Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka is a glacial lake located just outside the town of Banff in AlbertaCanada. The lake has a surface area of 22 square kilometers and a length of 21 kilometers, and an average depth of 142 meters. It is the second-longest lake in the Canadian Rockies. The lake derives its name from the Stoney word 'minni-waki', which means lake of the spirits, as it was thought to have a strong spiritual presence. For this reason, European settlers took to calling it the Devil's Lake. From the clear blue waters to the majestic mountains, Lake Minnewanka is a stunning example of Banff's impressive landscape. This scenic retreat is a perfect place to get away from urban life and enjoy the slow, peaceful pace of the Canadian wilderness, whether for a day trip or a full camping experience.

Geography Of Lake Minnewanka

A view of Mount Inglismaldie and Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
A view of Mount Inglismaldie and Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. 

The lake itself is fed by the Cascade River, which flows in from the east by way of the Cascade Mountains. Additional streams also flow into the lake from nearby Mount Inglismaldie, Mount Girouard and Mount Peechee. Two dams were built which provide hydroelectric power to the area surrounding Lake Minnewanka. The first was constructed in 1912, and the second came about in 1941. The later dam created widespread flooding of the area, including the flooding of the original dam and the resort village known as Minnewanka Landing, which had existed there since 1888. This secondary dam raised the lake's water level by 30 meters, significantly increasing its volume. The village, and much of the infrastructure there, still exists but is submerged within the lake. For this reason, Lake Minnewanka is particularly popular with scuba divers who enjoy exploring the sunken town and former underwater dam. 

Recreational Facilities In Lake Minnewanka

Canoeing on a summer day in the crystal clear waters of Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
Canoeing on a summer day in the crystal clear waters of Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. 

Aside from scuba diving, there are a variety of activities that visitors partake in when they come to the lake. Boating is popular, and boat tours are available for hire as well as canoes for self-guided experiences. Visitors can also enjoy fishing on the water with appropriate permits. Additionally, biking and hiking trails exist around the outskirts of the lake and offer scenic views of both the lake and the nearby mountain ranges. The most popular trail travels along the north shore and passes by Stewart Canyon. In the winter months, cross country skiing is one of the best ways to get around, and established sites such as the 14km Cascade Trail offer scenic winter views. Snowshoeing is also popular. Six different backcountry campsites also exist in the area for those looking to submerge themselves in the natural landscape and enjoy the wilderness. Given the right conditions, the Northern Lights can sometimes be seen dancing across the cold northern skies in the winter. 

Wildlife In Lake Minnewanka

Mountain Bighorn sheep on the shores of Lake Minnewanka, Alberta, Canada
Mountain Bighorn sheep on the shores of Lake Minnewanka, Alberta, Canada. 

The natural landscape of Lake Minnewanka is full of rocky crags, mountainous terrain, and lush forests. Large Aspen trees jut out from rocks, and the region is rich in vegetation. A large number of animals also live in and around the lake. Fish species include Lake Trout, Rocky Mountain Whitefish and Lake Whitefish, which are popular with anglers. Grazing animals include mountain-dwelling bighorn sheep and elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer. Predators include coyotes, wolves, red foxes, and bears, though the larger predators are more reclusive and not seen nearly as often. 

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