What would a series about Banff be without a glacial lake?
The Rocky Mountains are stuffed with amazing lakes, and here’s one more. I promise this will be the last one on this list.
Lake Minnewanka has been around for thousands of years, and was known as the ‘Water of Spirits’ by the local Nakoda people. However, it’s changed a lot in the last 100+ as European influence spread west.
It was a transportation hub, with boats crossing it and settlements near its edge. This was before Banff was the tourism draw we all know now (Bankhead, a coal-mining town, lies abandoned between Banff and the shores of the lake). A resort was built on its shores at one point.
But over the years it was dammed, and then dammed again. It’s grown substantially, and its current form hides an old dam and the aforementioned resort beneath its sparkling blue surface.
What we know now is a glacial green-blue surrounded by perfect forest with mountains sloping down into it. To be honest, there’s not one big sight here, there’s nothing iconic. But it offers up tons of amazing views that are plastered on tourism posters worldwide, be it boathouses sitting on the lake or trees growing on the shore. And with its length, there’s plenty to discover with new angles and perspectives that aren’t as commonly explored.
A road will get you to the southwestern edge of the lake; from there you can boat, hike or bike around (depending on the views you want). It’s about a 20-minute drive from the centre of Banff to the picnic area; along the way you take the scenic drive which takes you along the lakes shore.
Ranked quite high, at number 8 on things to do in Banff (via TripAdvisor), the lake has all sorts of options. The federal government’s official site tells some history. AtlasObscura talks about the sunken resort town. NASA has, for some reason, profiled its geography a bit, with a view from space. And there’s all sorts of pieces, by they blogs or tourism sites, about the hikes, rides and trips you can take around, on, and into the lake.