History

Twin Falls Chalet is a privately operated backcountry lodge, which has been operated by Fran Drummond since 1962; she has owned the operating rights since 1968. The lower building was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1908. The construction of the two-storey main lodge was completed by the CPR in 1923 and first opened for business the following year as a Tea House.


The Tea House was operated by the CPR on a leasehold basis through the 1920s, '30s and '40s. In 1953 it was closed, as the rail tourism business declined in favour of automobile-borne tourism. In 1954 the Tea House and other CPR properties were sold to Brewster and Ford Mountain Lodges Ltd., who reopened the Tea House in 1959.


In 1969, when the National Parks services started closing down and tearing down backcountry shelters and warden cabins, they proposed the demolition of the Tea House, citing poor repair and the absence of utilities. This prompted Fran Drummond to start a long but victorious battle with the Canadian Government. Now, Twin Falls Chalet is a national historical site known as “Twin Falls Tea House National Historic Site of Canada”; dedicating plaques were installed by Parks Canada at the site in 2006.


Most of the hiking trails in the area were constructed by the CPR and it’s Swiss Guides in the early 1900’s. As well, many of the mountains, lakes and streams bear the name of CPR officials: Marpole Lake1, Mount Kerr2, Lake Duchesnay3. In 1906, the Alpine Club of Canada named two mountains in the area the “President” (after Thomas Shaughnessy) and the “Vice-President” (after David McNicoll).  CPR can also take some credit for the founding of Yoho Park. In 1901, then Secretary of the CPR Charles Drinkwater suggested that the Yoho Valley be made a national park to expand the recently created Mt. Stephen Park Reserve. By 1911, fourteen of the twenty park’s hiking trail had been built by the CPR, including the Yoho Valley Trail in 1901, leading to Twin Falls.


Yoho National Park was originally established in 1886, first comprised of 26 km² in the area of the Burgess Shale; it was enlarged several times and now totals 1,313 km². The Park lies entirely within the Province of British Columbia; the Continental Divide and Banff National Park form its eastern boundary.


From Twin Falls Chalet and its surroundings, visitors can admire the double cascading effect of Twin Falls. Twin Falls Creek is forced in two by a large block, and then shot over a massive cathedral Limestone cliff, plunging 180 meters before cascading down a narrow gorge (one could argue that the cascades below the main plunge should be included in the overall height of the falls, thus adding another 20-30 metres to the total height of the falls). There are recorded accounts of trail workers employed by the CPR using dynamite in 1924 in an (unsuccessful) attempt to make the two falls equal in volume. The south fall is usually of lower volume because of a sharp bend in the creek above the falls where debris impede the flow.


Twin Falls Chalet was featured in the 2006 PBS National documentary “Great Lodges of the Canadian Rockies” (http://www.pbs.org/opb/greatlodges/canada/). It is also featured in countless hiking, guiding and tourism books on the Canadian Rockies.


Twin Falls Chalet was visited by the King of Siam (now Thailand) in 1930.


The American painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) did a painting of the falls in 1916 and stayed at the “bungalow”: http://jssgallery.org/Paintings/10014.htm .


Canadian painter Lawren Harris (1885-1970) of the famous Group of Seven, came to paint at Twin Falls where he met his second wife, Bess Houser, who ran the lodge in 1931-1932.


Twin Falls Chalet was also visited by a President of Harvard University and by American writer Dale Carnegie.

 

1 R. Marpole 1850-1920 General Executive Assistant CPR
2 Robert Kerr 1845-1916 Passenger Traffic Manager CPR
3 E.J. Duchesnay killed in 1901 Assistant General Superintendent CPR