We decided to take a drive out to Cooking Lake today. The hamlet of South Cooking Lake is located about a half hour east of Edmonton on Highway 14 (easily accessed off the SE leg of the Anthony Henday).
We’ve never been there, but various websites indicated both a boat launch and a sailing club and the Google map looks promising. We also got a couple of recommendations that it was a good place.
The Boat Launch
When we got to South Cooking Lake we drove around a bit to find the boat launch. The short route would have been to turn left at the Fire Hall Diner, then right and follow the main road to the lake. We thought the lack of signage was odd. But then we got to the lake. Or, at least where the lake used to be.
As you can see in this picture of the “boat launch” (note the cement ties where the lake used to be), the lake has dropped about three feet and receded several hundred feet. We drove down the boat launch and then out onto a rough track, hoping to get to the edge of the water and put in.
After some creative driving, we got within about 20 feet of the water (the sand started to go soft and I didn’t want to bog down).
A quick look suggested we’d need to negotiate about 10 feet of pungent and gooey mud flats to get to the edge of the water and then wade out a fair way to float. I wasn't keen to try and there was no chance I could sell that to my wife so we decided to take a pass.
The Sailing Club
We thought we might have better luck further west at the South Cooking Lake Sailing Club. This was fairly well signed but appeared abandoned when we got there. Some more checking revealed the last update to the website was in 2005 and, as we later found out, had moved their activities to nearby Hastings Lake. Another bumpy shoreline drive got us nowhere near the water and we decided to see if we could get access near North Cooking Lake.
As things turned out, we ended up moderately lost on the way to the hamlet of North Cooking Lake and stumbled across the Kawtikh campground on nearby Hastings Lake (immediately to the east of Cooking Lake). The lady at the desk said anyone could put in at their dock and off we went.
Hastings Lake is about 2km by 6km in size and has a number of smaller islands on its eastern end. It is not particularly deep but there was a fair bit of boat traffic on the southern shore, including water skiing. We had a nice paddle and saw pelicans, heron and lots of water fowl. A pleasant time but I don't think I'd go back. Check out the gun show in the picture below--guess a summer of yard work is paying off!
Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area
One place we didn’t have time to explore on this trip is just a bit further west: the Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Reaction Area. The main lake there (Islet Lake) is apparently quite lovely and I recall a trip there perhaps 10 years ago (perhaps our first time in the canoe together). A more useful map is available here. I wonder if the recommendations we got for Cooking Lake were actually for Islet Lake?