Big Wildfire in Banff National Park in Alberta



For the last 10 days or so, there has been a wildfire burning near Saskatchewan River Crossing, just west of the town of Nordegg near the boundary of Banff National Park in Alberta.

This fire started from a lightning strike around July 9th and has continued to burn for over a week now, decreasing local air quality and air quality across the province.


wildfire calgary herald

Image courtesy of the Calgary Herald.

Fire fighting crews are containing the Spreading Creek wildfire, which straddles the border to Banff National Park.  Despite keeping it outside the park, the smoke is having an extreme effect on air quality in the region, as far away as Southern Alberta and particularly for the city of Calgary, which is a 4 hour drive away.

Map of the Spreading Creek wildfire

Map of the Spreading Creek wildfire

The air quality in the province has suffered, and can be seen from the air.  At an altitude of 6000 feet within a 20 km distance to downtown, you cannot make out the downtown at all due to the hazy air.

The fire started in an area where a prescribed burn was planned, and there is no urgency to put it out.  The fire is surrounded by natural fire breaks like streams and mountains and will potentially take a very long time to burn out – possibly weeks, or even months.


smoky haze at 6000

A hazy view from 6000 feet. The mountains are not even visible from the city of Calgary due to the smoke.

What does this mean for us outdoor people? Well the decreased air quality is obviously not terribly healthy, not to mention reduced visibility. However the thick smoke cloud is also blocking heat from escaping, meaning that up high in the alpine, glaciers are not recovering with an overnight freeze. For people up on the glaciers in the high alpine, travel may be tough since the snowpack has not had the usual overnight freeze.

Wildfires are a normal part of the forest cycle and part of life out here in the mountains. To get the latest news on the wildfire including road closures visit the Parks Canada website.

wildfire at saskatchewan crossing




Alicja is an economist, enjoys climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, cycling and gets out into the backcountry as much as possible. See all of Alicja's Blog Posts