Places to see… Maligne Lake, Jasper, Alberta

Landscape: snow capped mountains and little treed island reflected in the still waters of Maligne Lake

Spirit Island
One from my Bucket List! This scene is known to every Canadian from postcards and calendars.

It’s an image all Canadians, and many people around the world, recognise: the tiny island with its tall lodgepole pines, sitting in the clear turquoise waters of Maligne Lake and surrounded by the snow-capped glacial peaks of the Rocky Mountains.

I’ve known this place from pictures all my life, and have waited a long time to visit Spirit Island for myself.

I have a love affair with Canada’s Rocky Mountain Parks (Banff, Jasper, and Yoho National Parks) and will go to them at any opportunity. I used to visit Banff regularly, but it was lucky that we had planned, months ago, to drive much further afield – north – to Jasper.

On Thursday, June 20, 2013, just two days before our arrival into Alberta, major rainfall closed roads, forced the evacuation of downtown Calgary, and cut Banff off for days. On our drive north to Edmonton, we drove past scenes of heartbreaking inundation. The TransCanada Highway was closed, and no one was getting in or out of the Banff area.

It was still raining as we continued north to Edmonton and west to Jasper. But, the Rockies are magnificent, even in the wet.

In spite of heavy cloud cover, the rains held off the day we drove the two hours from our cabin to the iconic Maligne Lake.

It’s a stunningly beautiful place, with an “evil” name: Father Pierre-Jean De Smet (1801–1873) named the river that feeds the lake “Maligne” (malignant, evil, or wicked) River. Against the advice of locals, he had tried to cross the waters, turbulent from the spring melt, and escaped (only barely) with his horse and his life.

Our trip was much easier: after a late lunch at the visitors’ lodge, we took the 90 minute boat trip out to Spirit Island, “one of the most photographed locations in the world.

Close up: A Gray Jay/Grey Jay on a wooden deck.

Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)
A cheeky little Canada Jay (Grey Jay or Whiskey Jack) watches to see if we will drop any tasty morsels.

A grey jay/ gray jay sits on a wooden railing,  Maligne Lake

Camp Robber
Also known as a Camp Robber, the little bird gives up on us, and eyeballs another diner.

Boat house Maligne Lake

Boat House

Canoes and kayaks inside a flooded wooden boathouse, Maligne Lake, Jasper

Wet Spring
The boathouse is dark inside: atmospheric and flooded.

Landscape: two red Kayaks on the shores of Maligne Lake, snow covered mountain behind.

There are plenty of boats for rent if you want to tour the lake yourself.

Motorised tour boats on a wooden dock: Maligne Lake

Boat Dock
We opted for the easier, motorised trip.

Portrait: Young man in a blue shirt.

Captain Gregg
A youthful looking Gregg greets us at the dock.

View inside a Maligne Lake tour boat, with reflections and Rocky mountains.

In the Boat
It is a popular tour, and the boat is full as it cruises through the Rockies.

Landscape: A tour boat on Maligne Lake, and the a boat wake in the blue waters.

In our Wake
Another boat heads back to the dock as we cruise Maligne Lake.

Two canadian flags on the back of a tour boat, flapping against an overcast sky.

Fly the Flags

Environmental portrait: A young woman and man on a Maligne Lake tour boat

Kirsten and Gregg

The inside of a full Maligne Lake Tour Boat, surrounded by mountains.

Mountains all Around
Our commentator Kirsten entertained us with in-depth information about the area.

Landscape: trees on the foreshore and glacial snow covered mountains around Maligne Lake

As gray as the overcast day, the glaciers, high in the mountains, can be hard to see.

Landscape: View from Spirit Island, Maligne Lake, Jasper

Spirit Reflections
Finally! We arrive at the tour’s highlight: Spirit Island, and we get off the boat for a short walk.

A couple take their pictures, Spirit Island, Maligne Lake

There is just enough time for pictures …

Landscape: snow capped mountain and pine-covered foreshore, Maligne Lake, Jasper

… before we head back through the Rockies…

Landscape: turquoise waters, snowcapped mountains, white cloudy sky, Maligne Lake Jasper

Just Stunning!

I’ve moved Maligne Lake off my Bucket List, and onto my “Gotta go back when I have more time” list.

Truly a place to see – at least once.

Happy Travels!

Pictures: 24June2013

  • S.C. B - June 29, 2013 - 4:31 am

    I love your reading about your travels and looking at your photos… And that is not because I am related!!ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - June 29, 2013 - 3:41 pm

      Thanks, Sheila! Great to “see” you on line. ReplyCancel

  • Gabe Gajdatsy - June 29, 2013 - 11:02 pm

    We can return anytimeReplyCancel

  • Nancy - June 30, 2013 - 5:51 am

    Wonderful photos!ReplyCancel

  • dietmut - June 30, 2013 - 6:56 pm

    Ursula, a very nice – beautiful images – series of this trip.
    Greetings DietmutReplyCancel

  • […] up the opportunity to spend time there. This year, however, we decided to venture further north: to Jasper National Park. It was a fortuitous choice, really, as major flooding from torrential rainfall plus snow-melt in […]ReplyCancel

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