Painting the Picture of Kootenay

It is I, your humble BIObuser, Martin, come to enthral and enlighten you of our glorious trip to British Columbia. So to continue our conversation about stars last week, this week I took the most amaz-… wait, you don’t want to hear about stars again do you? No I didn’t think so. Really, two blogs in a row about stars? I must have been daft! But to be fair they were pretty cool photos and I was pretty excited about it in Glacier… I didn’t even talk that much about Glacier… surely my co-BIObusers talked about it. Anyways, this week we are in Kootenay National Park and I took the best star… got you! Ok, for real this time.

The ochre beds
The ochre beds

This week on our BIObus adventure in British Columbia we stayed in Kootenay National Park. It’s definitely has some history to it and I’m pretty sure my fellow BIObusers will enlighten you on some of these topics but I’ll write about something I had not even known existed until I stepped foot on a trail path. We planned to head down a trail called Paint Pots to collect insects along the trail. I had no idea why the trail was called Paint Pots and I was pleasantly surprised. The trail wound through ochre beds, ochre is essentially iron rich mud and is a deep orange colour. The iron comes from cold mineral springs in a mountain but before it reaches the ochre beds it first passes through the Paint Pots. I wasn’t really sure what I expected the Paint Pots to be but I was very intrigued by them. As I said, the water that comes from the mineral spring is heavily laced with iron and so as the water pools in certain areas the iron molecules react with oxygen to make iron oxide, or, rust. Eventually the iron oxide builds up around these pools making the Paint Pots deeper, all the while more water is depositing more iron oxide on the edge of the pool.

One of the three Paint Pots
One of the three Paint Pots

The Native Ktunaxa tribes used to use the ochre as a red paint base; the ochre was dug by hand, rolled in to small patties and baked. The baked patties were made in to powder and used as red paint to paint their skins, leather, tipis, or to paint pictures on rocks. At the start of the 20th century the ochre was recognised as being commercially profitable. The ochre was hand dug and carted by horse to the Canadian Pacific Railway line near Castle Mountain 24 kilometers away, the ochre was then sent to Calgary. In Calgary ochre was processed and the red pigment of the ochre was used as a pigment in paint. When the National Park took over the land some mineral claims still existed but were eventually phased out as being incompatible with the aims of the park.

Standing on the edge of a Paint Pot, the edge is hard as stone
Standing on the edge of a Paint Pot, the edge is hard as stone

-Martin

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