Friday, December 6, 2013

Maligne Lake and Jasper National Park

Continuing with our day of exploring Jasper National Park in Alberta Canada, and specifically Maligne Lake and environs…

This is a view from our table in The View Restaurant at Maligne Lake.  It’s a cafeteria style set up but the food is decent fuel and the views are very nice indeed.  Surprisingly, the prices are fairly reasonable as compared to most restaurants in the Canadian Rockies.
Reviewers using Trip Advisor give this restaurant 4 out of 5 stars.  16 gave it an Excellent or Very Good, 5 rated it as Average and 2 rated it Poor or Terrible.  To check out the reviews, go to

We made friends with this Mountain Jay out on the deck. (He’s also known as a Gray Jay, Canada Jay or Whiskey Jack)

Our feathered friend kept coming back for more until we ran out of food.  We wondered where he or she was stashing all these goodies.  I’m sure he was building up his larder for the cold months ahead…

This is the view from the tour boat docks at Maligne Lake.  You can see the boathouse off to the left.  Activities available at and around the lake include canoe and kayak rentals, guided fishing, whitewater rafting, hiking, and…afternoon tea at the historic Maligne Lake Chalet. 

I found this photo of Maligne Lake on Wikipedia and I couldn’t resist posting it!  It was taken by a professional on a truly sunny day from over by the boathouse.

This is one of the tour boats used on the lake.  There were several, with a boat load of people leaving every 15 minutes all afternoon on this August day…  There were hundreds of visitors at the lake and the very large parking lot was almost full of cars, SUVs, trucks and buses.  Even with all of the people, the facilities didn’t seem too crowded.
As was usual on our entire trip in the Canadian Rockies, the sun kept coming and going.  The lake is surrounded by mountains that reach up to 11,386 feet above sea level…or more than a mile above than the lake itself.

Laurie took this photo of yours truly as we cruised on up the lake.  My only complaint about the cruise is that all the seating is in a glassed in area and the only available space outside was at the fantail of the boat.  There was room for perhaps 8 people to stand outside. (Laurie and I stayed outside for the entire ride up the lake to Spirit Island) Of course, given the constant shifting of the weather, I do understand why the boat is enclosed.  Nevertheless, I would have been very unhappy if I’d been stuck inside for the whole trip…

The Charlton, Unwin and Maligne glaciers are visible from the lake… Mount Unwin is the tallest peak around the lake.  The lake was well known to First Nations/Native Americans of the area, including Samson Beaver.  He knew it as ‘Chaba Imne’ or Beaver Lake.  He drew the first map of the lake and he provided the route for it to a surveyor in 1907. 

The first European to actually see the lake was Henry McLeod, while scouting routes for the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1875.  However, when he sighted it, he was high in the mountain range and he didn’t actually go down to the lake area nor did he even identify the route to the lake.   It was June 8, 1908, before the first European’s actually reached the lake and explored the area. 

Do you like to fish?  Early Europeans discovered that Maligne Lake didn’t have any fish in it… That was soon corrected!  A fellow named Curly Philips is credited with stocking Maligne Lake with rainbow trout, that he packed overland in barrels.  The largest rainbow trout in Alberta has subsequently been caught in this lake. (20 pounds, 4 ounces) A bit later, Jasper National Park staff introduced brook trout to the lake.  The third largest brook trout in the world was also caught in Maligne Lake! 

I took this photo of Laurie when the boat stopped at Spirit Island.  At this scenic point, everyone gets off and wanders along the shore or follows one of the short trails until the boat horn sounds.  Then it’s time for all to board for the trip back to the tour base at the north end of Maligne Lake.   
Maligne Lake is the largest lake in Jasper National Park.  The valley in which the lake lies was carved and excavated by valley glaciers.  The lake itself has been dammed at its northern end by a moraine deposited by the last glacier.  That glacier at one time flowed down the valley towards the Athabasca River.

As I mentioned before, Spirit Island is where the tour boats stop before turning around and heading back to the north end of the lake.  This tiny island is one of the most famous views in the Canadian Rockies.  For a truly spectacular photo of Spirit Island, go to

Laurie took this photo as we headed back to Jasper along Maligne Lake Road.  Even with the clouds the scenery is pretty spectacular…

There were more opportunities to view Black Bears on the way back to Jasper.  Traffic jams and people along the road peering into the tree line always indicated bear sightings! 
This particular bear signaled his discomfort with so many people so close to his feeding efforts.  He ‘chuffed’ a couple of times and we were pleased to note that everyone present knew that it was time to back off a little.

This of course was our favorite bear sighting!  A momma bear was followed by her 3 cubs as she sought more food for her growing family.  We were all surprised that she didn’t seem to be worried about all of the tourists.  Happily, throughout this wildlife adventure, we didn’t see anyone trying to feed the animals…

One last traffic jam!  These ewes (Bighorn Sheep) had decided to bring their families up to the road from Medicine Lake to view the tourists… They really were in no hurry to clear the road either!

This ewe gave us the ‘walleye’ as we slowly rolled past her in our car. 
Now a bit about the Maligne Lake Spirit Island Cruise… It isn’t inexpensive…but for a one time experience, it was worth it.  The cost is $61.95 per person.  I didn’t care for the constant and sometimes inane jabber of the tour guide but I guess that most people appreciated the commentary.  We did ask a couple of questions about the lake that our guide couldn’t answer.  Still…the folks that operate the Maligne Lake visitor attractions in Jasper National Park are quite professional.  The facilities and boats are well maintained and staffed.  Other cruising options and package plans are available…  For more information, go to
That’s about it for the Canadian Rockies and Jasper National Park.  Next it’s on to Edmonton and central Alberta…
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for following us along on our Rocky Mountain adventure!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Good Morning Dave, I am enjoying your trip so very much. The scenery is beautiful and someday I would love to take a train ride through the Canadian Rockies. I know that probably won't happen in my life time so I am enjoying yours. All Cracker Barrels are alike regardless of where you travel, how well you enjoy your food depends on who the cook is. They do have good coffee. Have a wonderful day and thank you for my journey. Hugs and Prayers from Your Missouri Friend.

  2. What a beautiful place to visit, Dave! Incredible views and it would be pretty scary to cross path with a bear. You definitely look like one happy man to be there!

  3. I continue to enjoy the great shots you got of the area.

  4. Dear Dave, You and Laurie look like you had a wonderful time. The weather looks so nice too. Right now it is very cold here and a little snowy and icy.
    Blessings, Catherine