Parks / British
Columbia / Kootenay
Above the timberline, the
alpine zone is characterized by bare rock, ice,
treeless high elevation meadows and a short
growing season. The dense dark forest of sharp
pointed Engelmann spruce and alpine fir, north
of Vermilion River Valley, is the most dominant
vegetation in the sub-alpine zone. The cool
damp mossy forest takes up 42% of the park,
in places growing down the lower slopes into
more open wooded meadows. In the southern end,
forests are dry interior Douglas fir and montane
grasslands cover large areas along the valley
bottomlands. Low-elevation meadows, wetlands
and open forests of aspen, Lodgepole pine, white
spruce and Douglas fir make up 8% of the park.
At Vermilion Pass at the Alberta-British Columbia
border, a vast blanket of blackened trees and
new undergrowth surrounds the pass, the aftermath
of a forest fire that devastated the area for
four days in 1968. Lodgepole pines, shrubs and
young plants - the new undergrowth known as
doghair forests - provides essential
new food sources, attracting animals back to
what had previously been a forest in decline.
Indian paintbrush, white bog orchids, yellow
heart-leafed arnica and fringed grass-of-parnassus
provide a startling contrast to blackened snags.
Since older growth provides poor habitats for
wildlife, parks such as Kootenay now use controlled
burns to ensure healthy woodlands.