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An intimate landscape photography of the kicking Horse river in Yoho National Park

Kicking Horse – 2024

The history of the Kicking Horse River is intertwined with the exploration and development of the Canadian Rockies. Named by Major Sir James Hector, a member of the Palliser Expedition, the river’s name originates from an incident during their exploratory journey in 1858. According to the story, a member of their party was kicked by his horse near the river’s banks, leading to the name “Kicking Horse.”

Before this, the Kicking Horse River was known to Indigenous peoples who travelled around the area for trade and hunting. The river and its surrounding valleys held significance for these Indigenous communities, offering plentiful resources and serving as vital travel routes.

However, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the Kicking Horse River gained modern importance with the pursuit of transcontinental transportation routes. When British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871, it was on the condition that Prime Minister John A. Macdonald would build a railway to link the province to the rest of the country. Building a railway connecting the east and west coasts was a major undertaking. One of the most serious obstacles was the Canadian Rockies. Several passes were considered for the route, and despite its rugged terrain, Kicking Horse Pass was chosen. This choice was so significant that Kicking Horse Pass was designated as a National Historic Site in 1971.

To overcome the steep grade of the Kicking Horse Pass, the CPR engineers devised the Spiral Tunnels. Completed in 1909, these engineering marvels allowed trains to navigate the steep grades of the Kicking Horse Pass more safely and efficiently, reducing the need for switchbacks and sharp curves. The Spiral Tunnels not only facilitated transportation but also became iconic symbols of Canadian railway ingenuity. There are two viewpoints along the highway where you can see the tunnels in action for yourself, and learn more about them and the Kicking Horse Pass.

Beyond its role in transportation, the Kicking Horse River has long been a draw for outdoor enthusiasts and, lately, landscape photography. Places like Natural Bridge, Emerald Lake, and Tak Falls bring people together from around the globe to enjoy their rugged beauty. The Kicking Horse River continues to weave its way through the stunning landscapes of the Canadian Rockies, serving as a reminder of the region’s history, beauty, and spirit of exploration.

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