Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wizard Lake

Wizard Lake is located south of Calmar on Secondary Highway 795, west on Township Road 481 and then south on Range Road 271. The very long and narrow lake runs NE-SW and is a popular water-skiiing spot, particularly on the weekends.

Wizard Lake is also very canoe-able with good access and (the four times we've been there) very little wind. I'd guess the lake is over 10km long but only half a km wide.

There are several places to access Wizard lake but one of the nicest is on the east end (as per the directions above) at the Jubilee Campground. There is a very nice public beach (with concession and bathrooms) here and fairly nice swimming.

There is boat launch in the parking lot (below) here which makes for an easy entry.

There is also a boat launch (below) in the campground.

The lake is lovely, particularly in the autumn. It was known as Conjuring Lake when I was a kid and was the site of a famed nudist camp in the 1970s.

On future trips, we hope to explore it western end a bit more (perhaps by continuing down Township Road 481) which is reputed to be sandier and better for swimming. It is also subject to a speed limit which might make it friendlier to canoes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Talbot Lake, Jasper

Talbot Lake is located on the southeast side of Highway 16 just inside the Jasper Park gates.

Talbot is a fairly large lake and offers a fairly good day of paddling with very clear water. It has good pike fishing. And the 5km length of the lake means there are some interesting parts to explore.

On the other side of the highway is Jasper Lake and towards Jasper is Edna Lake. Together, these three paddle can make for a nice day.

The easiest access point is the boat launch (above), located halfway down the lake. You can also simply pull off the highway onto the grass and access it almost anywhere but that involves getting a bit wetter than at the boat launch.

There is also some good birdwatching to be had. We stopped one day to watching a bald eagle and there are plenty of waterfowl. Friends report seeing osprey.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Annette Lake, Jasper

Annette Lake is my favourite paddle in Jasper. Located just north of Lac Beauvert and south of Edith Lake, it takes about 45 minutes to paddle around the lake.

The colour of the water is spectacular on a sunny day and the beach is a nice diversion for cranky kids.

The small size of the lake mean that it is often glassy calm and you can see the undulating bottom. You'll often find scuba divers in the NW corner of the lake.

The easiest place to put in is off the main beach. There are three parking lots and you want the right-most one when you come into the park. This requires about a 40-foot carry to the water. There is also a picnic area here with washrooms visible across the field.

The beach is quite lovely and can be busy on a nice day. The brave can even swim in the lake. I've only been in once (one day when it was 34 degrees outside) and it was a good break. The water is quite shallow so you can wade out quite a ways.

Annette is very picturesque due to the colour of the lake. Here a shot (alas, not mine) of Annette on a stormy day. There is a paved path around the lake (about 2.5km) that is wheelchair accessible.

A nice day is a morning paddling at Edith Lake, lunch and the afternoon on the beach at Annette, dinner at the Jasper Park Lodge and an evening paddle on Lake Beauvert.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lac Beauvert, Jasper

Perhaps the prettiest lake in the Rockies, Lac Beauvert is a very quick paddle if you have 90 minutes to spare while in Jasper.

There is just under two miles of shoreline but the scenery is spectacular. And a drink in the Jasper Park Lodge is a nice way to end an evening on the water.

The nicest spot to put in is the docks in front of the Jasper Park Lodge. If you are not staying in the Lodge, you can drive through the resort on Whistler Way and then hang a right onto Edith Cavell Crescent to drop your canoe. But you'll need to return to visitor parking to park your vehicle. You can also rent canoes, paddle boats and transparent canoes here for around $40 an hour.

An alternate access point is across the lake at the end of Old Fort Point Road. This requires a very minor climb (three feet) down a slope to put in. I'd say this slope has slipped a bit over the past five years as it is shallower grade than it used to be.

The NW leg of the lake ends in a creek that eventually dumps into the Athabasca River. This is not navigable, but if you're careful you can paddle right up to the outflow of the creek which is cool for the kids.

There is also a good chance of seeking wildlife. Herons and waterfowl are common. And we once played a game of hide and seek with a diving otter for 20 minutes (which was likely trying to led us away from its young).

Also a common visitor are elk. These are much more fun to run into from the canoe than on foot!

You can also hike around Lac Beauvert and paddle Mildred Lake behind the Lodge.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Patricia Lake, Jasper

Located just north of the Jasper townsite on Pyramid Lake Road, Patricia Lake has an interesting history. During the second war, Patricia Lake was the site of Operation Habbakuk where a floating airfield of ice and sawdust was tested as a way to extend air cover to convoys in the North Atlantic.

