The Purcells are generally 300 to 600 m lower than the Rockies with the higher heights in the centre of the range. The highest peaks are Mount Farnham (3481 m), Mount Jumbo (3429 m), Howser Spire and Mount Delphine (both at 3399 m).
The Purcells are generally 300 to 600 m lower than the Rockies with the higher heights in the centre of the range. The highest peaks are Mount Farnham (3481 m), Mount Jumbo (3429 m), Howser Spire and Mount Delphine (both at 3399 m). Summit heights gradually diminish to the south where they become rounded and forested. A subrange of the COLUMBIA MOUNTAINS, its mountains are composed mainly of SEDIMENTARY rocks, including argillites, sandstones and limestones dating to almost 1.5 billion years old. Of great interest to mountain climbers are the numerous granitic intrusions, such as the Bugaboos and the Leaning Towers.
The Kootenay River and its tributaries (spelled Kootenai in the US; 780 kilometres long) drain the mountain range. Within Canada, the river's westward flowing tributaries have short, steep courses whereas its eastward flowing have longer and more gradual gradients. In the United States, the Kootenai flows around the southern edge of the mountains before heading in a northwesterly course to Kootenay Lake.
The region is the homeland of the Ktunaxa. David THOMPSON established the short-lived Kootenae House near present-day Invermere in 1807 to trade with them. The PALLISER EXPEDITION explored the area in 1859 and Dr James Hector named the mountains for Dr Goodwin Purcell who served on the expedition's selection committee. The first European settlement in the region, FORT STEELE, was built in 1864 during the Wild Horse Creek gold rush. KIMBERLEY was founded after the world's largest lead and zinc mine was claimed in 1892. After a branch line of the Canadian Pacific Railway was built through the Crowsnest Pass, CRANBROOK with its sawmills and pulp mill grew to become the largest community. CRESTON is a railway and agricultural centre. INVERMERE is known for its recreational activities.
The Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park covers many of the headwaters of the rivers draining the central Purcells. St Mary's Alpine, Kianuko and Bugaboos are Class A provincial parks.