Canyons, Lakes, Islands, and Icebergs
Last Monday marked our first official day in Jasper National Park. With fewer days to spend in this magical park, we packed our first day full of sight-seeing. First up was a 2 hour hike along Maligne Canyon. This limestone canyon is continually carved out by gushing glacial water which is connected to a large underground network of caves thought to be about 17km in length. At some parts, the canyon is only 2m across but can plunge to a depth of more than 50m.
After our hike, we continued along a scenic route to Maligne Lake passing by Medicine Lake, aka “The Disappearing Lake”. This mysterious lake is full in the summer due to the high volume of runoff water but it actually drains in the autumn, disappearing into the hidden network of underground caves at a rate of 24,000 litres per second! At one point, there were actually efforts made to prevent the lake from draining thinking it wouldn’t be as attractive without the water. Mattresses, sandbags and magazine bundles were even used to stifle the drainage! Luckily these efforts were unsuccessful because although the “lake” we got to see looked more like a few ponds connected by a shallow stream, it still made for some beautiful scenic shots; and the “mystery” makes for an even better story.
Once at Maligne Lake, we splurged on a guided boat tour out to the famous Spirit Island. Maligne Lake is a beautiful turquoise-blue and is surrounded by gorgeous mountain peaks that are home to three glaciers (Charlton, Unwin and Maligne) visible from the water. Maligne Lake was named for the French word “wicked” due to its treacherous conditions in the winter when the French explorers attempted to cross it. The peaks around Maligne Lake are known for being the source of many dangerous avalanches in the winter months so only the most daring tourists attempt downhill skiing. One of the stories told by our tour guide described a brave gentleman who frequents these slopes in the winter with the strategy of “chasing avalanches” – this is where he would induce an avalanche at the peak then follow the snow slide down the mountain!
Spirit Island (which was more like a peninsula this time of year because of the low water level) is one of the most famous photographed views in the Canadian Rockies – and we got to see why. It is a tiny tied island that extends out into the middle of a part of Maligne Lake that is surrounded entirely by the same mountain range (which is a rare and interesting feature).
After our cruise, we hopped back in the car and headed South out of town in search of a pond known to have icebergs in it. A narrow and winding road took us to a short pathway leading to the base of Mount Edith Cavell which hosts two beautiful glaciers: Angel and Ghost. Both of these glaciers hang off of Mt. Edith and will commonly release avalanches into the Cavell pond at the mountain’s base – hence the icebergs drifting around in this petite glacier pond. This valley is actually quite dangerous to go into as these ice slides have actually caused flash flooding of the area due to the high volume of water displacement upstream from the small Cavell pond. The last flash flood was in August 2012 and it led to the flooding of the trail with ice, rock, and debris. The trails have since been cleaned up so we were lucky to get as close as we did to take in this breathtaking view.
We had such a spectacular day – it was the best way to kick-off our adventures in Jasper National Park!
Adam & Amanda