The lake is about two mile long and runs mostly SW-NE. At the south-west end of the lake, there is a nice bend to the north-west. Most of the shore line looks like the picture below but the north shore towards the west end of the lake allows you to paddle close to some very steep slopes. Like most Jasper lakes, the clarity of the water is spectacular.

Guest at Patricia Lake Bungalows can access the water mid-way down the lake using this lovely dock.

There are two other good public access points. Pyramid Lake Road parallels the south-east shore of the lake for several hundred feet and there are two road-side pull outs. The second pull out (near the end of the lake) offers good parking, easy access to the water down a shallow trail and a sandy/silty bottom to launch from.

A bit further along (around the east end of the lake) there is a third pull out with the cleanest bathroom in the National Parks and a boat ramp about 60 feet from the parking lot. You can see it in the picture above where the canoes are chained up.

Weather can be a factor on Patricia. This shot is taken from approximately the same location as the one above on a foggy morning where visibility was less than 100 feet. This rapidly burned off as the morning went on.

A trip that includes both Patricia and nearby Pyramid Lake makes for a nice day of paddling. There is also a pretty hike that takes you through the Cottonwood Slough and Patricia Lakes area that runs about 5km.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pyramid Lake, Jasper

Pyramid Lake offers a very pleasant half-day of paddling in Jasper. Located about 10 minutes north of Jasper on Pyramid Lake Road, the lake has three good access points as well as a lovely island to explore. The lake is about 2 miles long and about half a mile wide.

The easiest access point is the dock in front of the Coast Pyramid Lake Resort pictured on a rainy autumn day below. There is ample public parking here and you used to be able to rent canoes, but you'll want to double check this service is still offered.

If you continue down the road past the hotel, you will come to Pyramid Island which can be accessed over the bridge pictured below. This is a very nice walk but you can also approach the island by boat.

You cannot get a boat under this bridge so you will need to go around the north side of the island to get into the bay pictured below. Mind the rocks at the northern tip of the island. If there is a strong westernly wind, it can also be tricky to return around the north side of the island once you are east of it. A short portage is likely easier than fighting a stiff wind while avoiding the rocks.

A bit further up the road is a turnabout with a boat ramp you can also launch from. The road terminates here for vehicles but you can walk or cycle further along. This point allows easier access to the eastern part of the lake and the photo below is shot from Pyramid Island. To the east there is an outlet that eventually dumps into the Athabasca.

My preferred launch point is a small park accessed on the left side of the road just before you can see the hotel and its docks. There is a boat launch here but it is nicest to go off the beach.

The beach has a nice picnic area and you can swim if you're brave or it is really hot!

This beach is on the west side of the lake and there is a small stream that enters just to the north of the beach that can be fun for kids to muck about in. The sandbar pictured above moves and changes depending on the year. We've also seen a fair bit of wildlife on the west side of the lake (elk, moose, heron). A nearby paddle is Patricia Lake and the two (interspersed by lunch) make for a nice day if the weather cooperates.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jurassic Forest

Certainly not a canoe destination, Jurassic Forest provides a back-up plan if you are north of Edmonton and it is too windy to paddle. It is also a nice half-day event, perhaps as a useful bribe to a mutinous crew. In any event, we ended up at Jurassic Forest this weekend.

The big draw is the animatronic dinosaurs which are (mostly) very life-like. There are two loops in the park (about 2km of boardwalk total) which takes you through a typical muskeg forest. Every 50 feet there is a new dinosaur which leaps to life as you walk by.

The effect is really best if there are some trees between you and the animal so you can't see how its feet are rooted to the ground. A bit better job camoflaging the bases would also have been money well spent. Along the trail there are a variety of signs. These explain both the dinosaurs and the local flora and fauna.

I was expecting to be appalled, but overall the park is nicely done. It is very stroller friendly but got a bit crowded as we approached lunch time.

The crowding created a cheek-to-jowl experience that was unpleasant but occasionally funny. One father, who was trying to get his kids excited about each dinosaur kept yelling "I see tail!" Which, in turn, made me giggle.

There are concessions on site. You can also bring your lunch and eat in the picnic area. Jurassic Forest also boasts the world's largest sandbox, which was less thrilling than is sounds.

