Friday, August 1, 2014

Lake Louise, Banff

Lake Louise is located about 5km west of the hamlet of Lake Louise, itself about 40 minutes NW of Banff. The small lake is glacier-fed and has a lovely blue-green colour as a result.

Access to the lake requires a carry of about 500 feet from the parking lot (more if you get there late and end up in the overflow parking) up a gentle slope. Your best bet, if you bring your own, it to launch off the rocks in front of the people below. The water is very cold!

You can also rent canoes from hotel's docks, which is what we did this trip.

There is a hiking trail along the NW edge of the lake and two tea houses you can visit.

The lake is narrow about you can get to the other end in about 15 minutes of paddling. There is no real reason to hurry as the views are stunning.

The setting is so lovely, it is hard to take  bad picture here.

At the far end of the lake there is a small stream which feeds the lake. We ground out in our efforts to paddle up it but you might have better luck in a kayak.

Below, looking back down the lake, you can see the Chateau Lake Louise. There is a creek by the hotel that is the main outflow but it is not navigable.

This is a short paddle and might be nicely paired with a paddle on nearby Moraine Lake (which was on the back of the old $20 bill). Moraine Lake is often overrun with tourists and I have yet to visit (generally we get turned back due to lack of parking). I believe there are also canoe rental available at Moraine Lake lodge and, if I arrived in the area early in the day, I would start at Moraine and do Louise later.

Vermilion Lakes, Banff

The Vermilion Lakes are located due west of the town of Banff and can be accessed from the townsite (via Forty-Mile Creek) or directly from the Vermilion Lakes Road. Oddly, Forty-Mile Creek is listed as Echo Creek on the google map below.

The Banff Canoe Club rents both kayaks and canoes. We launched from their beach which gives access to both the Bow River and 40-Mile Creek. 

The first lake is located about a 15-minute paddle up 40-Mile Creek, which includes passing under a train bridge and navigating some deadfall.

The first lake is a pleasant paddle with a roundtrip of about an hour. Access to the other two lakes is via another creek (along the north side of the lake paralleling the road--hard to see from the water). Doing the second two lakes would add about another hour to your trip.

The scenery is spectacular, although the lakes are shallow. The furtherest lake has a natural hot spring. We saw an Osprey catch a fish and paddled past a family of nearly mature Canada Geese feeding on the weeds.

You can see the dock you can launch directly into the lake from in the picture below. The cut in the bank above is the TransCanada Highway.

The return down Forty-Mile creek is a bit more fun as you have the help of the current. Some of the turns are tight (as evidenced by the many bow prints on the muddy banks!).

 The creek was fairly busy the day were were there and lovely photos abound.

Overall, a nice paddle suitable for first timers with limited endurance and skill.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sturgeon River and Big Lake, St Albert

A spring bike ride took us along the banks of the Sturgeon River in St Albert this weekend. The trail leads west out of town to Big Lake. On our way back, we noticed the river was high enough that the boat launch was actually feasible. I've wanted to canoe the Sturgeon for awhile.

We decided to take advantage of the spring water and hauled the canoe back there today. The boat launch is on the north side of the river, accessible off Mission Avenue. There is a public parking lot right there so the carry is less than 100 feet. The place was hopping with a dozen kayaks and two canoes on the river.

The water was high so the river was navigable down to at least Boudreau Road. We decided to go upstream towards Big Lake to check out the old trestle bridge and the wildlife.

We had a lovely paddle with lots of waterfowl and red-winged black birds. Paddling through a downtown with people on the trails and playing guitar up in the trees (local colour, as my dad would say) was a very different and enjoyable experience. Past the bridges the traffic thinned out some.

We saw at least seven muskrats out, including a pair playing. The best shot I could get (while steering) was this one (the brown smudge in the centre is the muskrat). Jess got very close to a pair of them (maybe four feet).

Overall, a lovely hour on the river. Nothing too challenging except staying in a channel deep enough to get a paddle in. The Sturgeon is much more suited to kayaks.