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.“
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.