Lake Minnewanka – Canada
Wanting to give our weary legs a little rest from consecutive days of skiing, Clara and I decided to drive to Lake Minnewanka, a glacial lake located in the eastern part of Banff National Park.
Lake Minnewanka (‘wanka’ pronounced ‘wonka’), is a large curved body of water that rests at the base of the Palliser Mountain Range. It is 28 kilometres long and 142 metres deep, making in the largest lake within the Banff National Park region of the Canadian Rockies.
Having seen a lot of travel brochures with the lake splashed across their pages, I couldn’t wait to see this stunning part of the world with my own eyes.
Clara and I didn’t have to drive for very long before were shrouded by magnificent scenery. Through the window ‘I spied’ dense coniferous forests, a huge frozen lake and a collection of jagged mountain peaks, where several streams if not iced over, trickled cautiously down into the lake.
As we drove further along the road Clara and I noticed a group of people hovering near what looked like a marquee on the ice. We wondered, ‘what could they be doing?’
Our questions were soon answered when up ahead we saw a man walking back to his car in a wetsuit. Clara and I turned to each other and said “surely not”. To our dismay this man and the group of people he was with had been ‘ice diving’. A hugely popular winter recreation as it turned out.
The man having seen both our expressions of, ‘is this guy for real’, assured us that the water temperature was in fact warmer than the outside temperature. Let me remind you that the outside temperature was sub zero!
When we asked him ‘why he would be doing such a thing’, he said enthusiastically that Lake Minnewanka’s scenic delights continued deep below the surface of the water. The man went on to tell us about the submerged resort village of Minnewanka Landing that lay buried beneath the ice. The submersion was the result of a power dam that was built to supply the town with hydro-electric power in the mid 20th century, which raised the lake by 30 metres and in doing so completely submerged the resort village.
Bewildered by this new information Clara and I drove on a little further, parked the car and made our way along the western shore of the frozen lake. We followed a snowy trail through thick, forested woods till eventually we came to a lookout on the rocky banks of the lake.
Immediately, I was struck by the peaceful beauty of our surrounds; valleys of pristine woodland, jagged snow-covered peaks and a glistening pebbled shoreline backed by a brilliant blue sky. And with a huge amount of snow at our feet, we stood and gazed, amazed by it all.
Walking on a little further I became aware that the area in which we found ourselves was almost completely deserted. Apart from a handful of other walkers who like us braved the icy conditions, Clara and I for the most part had the trail and lookout practically to ourselves. I shouldn’t of been so surprised really, it was the middle of winter after all.
In the summer months however, the hiking and mountain biking trails are dotted with people as are the designated picnic areas. Trout fishermen line the beaches and charted boats operate tours on the lake. While those seeking a chance a to glimpse wildlife watch for bears, deer, mountain goats and bighorn sheep.
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