Overall, a nice diversion on a windy day.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Telford Lake, Leduc

Last September, we took a late-season canoe trip to Telford Lake in Leduc. Leduc has several places where one could paddle, including Fred Johns Park on the west side of Highway 2 and Saunders Lake to the east of town.

We chose Telford because it was the site of the canoeing and kayaking events for the 2005 Master’s Games. It also had a fairly easy access point we could spot from the google satellite photos.

Putting In
One advantage of Telford Lake is the presence of the Leduc Boat Club with a nice pier located just north of the intersection of 44th Street and 44th Ave on the south side of the lake. This is clearly the easiest place to put in. Telford is full (and I mean full) of various critters so a beach launch is probably not desirable.

Things to Know
Telford Lake run east-west and is quit long and narrow. This means it can be rather windy, especially later in the day. This can be a good place to practice paddling in a strong wind (especially the west end which tends not to be as rough).

The west end also houses a church and a municipal board walk and park area—not a bad place to remember how to canoe in the beginning of the year. It is worthwhile checking with the Leduc Boat Club to see whether you will be sharing the lake is Dragon Boats or other events (which will restrict pier access).

The shoreline is mostly rushes so there is no easy spot to get in and out. And the lake has quite the collection of leeches and other water critters. I’ve never actually seen the bottom of the canoe covered with so many bugs—it was like paddling in a large slew. You do not want to dump in Telford!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cooking Lake and Hastings Lake

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.

Hastings 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?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Astotin Lake, Elk Island National Park

Elk Island National Park is located approximately one hour east of Edmonton on Highway 16. The park entrance is on the north side of the highway and National Park visitor fees are in effect.

Canoeing at Elk Island is restricted to Astotin Lake. Astotin is located about a 15-minute drive north of the Gate. There are several amenities all available off the main parking lot, including a campground, picnic and washroom facilities, a playground, golf course and beach. I pinched this picture (of the boat launch, I think) off of Google:

While the golf course has a restaurant, you will want to bring food and water with you. The beach area is also great for kite flying and there are numerous hiking trails throughout the park.

Putting In
The lake itself is small and the water level has dropped about two feet over the past 10 years. A boat launch is available (north of the bathrooms) but has been rendered less serviceable by declining lake levels. It is also near a swampy area and rather grotty.

We’ve taken to simply carrying the canoe the 400 feet from the parking lot to the beach (above). The dropping lake level has extended the beach somewhat. This is important because the sandy area in the water has not been extended out in the lake further. This means there is only a small zone where you can float the boat while loaded with passengers before the sandy bottom drops off precipitously.

What to See
The beach is on the SE end of the lake. Directly west of the beach is a small island (High Island). While the lake is full of islands, High Island is the nicest to get out on and explore, especially for kids--the rest are over run with ants. There are, occasionally, large animals on High Island so that is something to be mindful of.

A paddle around High Island takes you into a rock field on the west side of the island. If you can see rocks about the water, you likely cannot easily get through the water between them and the island and it is better to go around. The rocks, though, often have birds on them including pelicans.

To the south of the beach is a small cove where there is a board walk. Access has become trickier with dropping water levels and the bottom tends to come up anytime you get near land.

The north end of the lake has lots of birds but again access is tricky due to the dropping lake level. Your best bet for a long paddle is to head west. There are numerous islands to paddle around and you may surprise a bison taking a drink. Late in the year, large numbers of heron group together on an island to the west (Crane Island). You may also see swans if you are lucky.

If you are looking to make a day of it, the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is only 3km further east. This is a historic village focused on Ukrainian settlement in the area. Good perogies and a nice walk.

What to Watch Out For
The predominant wind is from the west and tends to pick up at the end of the day. This can make for a rougher paddle sometimes, although I’ve only seen waves that were too daunting to paddle in a couple of times. High Island creates some lee area.

Astotin has an enthusiastic population of leeches. In 10 years, we’ve only picked up two friends getting in and out of the boat but it does not pay to linger in the water. The lake is also prone to swimmers’ itch and an outdoor shower facility is available on the beach to wash off in.


Welcome to my very occasional blog about canoeing near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

I’m a very casual canoeist with a young family. One of the challenges of getting out in the summer has been a lack of practical information about where to canoe around Edmonton.

This blog is my contribution. Basically I’ll be chronicling places we’ve put in with tips about access, parking and services as well as the sites to see. Hopefully this will help out other recreational canoeists.

Your feedback about each location is welcomed in the comments section of each posting.

-- Bob in Edmonton