Friday, November 8, 2013

A Scenic Drive – Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies

Well, the sunshine left us once again in this ever evolving bi-polar mountain weather… Nevertheless, it was time to scour our surroundings in the area around Lake Louise in our quest to maximize our travel experience!

One of my interests is railroading, especially when old depots and rolling stock is involved.  Consequently, the first thing we went looking for after our lunch at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and then checking into our much more reasonably priced hotel, was to seek out the old Railroad Depot at Lake Louise.
All I really expected to find was the depot…so when we came across these Royal Canadian Pacific Diesel locomotives sitting on a siding, I was very pleased.  Locomotive #4107 and #4106 are the engines that pull the luxury passenger cars for the Royal Canadian Pacific Railroad.  The RCP Railroad is owned by a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railroad and it operates luxury trains through the Canadian Rockies…
These locomotives are General Motors Diesel FP 9A’s and they comprise CP’s Heritage Units.  These diesel locomotives were partially manufactured in the USA and then final assembly took place in London Ontario Canada.  To see this train in operation, just go to

The Canadian Pacific Railway Station at Lake Louise is a relatively small railway station built out of logs in 1910 to serve tourist traffic.  The depot reflects the prominent role played by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in developing tourism in the Canadian Rockies. The station was built to serve tourists to Lake Louise, and especially guests of the then CPR-owned Château Lake Louise. The hotel and railway station formed the geographical and economic core of Lake Louise.  This station was the first of a group of six mountain stations built by the CPR after 1909…
Although the CPR tracks pass right by this old depot, no trains currently stop at Lake Louise.  There is some hope that another tourist train, The Rocky Mountaineer, will eventually make a stop at Lake Louise.  To learn more about this train service, go to

The old Lake Louise railroad depot currently houses a restaurant that’s open for lunch and dinner. (

As an adjunct to the restaurant in the Lake Louise Railroad Depot, the Delamere and Killarney dining cars offer a different dining experience, especially if you’d like to immerse yourself in railway history or the ambience of early nineteenth century opulence.  These dining cars are available for special functions, weddings, anniversaries, etc.  Originally built in 1925, the restored and improved Delamere Dining Car recreates a "Roaring Twenties" atmosphere.
These dining cars are similar to the one operated by the Royal Canadian Pacific Railroad.  As mentioned before, it is a luxury excursion passenger train operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).  Service was inaugurated on June 7, 2000, after the CPR received the ‘royal’ designation for the service from Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada and the British Commenwealth.
The Royal Canadian operates seasonally from June to September, on CPR trackage through the Rocky Mountains in Alberta and British Columbia.  All trains are based out of Calgary, Alberta.  A typical excursion would be a 650 mile route from Calgary through the Columbia River Valley and Crowsnest Pass, before returning to Calgary.  Such a trip would take six days and five nights.  The train does not operate at night in order to preserve the sight-seeing of mountain scenery during the daylight hours.  The train consists of up to eight luxury passenger cars built between 1916 and 1931, and it’s powered by the restored diesel locomotives that I pictured a couple of photos previously.
It took a little research to get an idea re: the cost of this 6-day journey through the Canadian Rockies.  A per person rate of $6,182.00 was quoted in a 2011 article in the Bloomberg Letter.  For more information you can go to

This is a photo of the Bow River near Lake Louise… This river has its start in the glaciers of the Canadian Rockies and it flows east from the mountains through Calgary Alberta.  The Bow River is 365 miles long.  The name "Bow" refers to the reeds that grew along its banks and were used by the local First Nations/Native North American peoples to make bows.  The Peigan tribal name for the river is "Makhabn", meaning "river where bow reeds grow".  The Peigan are part of the Blackfoot Confederation of tribes.

On our drive, we headed out of Lake Louise on Trans Canadian Highway #1, up through Kicking Horse Pass and into British Columbia.  After a bit of driving, we headed up the available side roads…
The photo above is Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park.  (Laurie really captured the beauty of this place!) It’s the largest of Yoho's 61 lakes and ponds and it’s one of the park's top tourist attractions.  Emerald Lake Lodge, a high-end lodge perched on the edge of the lake, provides local accommodation.
The lake is enclosed by mountains of the President Range, as well as Mount Burgess and Wapta Mountain.  This basin traps storms, causing frequent rain in summer and heavy snowfalls in winter.  All of this moisture works with the lake's low elevation to produce a unique selection of flora.  Trees found here are more typical of British Columbia’s wet interior forests and western red cedar, western yew, western hemlock and western white pine can all be found here.

Our next side trip was north from the Trans Canadian Highway up the Yoho Valley Road…still within the Yoho National Park.  The Park is located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains along the western slope of the Continental Divide in southeastern British Columbia.  Yoho National Park is bordered by Kootenay National Park on its southern flank and Banff National Park to the east in Alberta.   The name ‘Yoho’ comes from the Cree word for awe and wonder.

Yoho covers 507 square miles and it’s the smallest of the four contiguous Canadian national parks.  This park, together with Jasper, Kootenay and Banff National Parks, plus three British Columbia provincial parks—Hamber Provincial Park, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, and Mount Robson Provincial Park—form the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.

This is Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park.  Its highest point is 1,260 feet from its base, making it the second-highest, officially measured waterfall in western Canada and the third highest in Canada.  Only Della Falls on Vancouver Island is higher in western Canada.  However, Takakkaw Falls true ‘free-fall’ is ‘only’ 833 feet.  There were quite a few tourists admiring the fall during our visit…

Once again, it’s hard to resist these cute little rodents…more Columbian Ground Squirrels.  They hibernate for more than two thirds of the year.  Then males emerge first, and breeding begins when females emerge in early spring.  Males first breed at age 3, and females in their second year. 
Columbian Ground Squirrels are wide-ranging…from grasslands and prairies, to Alpine and subalpine habitats, as well as meadows, fields, scrub, shrub and brush lands in Western Canada.

Laurie got this close-up of one of these little critters… We think he was expecting a handout!  Both sexes of these ground squirrels are territorial. Food items include fruit, bulbs, seeds, and flowers as well as occasional insects and carrion.  The tend to live in colonies in alpine meadows and grassy lowlands.

Here’s another view of Takakkaw Falls.  "Takakkaw", loosely translated from Cree, means something like "it is magnificent". The falls are fed by the Daly Glacier, which is part of the Waputik Icefield. The glacier keeps the volume of the falls up during the warm summer months, and they are a major tourist attraction, particularly in late spring after the heavy snow melts, when the falls are at peak condition.  The Takakkaw Falls were featured in the 1995 film Last of the Dogmen. (

One last photo from this initial exploration of the area in the vicinity of Lake Louise.  This is the Yoho River just below Takakkaw Falls.  Note the white or ‘milky’ color of the water.  The Yoho River has its source at the Yoho Glacier and of course, Takakkaw Falls and its short stream also has a glacier for its source.  The resulting silt or ‘rock flour’ from the glaciated terrain causes the rivers to run ‘white’ until they flow far enough from their source for the silt to settle out… To learn more about Yoho National Park, you can go to
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for taking a drive with us as we explored the Canadian Rockies!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. aahh dear I love your views and love trains, some of these sites always I think I would love to know so thanks by sharing !

  2. I forget to comment I love these squirrels are so cute!! We dont have here!

  3. Beautiful area Dave. It I had money I didn't know what to do with I'd take that $1000/day train trip and spend a couple of weeks at the Chateau Lake Louise.