Radium Hot Springs as seen from Redstreak Campground Road

(Kris McCauley photo)

Radium Hot Springs

Culture & History

The story of Radium Hot Springs begins with its geology, and the awesome forces that pushed up the Rocky Mountains from an ancient shallow sea.

Here, a fault line penetrates deep into the earth's crust. Today, surface water finds its way deep into the fault, is heated by hot rock, pressurized and forced back up to emerge at the source of Radium Hot Springs.

The springs were known to Aboriginal people long before European contact, but it didn't take long for the newcomers to recognize the value of this magical hot water source. In 1890, the first private ownership of the Springs was registered to Roland Stuart, for the princely sum of $160.

Arrival of Tourists

By 1923, with the brand-new Banff Windermere Highway completed, ownership of the springs was in the hands of the Canadian government and the first pool was open to the public. Hotels were built to accommodate visitors who traveled by train to Banff, and completed the bumpy journey by bus.

Radium Hot Springs quickly grew to become a tourist destination and, as tourist traffic increased, development spread beyond the canyon. In this way, the village of Radium Hot Springs grew progressively out into the valley, housing a community of permanent residents to work in both tourism and the burgeoning forest industry.

Seasonal Migrants to Radium Hot Springs

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep overwinter in the village of Radium Hot Springs, returning to higher ground for the summer months. They are, however, not the only seasonal migrants to the valley.

In the 1990s, Radium Hot Springs and the entire Windermere Valley were discovered by vacationing Albertans. Demand for recreational property mushroomed, prompting the development of condominiums, townhouses and golf courses. Local estimates put the population of the Windermere Valley at 30,000 in summer, compared with a mere 10,000 in the off-season.