I’ve had a soft spot for Lake Minnewanka ever since Henry and I first visited the site in 2017. We came through Banff on a summer road trip and couldn’t miss visiting the lake with the funny name. (Not so funny if your Canadian, but us Brits with a silly sense of humor can’t miss out on the chance to say wanka)
It was a really nice summers day, not too hot and very dry. We had met up with Henry’s dad, Jon, on our trip and he showed us the way to this beautiful lake.
It’s a short drive off highway 1 from Banff. You drive up hill past Two Jacks lake (Which is also worth a visit) and depending on which way around the loop you go, drive across the dam next to the water. When you first arrive, you cannot help but be blown away by how vast the whole area is. It is truly beautiful and the lake is huge. 21km long and roughly 140m deep in the deepest part.
Minnewanka is where I saw my first every Eagle in Canada. That summer I stood on the side of the road, for what felt like hours waiting for this beautiful Eagle to fly from the top of a tree. It did and I got the shot. Still very proud of this photo.
We visited the lake again in March 2019 and March 2020 with Henry’s mum and dad, and it is unbelievable the difference in this area once the seasons change. In mid summer you could never imagine venturing to the middle of the lake unless you had a boat. There in the middle of winter it was frozen and Henry and I walked to the boat house frozen in time in all the ice. It was amazing. I was 5 months pregnant and it felt so special. There’s a real aura I feel at minnewanka. The history that is there really comes over you. Canadian towns are all pretty new, and you have to go to some lengths to find anything over 50 years old really. Not Minnewanka, you know it has been there since the Rockies rose out of the sea, and I love that.
This Summer (2020) We decided to take Rocket on the Lake Minnewanka boat tour to learn more about this beautiful lake and its history. If you have a spare couple of hours, I highly recommend it. Although pretty touristy, and we went in covid times so face masks were a must, it was still really interesting, and we were grateful the boat only had half capacity.
Back in the 1800’s there was a small town where the lake covers now. What I imagined to be a very affluent town where the wealthy could enjoy embarking on a boat trip around this beautiful lake. 2 dams have been built since then, flooding the old town and removing any sign of it.
The mythology behind the lake and the indigenous people who first discovered it is also fascinating. Story’s of a half man half fish that guarded the lake, and voices of spirits coming from the water really captured my imagination. If you want to read more about the mythology there is a great article in the Calgary Herald online that gives you some highlights. https://calgaryguardian.com/the-spirit-of-minnewanka/ Otherwise, go on the tour, the guides are great and are wonderful story tellers.
You can book the tour online via Banff pursuit or you can buy tickets on the day. If you have moved to the area you can get locals discount if you book online, so I recommend doing it that way.
Since that visit Henry, Rocket and I have come on numerous occasions to the lake. It’s great to bring the dogs to walk around and just get away from the town for a little while. There is a small beach there in the summer but the water is cold.
All the lake water here is cold – remember that when you want to go swimming, there really is a limit to the amount of time you should spend in the water before you cause yourself damage. If you want to get in the water…. Get a boat. 😊
If you are after a little extra activity, visit Bankhead. It’s on the way back down the hill to Banff and there are two entrances. Bankhead is the remains of the old mining town based at the bottom of Cascade mountain. Its mainly just the foundations of the old buildings, and there is a mine cart that as been bought there for effect, But its a really nice place to stop and have a walk around. Rocket loved venturing around the fields, and there is a sweet little path guiding you around the remains and telling the story of the old town.
Just remember your mozzie spray. This field is heaving with them.