Saturday, August 25, 2018

Waterton and Linnet Lakes

We took a brief (and slightly smokey) trip to Waterton National Park a few weeks back and got a bit of paddling in. There are five lakes of note in the park, but access to Cameron Lake was closed due to last year's wildfires, so we were only able to check out four.

Upper Waterton Lake

The townsite of Waterton is adjacent to Upper Waterton Lake. The lake stretched roughly north-south for about 11km and a boat trip can take you south to the American side.

Emerald Bay (on the northwest corner of the lake) offers the easiest paddling with pea-gravel beaches around the western perimeter and shelter from the wind. There is decent parking and washrooms here. There were deer in the picnic area here.

The bay isn't big but the clear water and interesting bottom features make it fun for kids.

We had a nice time for about an hour checking out the marina, the breakwater, and the bay. The place was packed by the afternoon with boaters and swimmers (although at 4C, I thought the swimmers were brave).

There is also access to the lake all along the eastern and southern edge of the townsite. The beach isn't as nice and you must contend with the wind and the waves right away. The very south end of town (past the campsite) looks like a decent spot to launch from if you wanted to go down the lake a ways.

To the east of Emerald Bay is the narrows that separates Upper and Middle Waterton Lakes (on my map it is shown as the Bosporus). I wanted to get over here but the wind came up and I didn't want to try cutting across two-foot rollers with Jessica (who is a slow paddler). It is also possible to access the narrows from Middle Waterton Lake.

Middle Waterton Lake

Middle Waterton Lake is a smaller lake, although it is large enough to get some decent waves. The headlands that the Prince of Wales Hotel sits on offers a nice bit of shelter on the south shore of the lake.

You can access the lake from Driftwood Beach (parking lot, boat launch, picnic site, washrooms) right across from the Parks Operations Centre. This lot also gives you access to Linnet Lake (see below). You can also access the lake from a parking lot a few hundred metres further towards the park gates.

You can paddle from here around the headlands and access the narrows from the north side. We saw a bear and two cubs swimming in the narrows while we were there.

Lower Waterton Lake

Lower Watertown Lake is the closest lake to the park gates. It connects to Middle Waterton Lake through a small creek called (rather dramatically) The Dardanelles. We did not try this connection.

The best access is at the northern tip of the lake at the Knight picnic site. A very short carry from the parking lot to the rocky shore gets you on the lake.

The lake also connects at the north end to Maskinoge Lake and, via a river, onto the Waterton Reservoir (we did not paddle either of these lakes).

Linnet Lake

The last lake we looked at in the park is tiny Linnet Lake, located just north of the Prince of Wales hotel and accessed from the Driftwood Beach parking lot.

The lake is small and entirely sheltered. It would be a great paddle for kids.

The lake was, however, signed for swimmer's itch. It was also just a nice sheltered place to read a book out of the (relentless) wind.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Astotin Lake

A few weeks back we were out at Astotin Lake in Elk Island National Park for a bit of camping and paddling. The weather was amazing (+30).

The best news was that the main beach had been cleaned up and was lovely to launch from. The water level looked higher than in recent years and the canoe, kayak, and paddle board rental place was doing a booming business (30+ boats on the water at all times).

There were even people swimming the lake. I've never seen this, although photos from the 1960s and 1970s suggest it was once a big thing. The boat launch to the north of the beach was also in good shape and there were also folks launching from here.

Some smoke started to roll in by the time we got on the water but the kayaking was great. Lots of wildlife.

We staying the campground and, having booked in the spring, manage to snag one of these tent cabins.

The site included a screened in picnic table, fire pit and four adirondack chairs (out of frame to right). The tent was nice and even had a heater (unnecessary for us!).

The boardwalk around the pond has been replaced and there was lots of wildlife to see..

The smoke also made for interesting visual effects, including very red-orange sunsets and sun-rises

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Whitney Lake and Ross Lake

We took a trip out to Whitney Lakes Provincial Park this month. Whitney Lakes has four lakes in the Park (Laurier, Borden, Ross and Whitney) and is about three hours east of Edmonton. Basically east until just after Vermilion and then north for an hour. The roads were awesome with new pavement--an easy drive.

We had time to try two lakes and the online reviews suggested we look at Ross and Whitney Lakes. We started at Ross Lake (bottom right in map above). It has a provincial campground on the south side of the lake with very private camp sites and nice amenities, including large showers. On the west side of the campground, there is a boat launch with ample parking and an outhouse.

Since the lake was also rated as highly swimmable, we went looking for beaches and found two. The first (below) is north of the shower complex along a 300m trail. A bit of a haul for boats but a nice walk and a super secluded beach. We had a lovely swim here with a sandy bottom and shade (it was +30 by noon).

Around the east edge of the lake (in the loop that has campsites 78-102), is a second beach. This has good parking and is a short, 100 foot walk to the beach. There are toilets, play equipment, a swim area and a lovely beach.

We then went to Whitney Lake (bottom left in map above). The entrance is not all that well signed. The campground is not great--big open space with no shade and no privacy. The beach is about 75 feet from the parking lot and is lovely.

It is a big beach with lots of room. There is easy beach launching, a shallow grade, and a marked swimming area. Just to the NE there is a boat launch. There were more motor boats on this lake (bigger than Ross Lake).

The swimming was also nice (+35C by the time we got here). Although nice, I'd rate Ross Lake nicer. The campground was way better, the lake was quieter and more interesting from a birding and paddling perspectives. And the water seemed a bit cleaner to me (although both were lovely).

I'd go back if only to try Laurier Lake (couldn't figure access to Borden Lake from the maps). The distance from Edmonton suggests camping is likely necessary (nearest big centres are St. Paul or Lloydminister if you wanted to hotel it).