Point of Interest

Cave and Basin National Historic Site

Canada / Americas

Cave and Basin is the lowest component of nine sulphurous hot springs clustered in three groups on the northeast flank of Sulphur Mountain. The water is heated geothermally from an estimated depth of three kilometres and is the only underground cavern large enough to comfortably accommodate groups of people.Human habitation in this area can be traced back 10,700 years. it was Canadian Pacific Railway workers William McCardell and Frank McCabe who brought national attention to the Cave and Basin. In 1883 they descended through the skylight entrance into the cave using a felled tree, and the following year constructed a small cabin nearby with the intention of commercialising the site. Conflicting claims prompted intervention by the Canadian government headed by John A. Macdonald, and in 1885 an order-in-council reserved 10 square miles (26 km2) around the Cave and Basin, the Banff Hot Springs Reserve, which was the genesis of Canada’s national parks system.In 1886 an artificial tunnel was driven into the Cave and Basin to aid visitation. In 1912 bottled water from the Cave and Basin site was sold for its alleged curative powers. In 1914 a naturally heated swimming pool was opened to the public and continued to operate until 1994.The Cave and Basin was formally declared a national historic site in 1981. Canada’s national parks system celebrated its centennial in 1985 with Prince Philip, on the anniversary of the order-in-council that established the original reserve around the Cave and Basin.

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