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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 177: Kicking Horse Pass

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During the Palliser expedition of the 1850s, the explorers discovered and mapped twelve passes through the Rocky Mountains, south of the Athabasca Pass.

Among the many features that owe their names to the Palliser expedition is the Kicking Horse Pass.

According to historian Merrily Aubrey, the odd name relates to an incident that occurred on one of the many side trips taken by a member of Palliser's crew.

Dr. James Hector, the geologist and surgeon of the Palliser Expedition, had a run-in with his horse. As the story is related, it was during the exploration, one of the packhorses attempted to dodge falling timber and he plunged into a nearby stream.

While the men of the expedition attempted to rescue this animal from the water, Hector's horse had wandered off.

Hector chased after his runaway horse, but in the course of the pursuit, he was kicked in the chest and winded.

Fortunately, Hector wasn't hurt too badly, and, along with his men, he viewed the incident as one of those humorous misadventures that come with exploring unknown lands.

The group named the river where they rescued the horse, Kicking Horse. And, since the river flows from a nearby pass, that's how the Kicking Horse Pass got its name.

It gained importance when first the Canadian Pacific Railway laid track through the pass. And, today, it lies on the route of the Trans-Canada Highway.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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