Are Banff and Lake Louise the only resort towns in Banff National Park?
Well, yes, at least above water.
A recent Lake Minnewanka Cruise by Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection shared the story of a long-submerged town and many other juicy tidbits about the history and nature of the largest lake in Banff National Park.
To get there from downtown Banff, we headed north on Banff Avenue, before continuing onto Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive, and in 10 minutes we were on the shores of beautiful Lake Minnewanka.
With the sun shining, the turquoise water was still as glass, reflecting the majestic mountains towering around it.
Greeted by guides Melissa and Mackenzie, we boarded the covered boat for our one-hour cruise exploring this glacial lake – 21 kilometres (13 miles) long and 142 metres (466 feet) deep.
Home to the Stoney Nakoda people for many generations, who called it “Minn-waki” or “Lake of the Spirits,” we heard how the glacier-fed water was said to have healing powers, and that Indigenous people learned from animals how to use the trembling aspens that surround the lake for medicine.
Slowing the boat in the middle of the lake, Mackenzie pointed out Gerard Falls, which is absorbed by the limestone cliff before it reaches the water and instead feeds the lake through underground springs, and that the lake’s waters teem with a million trout.
Our captain then stopped the boat, turned off the engines and asked us all to spend a minute in silence.
As the boat turned and headed back to the dock, Mackenzie shared that we were now floating above an 1890s resort town called Minnewanka Landing – a town fully submerged after a dam built in 1941 raised the lake 30 metres.
The bustling lakeside resort town drew wealthy vacationers from nearby Calgary for many years, growing to include hotels, restaurants, numerous cottages – all of which are almost perfectly preserved by the water that averages only 2°C.
Despite the lake’s frigid temperature, it’s a hot-spot for divers who explore the underwater ghost town.
The dam stands today at the end of the lake, and supplies power for the entire town of Banff.
If you go:
- Cruises run though Oct. 9 – book your tickets online here. Alberta residents save up to 20 per cent, and kids 5 and younger ride free.
- Show your tour ticket to the Route 6 bus driver of the Bow Valley’s Roam Public Transit service from downtown Banff to Lake Minnewanka and get a free return ride on the day of your cruise.
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