GLACIER NATIONAL PARK & CANADIAN ROCKIES, DAY 8: MALIGNE LAKE, CANYON, AND RIVER IN JASPER NATIONAL PARK

Scenes around the town of Jasper:

Located 27 miles from the town of Jasper, Maligne Lake was our afternoon destination, after having the morning free to explore Jasper on our own.  On the way to the lake, we learned about the devastating pine beetle that has destroyed 30% of the trees in Jasper.  There was also a Class 6 (of a possible 6) fire in 2015 that caused even more destruction of the forest, and we saw plenty of evidence on each side of the road that ends at the lake.  Several park staff and tourists were trapped when the fire started, but were airlifted out by a helicopter.

The fourteen-mile-long lake at an elevation of 5,500 feet is a deep one—318 feet at its deepest point; and, it has that gorgeous water like the other glacier-fed lakes we had visited.  At an average water temperature of 40 degrees, it is quite frigid; however, the air temperatures drop a lot further than that in the winter. The coldest air temperature ever recorded there was -58 degrees Fahrenheit! 

The day was mostly cloudy, so the views during our boat tour of the lake were not as spectacular as we had hoped, especially considering that it is rated the most beautiful boat tour in Canada.  Still, the scenery was amazing!  And, we were able to see all three glaciers as well as Spirit Island, considered one of the most beautiful and photographed locations in all of Canada.

(For all pictures, click on the image to see full screen view.)

Indigenous people of the area date back 18,000 years, and tiny Spirit Island is sacred to the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, who believe mountains are physical representations of their ancestors.  The fact that Spirit Island is surrounded on three sides by the same mountain range is very rare and makes it particularly significant to the Stoney.  They conduct healing ceremonies on the island, and it is considered an honor to be invited to attend, if you are not a Stoney Indian.

Access to the island is extremely limited due to its geography—14 kilometers (nearly 9 miles) from the docks at Home Bay.  It is hard to get to—paddling on your own can take four hours each way, so most tourists book a boat tour that stops at the island. 

It was interesting to see how the water changed to a more emerald color, the further south we traveled, and the closer we got to Spirit Island.  This was due to the presence of rock flour from the glaciers.

Adjacent to Spirit Island was a dock for boat tour guests to disembark at and walk a short trail to see and photograph the island from different viewpoints.

Following our cruise, we hiked around Maligne Canyon, a magnificent 160-feet deep slot limestone canyon that is only six feet wide at its narrowest point.  Maligne River flows out of Medicine Lake, and then drops down the canyon.  It is constantly being eroded by the churning and swirling of the water, and the resulting limestone formations were fascinating—and, photogenic. 

On the way back to town, we finally saw some photogenic elk (WILDLIFE!) beside the highway:

Speaking of photogenic, how do you like this view from the rooftop terrace at Jasper Pizza Place?  I don’t remember ever enjoying a pizza with a view quite like that!  What a beautiful way to end the day.

Next up: Glacier Skywalk and Lower Banff National Park

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