The Marble Canyon hike is a unique trail that is ideal for families and people of all ages. What gives this hike its uniqueness is the interpretative geological signs along the trail which provide descriptions of how the canyon was carved out over time. The falls you see at the end of the interpretative hike are part of Tokumm Creek as it pushes its way through the narrow gorge and cascades down into the canyon.
The signs that you see along the way explain how and why erosion occurs, how the canyon was carved out by glaciers and as well as some educational facts on how mountains came to be. Marble Canyon is one of the most colorful canyons in Kootenay National Park with its green dwelling cliff plants, grey limestone and glacial meltwater that is a spectacular, icy blue. The narrow gorge that the bridges take you over, gives you a better view of how Tokumm Creek has slowly cut and carved its way through the limestone over thousands of years, almost in a snake like manner. Although it is tempting to lean over to get a better view of the intricacy and depth of the canyon, please ensure you do not slip; the fall would not be worth seeing the canyon from bottom up in the icy waters!
Typical Geological Material found in and under Kootenay National Park
There are 3 basic types of geological material that underlie Kootenay National Park, predominantly East Kootenay: Modern Sediment, Rocks, and Ice Age Sediment.
Modern Sediment predominantly consists of river deposits of gravel, mud and are deposited on beaches, river plains and river bars. The deposition of these river deposits happened (and will continue to happen) as the Kootenay and Vermillion Rivers, amongst others, have flown through the park they have eroded the valleys into rocks and ice age sediments creating the unique landscapes that serve the area now.
Rocks, the biggest and most in your face geological material, is quite evident throughout the Kootenay National Park. They are visible in the rock cut outs as you drive along the highway and make up the parks wondrous rocky cliffs, rocky canyons and of course are exposed on the mountain peaks. The main rocks which are found in the area consist of granite, gneiss, dolostone, metamorphic altered shale, sandstone and volcanic rock and limestone, which is the predominant rock found through Marble Canyon. These rocks are from the Earth's crust (which would explain some of the rocks in their metamorphic state) and underlie the whole province of British Columbia.
Much of the rocks on the valley floors are covered by a thick blanket of Ice Age sediment (thinner layer of Ice Age sediment on the mountain tops). These sediments are deposits from over 10 000 years ago during the Ice Ages when Canada was encompassed by continental glaciers (much like that ones visible in Antarctica today) and are composed of till (glacial debris).
The surrounding area of Marble Canyon is also predominantly made up of burnt trees because of a blazing fire that swept through the area in 2003. During the fire that raged for a month, Marble Canyon and all the bridges and railings along the trail, were nearly almost all destroyed. Over 170 square kilometers of forest was burnt in Kootenay National Park; unbelievably that makes up 12% of the total park area taken by that one fire! The bridges you walk across now and the railings you peer over, took 4 years of hard work to rebuild after the fire.
One thing to note is that this hike CAN be done in winter and the canyon itself IS gorgeous, but be very careful of where you are walking. The couple times we have been to Marble Canyon in winter, the snow was up the top of the chain link fencing and for the most part, completely hiding it. If you are not cautions you can quickly and very easily end up on the wrong side of the chain link fence.
Marble Canyon Trip Log
The trail starts off in the signed Marble Canyon parking lot. Picnic tables are also available for those wanting to sit and snack while traveling the 93. The trail itself is hard packed. Shortly after starting you have the option of descending a small set of stairs to the meeting of the Vermillion River and Tokumm Creek. An interpretive sign also helps to start your journey back in time to what used to be the falls.
Upon going back on the trail, it is wide enough to be able to walk side by side comfortably. The distance between yourself and Tokumm Creek below starts to grow as you gradually gain elevation.
The trail itself offers a couple ways to complete, bridges criss-cross the canyon and a wide path heads up each side of the canyon. Chain link fencing help keep the little ones from wandering to close to the edge while the bridges afford great views to the growing depth below.
Once you have almost reached the falls, Tokumm Creek sits about forty meters below you, all thanks to the immense power of erosion.
Reaching the end of the Marble Canyon hike you are presented with the powerful falls of Tokumm Creek. Thanks to the looping trail system, you can view the falls from the side, above the falls on the bridge, or even behind the falls before the water starts to ... well ... fall. There is a fair bit of water spray at this point though which can be a welcomed feeling on a hot sunny day.
Return is the same way.
What were your experiences hiking Marble Canyon?
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