After my last post I had only one day left to spend in Jasper National Park. One day, and I intended to make the most of it. With the sun shining brightly once again I set out for what many would consider the Pièce de résistance of the park, Maligne Lake. As always the drive alone was spectacular. From the town of Jasper it’s roughly thirty miles but it took me nearly two hours to get there. I’ve confessed to my gluttony many times on this blog. I just can’t get my fill of nature. It humbles me and inspires me at the same time. The gluttony comes in my inability to leave it behind, instead I have to capture it all!! The good news is I’m not a hoarder! This beauty is meant to be shared!
The route out Maligne Lake Road took me past Medicine Lake which seemed suspiciously low to me so early in the season. (June) Looking to satisfy my curiosity I turned to my friends at Wikipedia and found the answer…
“Medicine Lake is a geologic anomaly in the sense that it is not actually a lake but rather an area in which the Maligne River (flowing from Maligne Lake into the Athabasca River) backs up and suddenly disappears underground. During the summer months during intensified meltwater runoff the lake (which during the winter months is a meandering frozen river) fills to levels which fluctuate over time and with the runoff events. Much like a bathtub that is filled too fast for it to drain, it becomes laden with water (lake) until it can slowly drain as the tap flow (runoff) is reduced (river). The underground system is extensive and during the 1970s researchers used a biodegradable dye to determine the underground river’s extent. The dye showed up in many of the lakes and rivers in the area to the point where it became clear that the underground system was one of the most extensive in the world.”
As I rounded the bend in the image above I saw two black dots on the far shore. Was I about to get my bear fix for the day I wondered?? Sure enough! I sat on the hill and observed these two for some time before continuing on.
Maligne Lake was every bit as spectacular as it is claimed to be, with it’s crystal clear emerald colored water that I’ve come to expect here, and backed by yet another stunning mountain range. And, like a special lake of my childhood… Spirit Lake (Mount St Helens), which no longer exists in the form it once did… the only way around it is by foot or by boat. And the only power boats I saw were those run by the Spirit Island Cruise company, leaving the lake and wilderness surrounding it pristine.
I opted to take the boat cruise to Spirit Island, as opposed to hiking or kayaking, knowing I’d see much more in the limited time I had. If you don’t have days to spend this cruise is an absolute must! The dramatic sensation you get as you draw closer to the Maligne Range at the far end of the lake is almost indescribable. The mountains seem to open themselves up to you and then engulf you in their magnificence.
The cruise stops briefly on Spirit Island giving everyone an opportunity to get out and stroll around for a bit. From the island I absorbed (and photographed) one of the most remarkable vistas I have ever seen. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said to myself (or complete strangers standing near me), “Wow! Can it possibly get any better than this?!” Those thoughts certainly rolled off my tongue while standing there!
A man by the name of Curly Philips first came to this lake in 1911, and wrote in his diary, “Maligne Lake has no equal that I have ever seen.” He operated a backcountry camp on these shores for many years, and his 1928 historic boathouse still remains. It’s actually one of the few existing structures of its vintage still standing in Alberta, and is provincially registered as a historic site. Visitors can rent kayaks and canoes there for a day paddle, or overnight for some backcountry shore camping!!
Before leaving I did a short hike to Moose Lake, and in hopes of spotting my first Canadian moose I blazed a trail part way around the lake as well. All the moose this lake was named for must have taken the afternoon off, because I didn’t see any sign of them.
OK, so I’m going to say it again… Jasper National Park was nothing short of amazing to me. I’ve been asked countless times since embarking on my journey what my favorite places were, and I can say without doubt that Jasper is right at the top of the list. As you’ve seen by my previous posts it is spectacularly beautiful, and filled with a wide variety and abundance of wildlife. I will make my way back no doubt, and significantly more time at Maligne Lake will be a priority!
The following morning I crossed back into British Columbia to continue my 5,000 mile trek through Canada. The beauty doesn’t end here, so be sure to come back for more!!
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