You might wonder how a tree – and a dead one at that – can be a heritage attraction. Well for starters, the tree is a Limber Pine that lived for over 300 years (perhaps 700 years, some experts say) before it died around 1978. It stands like a sentinel at the east portal of the Crowsnest Pass, atop a low stony ridge right at the edge of Highway 3 near the site of the former town of Burmis, about 10 kilometres east of the Frank Slide.
The Burmis Tree was already hundreds of years old when the Davenport Coal Company started operations in 1910, and the village of Burmis sprang up with its NWMP police post, pool hall, school, church and a few businesses. The mine only operated until 1914 and then Burmis quickly declined, only to be briefly rejuvenated by the Burmis Lumber Company operations between 1933 and 1956.
The town of Burmis is no more, only a few houses and recreational properties remain. But every year thousands of tourists stop at the highway pulloff there, to look at the Burmis Tree and to read the interpretive panel. It is said that the Burmis Tree is the most photographed tree in Canada, and it is also the subject of many paintings, poems and other artistic expressions. It is beautiful, in it’s own rugged, windswept way. It is a perfect symbol for the Crowsnest Pass, an image of tough survival against all odds – typical, it seems, of everything and everyone here in the Pass.