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Aspens in Banff

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

Banff National Park is Canada's oldest and best-known national park, established in 1885. Situated in Alberta's Rocky Mountains, due west of Calgary, Banff comprises 6,641 square kilometers of sublime mountainous terrain, including glaciers and icefields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine vistas. The main commercial center of the park is the town of Banff, in the Bow River valley.

Banff National Park has a subarctic climate. The forests are stocked with Lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, poplar, elm, and aspen. Mammal species such as the grizzlies, wolverine, and moose are found, along with insurmountable species of bird.

This image from Schmidt is of Aspens that grow plentiful in and around the park. Aspens and silver birch trees are such photogenic species of trees. Usually, their distinctive color provides a brilliant contrast with the surrounding green leaves and wilderness. However, the white bark here feels seasonal and in perfect keeping with a cold magical day in the woods in one of Canada's most famous national parks.

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More about Banff

Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of human activity in Banff at the Vermilion lakes area dating to 10,300B.P. Before Europeans, the park was home to several indigenous people who roamed, fished, hunted, and lived within its magnificent boundaries. Many place names are taken from the Nakoda people who were prominent in the area of Alberta and Montana thousands of years ago. Cave and Basin served as an essential cultural and spiritual site for the Stoney Nakoda people.

The Cave and Basin area also served as an internment camp throughout both WWI and WWII. It held immigrants from Austria and Germany. Most of the infrastructure in the area can be attributed to the men held at the camp. There are many historical plaques and a statue erected by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association dedicated to the men interned at Castle Mountain and the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.

Today Banff is famous the world over for its stunning vistas and winter activities, and its association with winter tourism can be explicitly traced to February 1917, and the first Banff Winter Carnival. 

The carnival featured a large ice palace constructed by the World War I internees, and events such as cross-country skiing and curling took place. The park has been commercialized throughout the years and is now a yearlong attraction welcoming millions of visitors each year. 


You can find aspens across Canada and even in Alaska. The species is absent only from the extreme northern tips of these areas. In the lower 48 states, quaking aspen is found in the Rocky Mountain states, the Great Lakes region, and New England.

The leaves of aspens are continually moving on the breeze due to their size and shape. They turn a fabulous yellowish gold in the fall, creating striking autumnal scenery, especially in densely aspen populated areas.

One little known fact about aspen poplar is their importance to beavers. Aspens are a staple food of beavers, and the animal will eat almost every part of the tree, including the bark, leaves, and twigs. Of course, they also use the branches to obstruct dams. Other mammals that rely on this tree species for food include deer and elk, which can often be found chewing the leaves and twigs. 

Banff is immediately recognizable the world over due to its striking scenery and distinctive colors. The area attracts photographers from all walks of life looking to take that perfect winter picture. 

If you have ever been to Banff, you may have noticed that the lakes are incredibly blue. Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake, and Bow Lake are colored by the surrounding glaciers. This hue can radiate far into the forest. I think Schmidt’s aspens are blanched in this blue light from those glaciers, also giving them a wonderfully distinctive texture.

The key to finding such beautiful shots in the wilderness such as the Aspens captured by Schmidt is purely getting amongst its stunning scenery. Banff boasts over 1600 kilometers of hiking trails. You could never get bored there. Although I have never visited the area myself, I should imagine there is ample opportunity to capture multiple life-changing pictures in this national park, much like shooting fish in a barrel.


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