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.