Black Swift

Black Swift Conservation at the Johnston Canyon Trail

What is happening?

Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park is a popular hiking trail, and is also home to nesting sites for the endangered Black Swift birds. The Black Swift population has experienced a significant reduction in recent decades. As a result, in August of 2019, the Black Swift was designated as an endangered species under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.

Johnston Canyon provides critical nesting habitat for Black Swifts, and is the only identified nesting area in Banff National Park, and one of the few in Alberta.  Parks Canada is a recognized leader in conservation and is working hard to reduce disruption to the nesting sites and conserve the Black Swift population in Banff National Park.

Johnston Canyon Trail is open for visitors to experience; however, hikers are required to stay on the official trail at all times. Off-trail travel, including entering closed areas in Johnston Canyon, is strictly prohibited.

What is Parks Canada doing to protect Black Swifts?

The Johnston Canyon Trail is open for visitors to experience. In order to balance visitation in the area with the conservation of the Black Swifts, Parks Canada is taking the following actions:

  • issuing a Restricted Activity Order from May 1 – November 15, 2020 to prevent off-trail access;
  • increasing signage and markers on the trail and at the trail head reminding visitors to stay on trail;
  • increasing monitoring in the closed area;
  • installing cable fencing along the main trail to show visitors where they can go;
  • and increasing online communication and on-site staff to educate visitors.

It is important to note that although the Johnston Canyon Trail is open, the eastern section of the Bow Valley Parkway, including the Johnston Canyon Trail parking lots, remains closed to public vehicles. The closure of the Bow Valley parkway is related to Covid-19 mitigations, in particular at Johnston Canyon where Parks Canada wants to enable the opportunity for visitors to remain physically distant.

Cycling and hiking opportunities continue to be available on the roadway. Visitors are reminded to share the road with other users and to be mindful that they may encounter some vehicles permitted to enter the roadway.

Visitors need to be alert while recreating in Banff National Park including along roadways that are closed to public vehicles. This includes carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it; making noise on trails or roadways; keeping dogs on leash or leaving them at home; traveling in groups; and staying at least 100m from carnivores and 30m from elk.

How can you help?

Parks Canada asks visitors to help contribute to the conservation of the endangered Black Swifts. To protect the Black Swifts, hikers are required to stay on the official trail at Johnston Canyon at all times and respect closed areas.

Visitors are also asked to please report illegal activity in Banff National Park by calling Banff Emergency Dispatch at 403.762.1470.

By the office of the Superintendent, Banff