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Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site of Canada

Highway 1 - Trans-Canada Highway, Yoho National Park of Canada, British Columbia, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1971/05/27

General view of Kicking Horse Pass, showing the mountain scenery that frames each side of the transportation corridor.; Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency.
General view
General view showing the plaque.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
View of the final section of Kicking Horse Pass, showing the flanking mountains and the Spiral Tunnels, 1969.; Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, 1969.
General view

Other Name(s)

Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site of Canada
Kicking Horse Pass
Col Kicking Horse

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1881/01/01 to 1909/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/09/05

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Located in Banff and Yoho National Parks of Canada, the Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site of Canada is a major rail and highway transportation corridor through the Rocky Mountains. The corridor is an engineered landscape of rails, railbed, grades and curves, sidings, snowsheds, tunnels, runaway sidings, rock cuts, remains of work camps and other elements of construction. Some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world frames this transportation corridor to either side. The official recognition refers to a corridor of 200 metres on either side of the Canadian Pacific Railway right of way, except in the tunnels where official recognition extends to the interior surfaces.

Heritage Value

The Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1971 because:
-the Canadian Pacific Railway adopted it as their route through the Rockies.

First recorded by the Palliser expedition of 1857-60, this pass takes its name from an incident in which Dr. James Hector, surgeon to the expedition, was kicked by his horse while exploring in this vicinity. The pass was little used until after 1881 when the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to adopt it as their new route through the Rockies, foregoing the earlier preference for the more northerly Yellowhead Pass. This decision altered the location of the line across western Canada and dramatically affected the development of the West.

Source: Commemorative Integrity Statement, 1996.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
-the surviving configurations of the routes, the material, massing and form of the roadbeds, grades and curves, embankments, ballasting, snowsheds, tunnels, runaway sidings and rock cuts;
-the engineered quality of the landscape, continuity as a linear route, evidence of engineering activities such as earth-moving and blasting;
-the Spiral Tunnels, abandoned bridge and grade relating to the original line;
-the beehive oven in Kicking Horse Campground;
-surviving railway equipment in its current location and condition, including the remains of the Laggan station, yard and wye, and remains of locomotive parts;
-viewscapes along the corridor in both directions and towards the flanking mountains;
-archaeological remains in their current location and condition that are evidence of railway construction, provisioning and working and social life, their condition as abandoned material, the materials of which they are made, the surface impressions and subsidence;
-other archaeological remains that are witness to Aboriginal pre-contact sites, evidence of the mining and logging industries, and early tourism, in their current location.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Technology and Engineering
Developing Economies
Communications and Transportation

Function - Category and Type


Historic or Interpretive Site
Traditional Trail or Trading Route


Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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