Kootenay National Park lies just west of Banff on the eastern (i.e. wetter) part of the Continental Divide. It’s a great park to drive through , especially popular with antique car owners in the summer, with grand vistas. Situated in this vast landscape is a small place covering a few acres, where large amounts of pigmented material lies on the earth’s surface.
I discovered the Paint Pots while exploring trails in this area. There are three “pots”, formed by cold mineral springs with deposits of iron oxide rich soil around them. As these deposits increase the rim is elevated — hence forming a “pot” instead of just a pool. The water is a greenish (where a stream runs in) to yellowish-red color, a stark contrast with the pine forest and blue sky. Downstream from these paint pots, the pigment is deposited on the soil as ocher, one of the first pigments used by primitive man in the era of cave life. The pigment was highly significant to the Indian tribes in the area who migrated here to harvest it, often covering great distances to do so. The ocher was dried, ground to a powder, mixed with fish oil or animal grease, and used to decorate their bodies, tipis, clothes or rocks. The mining of the ocher continued when white settlers arrived, the ocher shipped to Calgary by rail where it was used to add color to paint.
The bridge to the Paint Pots had been washed out when I visited, so to reach them I had to detour several miles — easy trail and through beautiful country, so this was far from a burden. The first photo is of the paint pots. The second of the ocher deposits downstream.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance)