How Cheap Is Cheap?
In general, prices in Banff range from some sweet deals to expensive (but often worth it). Even lower budget travel, however, can be more than other Canadian destinations, particularly because it is located in a national park and its prices are driven by its distance from other cities. Some businesses charge more just because they can.
The good news is that many of the attractions and sites operated by Parks Canada, the government organization managing Banff National Park, cost the same price as a latte in town. The Cave and Basin National Historic Site is one of these awesome attractions.
The Best $5 You’ll Ever Spend
For just $3.90 CAD or less (if you’re a senior, student or part of a large group) you can gain access to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. This is the birthplace of the Canadian parks system and Banff National Park, which was the third national park in the world. Back in 1883, William and Tom McCardell found this mist-filled cave which turned out to be a natural hot spring contained in an underwater cave. The site also had a basin, or hot pool, located just a few meters away. Eventually, the Canadian government declared this site as for all Canadians, and now you can visit and take in some of the history of the area through interpretation around the site. You can’t go in the pools anymore because of an endangered snail that makes its home there, but The Cave and Basin and interpretation are worth your $3.90.
As a local that had lived in Banff National Park for six years, I was almost ashamed that I had never visited the Cave andBasin National Historic Site. So, I finally made the trip down to the Cave and Basin, which is located only a 10 minute walk from downtown Banff. After enjoying some of the interpretive signs, I entered the hallway to the Cave and was immediately struck by the smell of sulphur in the air. On the ceiling of the Cave is a hole just above the hot pool, and I could just envision William and Tom peering down that hole into the void below before eventually lowering a tree trunk to climb their way down. I felt like I was stepping back in history and enjoying just standing and taking in the experience, watching light reflective off the water and on the walls of the Cave. Next, I walked upstairs towards the Basin and then took in a short historical video where I learned so much more about the origins of the place I now call home. I felt that I benefited so much from visiting this site, not only for its history but also for its offering as a miraculous natural feature.
Now You Do It
All you have to do is fork out that $3.90 and walk around the whole site. The Cave and Basin sites may not wow you, depending on what your expectations are, but the history of the area is significant. Be open to learning about the area and the origins of Banff National Park and you will walk away having gained some insight into this unique place in the world. Be sure to read through the interpretation on the site to help you gain better understanding of that snail situation, too! It might just be a snail, but it’s no small issue!