The Paint Pots and the associated ochre beds in Kootenay National Park form an area of unusual physical and chemical activity and have a history of use by both Aboriginal groups and Europeans.
First Nation people collected ochre here for important ceremonies and for trade. The yellow ochre was cleaned, kneaded with water into walnut sized balls, then flattened into cakes and baked. The red powder was mixed with fish oil or animal grease to paint their bodies, tipis, clothing or pictures on the rocks.
In the early 1900s the ochre beds were recognized as being of commercial importance and were actively mined. The ochre was dug by hand, sacked and hauled by horse-drawn wagons to Castle Mountain, 24 kilometres away. It was then shipped by train to Calgary to be used as a pigment base for paint.
Mineral claims still existed when Kootenay National Park was established in 1920, but they were gradually phased out due to a growing awareness by the Parks Branch that mining activities were incompatible with the role of parks as scenic areas and protected landscapes.
It was raining when we visited, with the boardwalk path flooded in places. Made my boots an interesting colour.