinced former
Premier Peter Lougheed to create Kananaskis Country with a single
helicopter flight over the Kananaskis Lakes. It can easily be
argued that simply seeing the magnificent ranges and valleys, the
endless forests and rushing waters was all the convincing the