The Burgess Shale

A Burgeoning Tourism Industry

Even as the tracks were being completed, the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) was launching an ambitious program to bring tourists to the area. The company built a series of lodges and hotels based on those found throughout the European Alps. The company even brought over experienced Swiss mountain guides to help tourists make their way through the Rockies.

Swiss guides at Glacier House, British Columbia, 1899.
Swiss guides at Glacier House, British Columbia, 1899.
© WHYTE MUSEUM OF THE ROCKIES

The scenic beauty of the mountains and their natural wonders (including fossils) were at the forefront of a burgeoning tourist industry.

Promotional booklet produced by CPR to promote tourism in the Canadian Rockies, 1910.
Promotional booklet produced by CPR to promote tourism in the Canadian Rockies, 1910.
© CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY ARCHIVES

In a 1910 promotional booklet entitled The Challenge of the Mountains, the CPR specifically listed the trilobite fossils as a tourist destination near Mount Stephen:

“The lower slopes of the mountain have one spot well worth visiting, the fossil bed, where for 150 yards the side of the mountain, for a height of 300 or 400 feet, has slid forward and broken into a number of shaly, shelving limestone slabs, exposing innumerable fossils.”

Man possibly looking for fossils, Field, British Columbia, 1900.
© WHYTE MUSEUM OF THE ROCKIES

One of the first tourists to the area was Mary Vaux of Philadelphia (who latter married Charles Walcott). Vaux was a prominent artist and naturalist who took many photographs in the Canadian Rockies.

You can share her experience of the Rockies in the Picture Journal relating her story.