Tourism Jasper welcomed the launch of a new book aimed at revealing to locals and visitors alike things that have been right under their noses as they travel the highways in this region.
The TransCanada Ecotours Northern Rockies Highway Guide is the latest in a series of Ecotour books which originated in the early 1970s.
“These are not your normal tourist documents,” lead author Fred Pollett said during a book-launch event in Jasper on May 16.
“When people use this document, they should be able to see from the window a number of things that are in this document. And it’s that connection with what you see from the window with that information that makes people say, ‘Wow.’”
Tourism Jasper CEO Maggie Davison said she has already received “amazing feedback” from international tourism operators who got a sneak preview of it during an event in Edmonton earlier in May.
“Our biggest German operator who got the book wouldn’t give it back to me,” Davison laughed. “It was only one sample that I had and he said to me: ‘OK, where can I get more copies? Who wrote the book? Who do I talk to so that I can get this into German before the summer season starts?’ So we’ve got lots of demand and lots of buzz.”
Jasper figures prominently in the book, with one of its three chapters dedicated to the Yellowhead Highway and another chapter devoted to the Icefields Parkway.
Each chapter highlights points of interest – or “Ecopoints” – along each route, explaining the natural history and human history of the area, often with historical photographs or other illustrations.
For example, at point 2.18 on the tour, the book highlights a spot known as “The Parting of the Brigades” on the Athabasca River, just east of the Jasper townsite. As part of the fur trade in the 19th century, horseback brigades carrying mail and goods parted ways at this point, with some heading south toward Athabasca Pass and others continuing west to Yellowhead Pass.
The section also includes an illustration from the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives that depicts horse lines parting ways at this point, with Pyramid Mountain in the background. It also tells the harrowing story of the months-long, 4,200-kilometre journey the brigades would make from York Factory on Hudson Bay.
It’s things like this that Pollett hopes readers will discover through the book. He said there is an “explosion of information” all along commonly travelled highways in Canada that is just waiting to be explored, and the Ecotours series is a guide to finding it.
“There’s a lot more to this country that we are missing out on,” he said. “And it’s the nature of Canadians – we tend to underplay things.”
Apart from human history, the meticulously researched book also deals with environmental issues like wolf culls, pollution and glacial retreat, but Pollett said it is carefully written to not be political in nature.
“We don’t preach,” he said. “We don’t say this is right, this is wrong. We give you the information and let you decide.”
Paperback editions of the book are available in Jasper at Pine Bungalows, the Jasper-Yellowhead Museum and Archives, and the Friends of Jasper store at the Visitor Information Centre.
The book is published by the Foothills Research Institute, and the institute’s Adaptive Forest Management / History Program was a major partner in its creation.
More information is available at ecotour.foothillsri.ca.