The Drive To Maligne Lake Is A Worthwhile Trip
Maligne Lake is located 48 km’s south from the town of Jasper. The drive to the lake follows along the Maligne Range glacial valley. It offers beautiful scenery as well as many opportunities for spotting wildlife. Some animals to keep your eye out for are grizzly and black bear, bighorn sheep, white-tail deer, elk, moose and mountain goat.
The drive along Maligne Lake road is worth taking in itself. You may want to take a picnic lunch and stop along the way to eat it or wait until you get to the lake. There is a cafeteria style restaurant located there. They have sandwiches, soups and pastries. There are many stops of interest on the way to Maligne Lake. The most notable ones being Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake and Marie’s Rock.
This is one of my favorite lakes to come to. It always feels so peaceful. There are some nice hiking trails around the shoreline. We always seem to come across some form of wild life near the lake. Sometimes bears, or a tiny peka. This time there were a pair of Canadian geese. As the sun was starting to set the female gathered up her babies and nestled them in for the night. The peka is a small creature that sort of resembles a guinea pig. They make a high pitched squeaking sound. They are timid little critters that usually make their homes amongst large areas of rock. They usually scurry away quickly, I was quite pleased to be able to get so close on this occasion to get a picture of one.
Many of the lakes and waterways in this mountain valley drain through a network of underground caves. Medicine Lake is one of them. Visitors who come here in the summer have no idea the large lake they are viewing is gone in the fall. Every autumn this large body of water completely disappears. It acts like a large bathtub when the plug is pulled. Left behind is a giant mudflat. During the glacier runoff period of the summer there is enough water flowing into the lake to surpass what is draining.
Apparently in the past two attempts were made to plug the drain on the lake. Believe it or not old mattresses were dumped into the lake on the first attempt and loads of magazines on the second one. No effect was gained on either occasion. Are these old mattresses still in the lake?
The lake got its name from the early native people in the area. They believe it to have magical powers because of how it disappeared. Therefore they named it Medicine Lake.
When you get to the lake the options to view more than what you see from this part of the shoreline are limited. I am not aware of any groomed trails that you can hike on to get to other parts of the lake. The other two options are to rent a canoe, row boat or kayak from Curly Phillips Boathouse or to take the 90 minute boat trip with Maligne Tours.
We have visited the lake in the past but had never done the boat tour before. If you read the reviews about the tour they are mixed, some people feel it is not worth the money. To be honest we did not pay for the boat trip, we got it complementary because my husband works for Fairmont and the boat company is associated with them. We had intended to pay full price, but on arrival found out about the complimentary tickets. The cost for an adult is $55 plus tax, it is a lot of money, but the scenery was spectacular.
The only complaint we had was not having much time on Spirit Island. Normally you only get about ten minutes on the island. We were the last boat trip of the day so they stretched it to about twenty. It was not long enough, there appeared to be trails that went around the island. It would have been such a great place to explore and hike around. I guess the option to do this would be renting a canoe, kayak or row boat to get there yourself, but it would be a long ways to self propel! The lake is 22km’s long and Spirit Island is farther than half way down it.
Update: Malgine Lake Tours now offers a cruise with an extended stay on Spirit Island. It is called The Through The Lens Cruise. A local professional photographer will assist you in getting some of your own fantastic photos.
The boat tour takes you past glacier studded mountains, the ones at the farther end of the lake that you view from Spirit Island were the most stunning. Some reviews of the boat tour had people saying you could see scenery the same in many other places around Jasper. We had done a fair bit around the area and have not seen anything quite the same. We don’t do anything other than smaller day hikes though. I’m sure there are views as spectacular, but you probably have to work for them. You probably won’t want to waste any of your precious time on the island by going to the washroom. If you must, you will get to go in a quarter of a million dollar facility. Yes that’s right, Maligne Lake Tours has spent a small fortune to put a biffy on the island. There is a full functioning flush toilet that is solar operated and completely eco-friendly. A special system ensures everything breaks down and causes no impact to the environment.
Skyline Hiking Trail
From Maligne Lake there is a hike called the Skyline Trail. It is dubbed as on the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies. It is usually done over a several day period ranging from 2 to 6 days. 25km’s of the trail is above the treeline, so the views offered are incredible. The hike finishes near the town of Jasper.
Maligne Lake Has Some Record Setting Trout
Maligne Lake has a self sustaining population of rainbow and brook trout. The lake is fed and drained by the Maligne River. It enters on the south side of the lake and drains it from the northern end. The largest rainbow trout in Alberta was caught in Maligne Lake. It was just over 20 pounds. The largest brook trout caught here is the third largest recorded one in the world!