Lake Louise, Canada
Oct. 10, 2014
by John Rich
In early October I was sent on a week-long company business trip to Calgary, Canada. Along with me was another HCC member, Charles Zipprian. The good part was that this trip included a weekend layover, which was spent in Banff and Jasper National Parks, in the Canadian Rockies. The scenery was spectacular everywhere! I haven't uttered so many "Wow!"s in years.
One of the locations we visited on our whirlwind weekend tour was Lake Louise, an absolutely pristine alpine lake nestled between huge mountains. The lake is named after a daughter of Queen Victoria, and is situated over one mile above sea level. There is a huge high-end tourist chateau on one end of the lake, with rooms running $300 to $650 per night - way out of our budget. Best Western was the place for us.
The lake is about a mile long and one-third of a mile wide, and one of the first things you notice about it is the color of the water. Since the lake is fed by snow melt from the mountains, I expected it to be crystal clear. But instead it was a opaque turquoise color. This color comes from what they call "rock flour": sediments ground up so fine that they are the consistency of flour, which are suspended in the water. This rock flour absorbs other colors of the spectrum and reflects green and blue, giving it's turquoise color. The sediment-color is thick enough that you can't see the bottom in anything but the most shallow of water.
There was a boat dock off to one side, full of canoes, doing a lively rental business. So naturally, we had to check into that! Just as shocking as the amazing scenery, were the canoe rental prices: $45 for a half-hour, and $55 for an hour. Gasp! My first reaction was: "That's robbery!" But then I got to thinking: you don't get a chance to paddle a unique lake like this very often. And the canoe rental business is only open from June until the 2nd week of October, only four months, as the lake is frozen the rest of the year, so they have to make their money quick. We were just squeaking in under the wire on their last weekend of business for the year. I may never get another chance like this again. So I swallowed my stinginess and pride and plunked down $55 for an hour. This was said to be just enough time to get to the far end of the lake and back. But if you overshoot your return time, you're billed for another hour... I wanted to get to that far end to see where the snow melt water trickled out of the mountains and entered the lake.
The boat dock:
So let's get in the water and get moving! We were fitted with PFD's, and a small orange plastic waterproof container was put in the boat, required by law, said to contain a flashlight and other emergency supplies. The boats were 17-foot Old Town Guide's - wide and stable. There were four of us from work, with Charles and I being the experienced paddlers. So we each teamed up with a coworker, two pairs in two canoes. The outfitter helped us enter the boats from the dock without tipping over - I'm sure the water temperature was frigid. And we headed off for the far end of the lake, admiring the scenery as we went.
The far end of the lake:
John and Angela (photo by Charles Zipprian):
Charles and Cheri:
It took just under a half hour to work our way to the far end of the lake. The glacier water was trickling in through a small stream, with a sand bar estuary. I would have loved to get out and hike a bit there, but time was limited, and the rules didn't allow exiting the canoe. The outfitter also monitored the paddlers in the distance with a large spotting scope back on his dock. After idling for just a few minutes there, it was a race against the clock back to the dock with a cold headwind, where we arrived with 5 minutes to spare.
The estuary at he far end of the lake (photo by Charles Zipprian):
The view from the far end of the lake looking back at the chateau:
We ended the day back at the fancy-schmancy lodge with dinner at the Bavarian-themed restaurant. The meal was a $70 per person dining experience, also exceeding our company meal allowance. But what the heck, you've gotta splurge on yourself every now and then. How often do you get a chance to paddle a mile-high alpine lake, and afterwards eat mussels, trout and lobster? Not enough!
There are also numerous other spectacular paddling opportunities on rivers in the area, with fantastic rapids and scenery. But there are also some very spectacular but deadly waterfalls, often unseen until you round a corner and the current sucks you in, too late to escape. So you must go with local knowledge and know what stretches are safe, and when and where to get off the river.
|The author, John Rich