What is better than building a bridge when you can save yourself the time and trouble and have a natural one instead? Unfortunately the Natural Bridge that spans across the Kicking Horse River near Field in BC, is not stable or wide enough for cars or groups of people to go across safely, but its unique formations have created a popular attraction that brings thousands of people each year.
This Natural Bridge is located along the Emerald Lake road that leads to the pristine waters of Emerald Lake. 3 kilometers west of Field on the Highway #1 is the Emerald Lake junction where this road begins. After you find a space in the parking lot, follow the short trail to a footbridge that takes you across the Kicking Horse River to the lookout where you can see viewpoints with different vantage points of the Natural Bridge. There are also interpretive displays with information about the how the formation was formed and the physical natural processes at hand.
The valley of Field and the slower moving waters found within the valley flats, travel under the Natural Bridge, which is where the beginning of the descent of Kicking Horse takes the river down through a canyon where it will joins the Amiskwi River and the Emerald River. There is a trail that leads down to these rivers merging and it is called the ?Meeting of the Waters?. This is a popular trail for cross country bikers and skiers and the trailhead, the Kicking Horse Fire Road trailhead, begins at the lookout across the Natural Bridge.
The Kicking Horse River got its name from an unfortunate accident that occurred to James Hector, an explorer and geologist as well as doctor for the Palliser Expedition. As the expedition was exploring the area along the Beaverfoot River right as it merges with Kicking Horse, one of the horses jumped into the river after being frustrated with constantly having to walk all over the deadfall. James Hector was trying to retrieve the horse and his own horse strayed off. As he then tried to retrieve his own horse, he was kicked in the chest by the horse so hard that everyone thought he was dead. As they began to bury him, they noticed a flicker of his eyes and sure enough he had not died. The pass and the river were consequently named Kicking Horse.
The Natural Bridge has been sculpted and created by fast, rushing waters over where there once was a waterfall. Over time, the softer rocker under the hard limestone was eroded much more quickly and opened up fissures in the rock until the opening was wide enough to rush through.
Situated in what seems as the middle of nowhere, Field is a small town that recently just had a Bell cell tower placed. However it is one that still history and was of great importance when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was advancing to the west. Field was originally named as ?Third Siding? in 1883. The town was desperate and in need of investors to grow and the name was changed quickly changed to Field after a wealthy investors and businessman from Chicago, Cyrus West Field. Curiously enough, Cyrus West Field was a potential investor at the time they changed the name after him but he never gave the town any money; not a single cent!
Trains that brought in the 4.5% grade on the Big Hill went to Field to be serviced which was a service centre in the beginning. Heavy dining cars on the train were disconnected and pusher and puller engines were added. A hotel had to be built to serve as a place to dine and in 1886 the Mt Stephen House was completed. For 75 years that hotel dominated Field.
The CPR recognized the importance of bringing tourism to the area but Field was in a sort of shambles. Tents and shacks had sprung up around Field springing up whorehouses, bootlegging and gambling. The CPR soon built numerous teahouses and hotels to encourage and accommodate the wealthy visitors that came through to enjoy the beautiful scenery and for their health. The town slowly became a place for people who came to study nature, photographers, painters, writers and many others who were inspired by the view. Much of the area was previously inaccessible prior to the railway being built so Field turned into a base camp for mountaineering. The CPR brought in experienced Swiss guides for those who wanted to explore the peaks but did not have the experience needed to tackle the unknown peaks. Many came and competed with each other to see who could complete the first ascents on the tallest peaks.
Field grew rather quickly during the time of mining and logging but in 1909, an avalanche came down Mount Burgess and wiped out the residents living on the north side of the Kicking Horse River. Remaining structures were moved to the south side and you can still see the flower beds and trees planted by the first residents that were killed during the avalanche.
In the early 1900's, areas such as Emerald Lake and Yoho Valley, and Lake O'Hara became accessible with road construction. Today where the only gas station in Field stands used to be Brewster's large stable of horse and buggys to travel on the newly constructed roads. It wasn't until 1927 that the Kicking Horse Trail, the first highway, was completed and allowed vehicles to come through.
As in all history of the Rocky Mountains it is, mining was important in the area. Lead and zinc was predominantly mined and you can still find the remnants of ladders and mine openings along Mount Field and Mount Stephen. Kicking Horse Mine and Monarch Mine, in consecutive order, helped Field to flourish and grow. Monarch Mine became the largest mining operation in the park of British Columbia when an early guide by the name of Tom Wilson sold his staked claim (claimed in 1882) for $21,000. The mines operated until 1952.
Forestry was also an important industry during the late 1800's. In 1884, logging began which were used for buildings in Field and the construction of the railway. In 1915, green timber was restricted amongst other logging that would wreck the scenery and by 1930 only one patch of logging berth was left in Yoho. Logging in the park completely ceased in 1968.
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