Photo: Looking west-southwest to Windsor Mountain (Castle Peak at right) from the Gladstone Valley Road
- 2558 m (8,394ft)
- Naming History
Located between Castle River and Mill Creek Valley; the mountain is the highest point on the 5 km long Windsor Ridge
Visible from Highway: Gladstone Valley Road, 6
Named for: Thomas Blakiston had originally named the mountain "Castle" in 1858. In 1915 the mountain was renamed Windsor Mountain since it was felt that the profile of the mountain resembled Windsor Castle in England
This prominent peak has a distinctive look about it compared to the other mountains in the area and there is a geological reason for this. Windsor Mountain shows up clearly on a surface geological map as an "island" of Paleozoic Rock within a large area of Pre-Cambrian. This is apparent when one looks carefully at the cliffs of Windsor Mountain and notes their colour and the layering of the cliffs which is much more similar to mountains farther north than it is to neighbouring peaks.
When viewed from the north in May and June, both of the peaks of Windsor Mountain feature a fairly wide, horizontal band of snow below the summits.
The Natives had referred to this peak as "Queen Mountain." Thomas Blakiston of the Palliser Expedition noticed the prominence of Windsor Mountain and named the feature in 1858. However he named it Castle Mountain, its fortress like appearance being obvious from the Mill Creek Viewpoint. However his colleague with the Expedition, James Hector, had also named a mountain Castle MountainCastle Peak.
An interesting parallel to this evolution of names may be found in the naming history associated with the "other" Castle Mountain. After being named Castle MountainJames Hector because of its fortress like appearance, it was renamed Mt. Eisenhower in 1946 in honour of American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during the final year of World War II. Bowing to public pressure the naming authorities officially changed the name back to Castle Mountain in 1979. However, as a compromise, a prominent feature on the mountain was given the name Eisenhower Peak.
The decision to rename Castle Mountain, Mount Eisenhower was made by Prime Minister Mackenzie-King on the day before the President was to pay a visit to Ottawa. As much as Eisenhower was respected, this arbitrary decision so enraged the Alberta government that it immediately formed its own geographical names board. But it took thirty-three years and an Albertan as Prime Minister before Castle Mountain regained its original name.
GEOLOGY OF THE SOUTHWESTERN CORNER OF ALBERTA
South of the Bow Valley the geology of the mountains remains quite consistent until about forty kilometres north of the international border. Until this point the trend of the Front Ranges and the Continental Divide has been slowly curving away from the general northwest-southeast trend of the Canadian Rockies. In fact, just north of Highway #3 both the Livingstone and High Rock Ranges trend almost exactly north-south.
About ten kilometres south of Beaver Mines a significant change in the geology of the Front Ranges occurs with very noticeable changes in the orientation of the mountain front, the erosional characteristics of the rocks, and the general "look" of the peaks. At this point the trend of the Front Ranges abruptly changes from north-south to northwest-southeast and for a distance of approximately 25 kilometres, from Syncline Mountain on the border to Prairie Bluff, the trend is essentially east-west.
North of this point Pre Cambrian Rocks are not seen at the surface in the thrust faulting which created the Front Ranges. South of Beaver Mines, the Lewis Thrust Fault, which began at Mount Kidd in the Kananaskis Valley, cuts more deeply and the Pre Cambrian rocks are brought to the surface. Throughout this area they are virtually the only rocks to be found from the initial mountain slopes to the Continental Divide, some twenty kilometres to the west. The PreCambrian rock exposed in the mountains of southwestern Alberta is said to be among the best preserved sedimentary rock of that age in the world and is well over one billion years old.
Rocks of the Precambrian age are in excess of 570 million years old and fossils found in them are of only the most primitive animals such as sponges and worms. Mountains composed of rocks of this age can be found near where the Continental Divide enters Alberta from the north, until just south of Lake Louise. From this point they do not appear again in Alberta until the area south of Beaver Mines.
These Precambrian Rocks are made up of layers of sandstones, shales, limestones, and dolomites of the Purcell Group and are more easily eroded than the hard Paleozoic limestones which form the steep cliffs of the Livingstone Range to the north. This is why this area includes a number of individual peaks whereas the Livingstone Range, particularly south of the Oldman River tends to have few isolated mountains.
Windsor Mountain is an anomaly in this area because it is made of much younger limestone of Paleozoic age.