At the narrow waist of the Rocky Mountains, where Alberta, British Columbia, and Montana meet, sprawls one of the wildest, most diverse and intact ecosystems in the temperate zones of the world.
The Crown of the Continent—spanning corners of Alberta, British Columbia, and Montana—provides visitors with 73,000 square kilometres (28,000 square miles) of spellbinding scenery and a good chance to spy bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, or, with luck, the monarch of the Crown— the grizzly bear. The region includes two United Nations World Heritage sites. One, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, protects headwaters of three continental river systems, and affirms the wisdom of transcending political boundaries in the management of shared ecosystems. The second, Alberta’s Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, attests to the region’s 6,000 years of human economy derived from the diversity of the landscape and its wildlife.
In the early 1890s, conservationist and Glacier Park advocate George Bird Grinnell dubbed this transboundary region the "Crown of the Continent," highlighting the region's geographical importance as the headwaters of the continent, spilling cold, clean waters to the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Hudson Bay.
The Crown region embraces Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and the surrounding region of unbroken prairie, deep forest, plunging valleys, and jagged peaks. The Crown is defined largely by the habitat needs of wide-ranging wildlife that thrive here, such as the grizzly bear, wolverine, wolf, and bull trout. Thriving, changing gateway communities also reside here. Native people continue to occupy territory that has been their home for thousands of years, clinging to their ancestral languages and cultural traditions.
The region is bound by the Rocky Mountain Trench on the west and the prairie foothills to the east of the mountains. The southern extent includes the Blackfoot Valley where the forests, waters, and wildlife of the Bob Marshall Wilderness slide into open grasslands. To the north of the region are the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks of Banff and Kootenay.
In 2008, National Geographic Society joined together with 50 regional conservation, business and tribal organizations, local communities and government agencies to produce the Crown of the Continent Geotourism MapGuide. This unique map, based upon nominated sites, experiences, events and stories submitted by local residents, describes what's special about this place and what people are doing to keep it that way. The intended audience includes both local residents and visitors who seek to sustain and enhance the distinctive geographic character of this place.
Ultimately, however, a map printed on a single piece of paper can only go so far in telling the rich stories of this place. This web site, produced by local contributors and field experts, begins to tell the rest of the story of the Crown of the Continent.