Jasper National Park (established in 1907, size 10 878 km2) rests amid the unforgettable splendour of the Rocky Mountains. It is the most northerly of the 4 adjoining mountain parks (see Banff National Park, Kootenay National Park, Yoho National Park). Snow-capped peaks, mineral springs and glacier-fed lakes and rivers attract some 3 million visitors each year.
The combined forces of wind, water and glacial ice have carved Jasper's U-shaped valleys, which sweep upwards to mountain peaks as high as 3747 m (Mount Columbia). The resulting landscape supports a rich blend of alpine meadows, subalpine forests and montane vegetation. On its course, the Maligne River runs underground after draining Medicine Lake and resurfaces near Maligne Canyon. This section of 16 km makes the Maligne one of the world's longest sinking rivers and promises still larger cave systems waiting to be discovered (see also Karst Landform).
Wildlife is a main attraction in the park. Many species can be seen along park roads, including moose, elk, mule deer, black bear, coyote and bighorn sheep. Grizzly bears roam the back country. The highest ledges are inhabited by mountain goats, golden eagles, ptarmigan and ravens.
The park's history is rich with the adventure of the fur trade and of exploration for a route to the West Coast, including David Thompson's 1811 discovery of the Athabasca Pass and Jasper Hawes's establishment of a trading post near the present town of Jasper. The Icefield Parkway provides direct access to some of the most outstanding scenery found on the planet, including the Columbia Icefield. In 2011, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada designated Jasper as a dark sky preserve, making it the largest such reserve in the world.