Easy Exploration--A screenshot of the Kootenay Driving App for iPhones. (Parks Canada)

Easy Exploration–A screenshot of the Kootenay Driving App for iPhones. (Parks Canada)

Parks Canada is continuing to improve its visitor services with a new, innovative and educational app helping people travelling through Kootenay National Park uncover some of the best-kept secrets from the comfort of their vehicles.

Parks Canada Explora Kootenay, as Parks Canada has called it, is the first app of its kind that allows people driving through the park to take a behind-the-scenes audio tour as told by staff. This audio app is part of the already existing series of Parks Canada Explora apps, which are available in 28 different locations, allowing people to take self-guided tours of national historic sites and parks so they can experience the history, sights and sounds at their own pace.

Established in 1920, Kootenay National Park was originally thought of as a driving tour park, said public relations and communications officer Tania Peters.

We really wanted to do something that would pay homage to the history of Kootenay, she said. We also wanted to provide a new way for people to experience Kootenay National Park and learn something new about the park that theyve visited a number of times or if theyre coming for the first time, getting an in-depth experience.

Notably, downloading this app is one of the only ways to go on a guided tour through the Park without having to pay a fee. If visitors plan to pull over, however, they are still required to acquire a park pass beforehand.

Ms. Peters said they have been working on unveiling the app for several years now, but needed to wait until staff from the park were able to compile the right storyline for the tour for people to experience. With the exception of technical assistance, park staff produced the entire app.

Given that there is little to no cell phone service within the parks boundaries, its recommended that visitors download the app on their cell phone from either iTunes (for iPhones) or Google Play (for Android users) before driving through the park. Once the app is turned on prior to entering the park, it will use the vehicles GPS co-ordinates to take visitors through various parts of the park while detailing some of the more notable areas to stop and see landmarks.

Being the first app of its kind, Parks Canada is looking for input from users on how to improve the app and make it more user-friendly.

I think what were hoping to see is some uptake and, depending on peoples experiences, to continue working with people as well so that we can continue to update it and make sure its working well, Ms. Peters said.

She also encourages anyone looking to use the app to check Drive BC prior to travelling to ensure there are no road closures due to construction in the park.