Maligne Lake 2018

Once again it seems I am sharing a trip long after it occurred. Between taking photos, processing them, and life in general, blogging often seems to take a back seat until I finally decide to get caught up.

Last September I went on what has become a somewhat regular canoeing trip on Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park. I would call it an annual trip except that, while I have done the trip several times over the past few years, I haven’t quite made it every year. In fact, it was two years since I last did this trip. So, I don’t know, maybe I should call it a “sporadically non-annual trip”. But I digress.

The best way to experience Maligne Lake is by canoe or kayak. Actually it is really the only way to see the entire lake as there are no roads or hiking trails that take you around the lake.

The night before we started paddling, my friend James and I stayed in one of the Tentpiks at Whistlers Campground just outside of the Jasper town-site. A combination of a cabin and a tent, they are quite comfortable and certainly less expensive than a hotel in Jasper. And you don’t have to fold up your tent in the morning – you just shut the door and leave.

Early next morning we loaded up the canoe at the launch ramp at Maligne Lake and set off. It is always best to get on the lake as early in the morning as possible, before the wind starts to come up. As well, an early start gets you part way down the lake before the tour boats, taking tourists down the lake to Spirit Island, start running. This morning, the water was like a mirror and the silence was broken only by the sound of our paddles dipping in the water and the occasional call of a loon.

An early morning start

The lake is about 21 km long. Our normal routine is to paddle about halfway the first day, to Fisherman’s Bay. The second day we continue on to the far end and spend two nights at Coronet Creek Campground. Our return trip mirrors our first two days with an overnight stay at Fisherman’s Bay then a paddle out to Home Bay on the final day.

We were able to get a couple of kilometers in before the tour boats started to run. The operators are good about slowing down as they approach, to reduce their wake. Even so, as every boat passes you have to turn your canoe into the wake and wait for the waves to subside before turning back onto your course. With the boats passing about every 10 minutes it tends to slow your progress.

Loaded canoe at Four Mile Point
Love the texture

About halfway to Fisherman’s Bay we made our usual rest stop at Four Mile Point. This gives us a bit of a respite from the tour boats before we continue on to our final destination for the day. We arrived at Fisherman’s Bay in early afternoon. After setting up camp and having some lunch, James was off fishing. James loves to fish and I am quite happy to help him eat whatever he catches. This afternoon we had fresh Brook Trout for an appetizer before dinner.

(Click on any thumbnail below to open full-sized gallery)

Later in the afternoon another friend, Garry, arrived in his big freighter canoe powered by an electric motor. Gas motors are not allowed on Maligne Lake other than for the tour boats and the Park Ranger’s boat. Garry is another avid fisherman so between the two of them we were seldom short of tasty appetizers on this trip.

The “exciting change” since our last visit was the replacement of the “throne room with a view” by a new high-tech composting outhouse, complete with a foot-operated conveyor belt. I will spare you the sordid details other than to say it was a pretty spiffy biffy!

“Old” on left, Spiffy Biffy on right

Early the next morning we were on the water again. The nice thing about the far end of the lake is that once you get past Spirit Island there are no more tour boats. The boats pull into Spirit Island (which is more of a peninsula except in Spring when snowmelt raises the lake level) so that tourists can get their photos before shuttling then back up the lake to Home Bay. As a result the second half of the lake is undisturbed by boat traffic and is absolutely stunning.

Coronet Creek campground, at the far end of Malign Lake, is a beautiful spot. And here again Parks Canada had a nice surprise waiting for us: new picnic tables and bear lockers had been installed since our last visit. For those not familiar with back country camping, bear lockers are not to keep bears in but rather to keep food away from bears. When camping in the back country you need to be very careful about storing food, or anything that smells like food (cooking pots, toothpaste, etc.) so as not to attract bears. Many sites now have steel bear lockers or bear poles for hanging your food bags from. In the absence of either you may have to rig up suspension from a tree (see my previous post).

New tables and Bear Lockers

We spent two nights at Coronet Creek which gave us a full day to explore the area. There is a nice trail up towards Coronet Glacier that starts in the campground which we have hiked in prior years. This time James and I headed across the bay and hiked along a creek up a valley. As there was no trail our hike often involved a bit of guess work as to how best to get where we wanted to go. It was all worth it though as there was some beautiful scenery along the way, including some little waterfalls.

(Click on any thumbnail below to open full-sized gallery)

Our final two days, returning to civilization, were pretty uneventful. The last morning, as we left Fisherman’s Bay, was a little windy and rough for the first hour or so then the lake settled down again. All-in-all another great trip!

Two tour boats pass in the distance

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