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Unsafe catwalk leads to closure of a section of Johnston Canyon trail

The closure doesn't prevent people from accessing the upper viewpoint of the Upper Falls, the Ink Pots or the viewpoint at the Lower Falls

BANFF – The lower viewpoint to the spectacular Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon is off limits until further notice due to damage to a section of the canyon-clinging catwalks.

Parks Canada officials say a routine engineering inspection discovered that a section of catwalk located on the trail has structural damage to its footings, making it unsafe.

“It is not clear yet exactly what has caused the damage, but Parks Canada officials and engineering professionals are assessing the infrastructure,” said David Dunbar, public relations and communications officer for Banff National Park.

The closure affects the trail to the spectacular 30-metre high Upper Falls where it intersects with the catwalk that leads to the lower viewpoint of the Upper Falls.

Dunbar said the closure, however, doesn’t stop people from hiking to the upper viewpoint of the Upper Falls, the Ink Pots or the viewpoint at the Lower Falls.

“Visitors are still able to access those areas,” he said.

The federal agency understands this closure will be disappointing to some visitors as well as to local businesses that use the attraction. The upper falls are also extremely popular in winter for ice-climbers.

But Dunbar said the good news is the majority of the Johnston Canyon trail remains open and safe, noting hikers can get past the closure to go to the Ink Pots and upper viewing area for the Upper Falls.

“The closure is clearly marked and Parks Canada asks all visitors to respect the closure for their safety as officials assess the damaged infrastructure,” he said.

For now, Parks Canada has no timeline for reopening the area.

“Compliance for the closure will be monitored and we will share longer term plans once we have determined next steps,” he said.

From the trailhead at Johnston Canyon day-use area, the popular hike is 1.2 km one-way to the Lower Falls, 2.5 km one-way to the Upper Falls and 5.7 km one-way to the Ink Pots.