Although not as famous as its westerly cousins, Louise and Moraine, Lake Minnewanka might be the most captivating lake in all of Banff National Park. Maybe it’s because it lays in the valley that acted as the original gateway to the prairies or maybe its proximity to the Banff town site is the reason for its infamy, but whatever the reason Minnewanka has long been an enchanting destination for visitors from all walks of life.
There are records of human occupation along Minnewanka’s shoreline as far back as 10,000 years. First Nation People actively used the lake and surrounding area for centuries before the first Europeans arrived. The Stoney referred to the lake as ‘Minn-waki’ or ‘Lake of the Spirits’, which was in reference to the belief that everything contained its own spirit. As early European explorers reached the untamed west they mistook the name and assumed a more sinister meaning behind the moniker.
As the wild west slowly became more subdued Lake Minnewanka underwent drastic changes. The lake was damned on three separate occasions making it the largest lake in the entire park. There were also several name changes before settling on the Anglicized version of the Stoney’s original name. Modern tourism began to take shape in the early 1900’s and a resort community known as Minnewanka Landing was established by 1912. Rising water levels were a natural consequence of damming the lake making scuba divers the only visitors to Minnewanka Landing today. Rumour has it that an original porcelain toilet can still be found in the lake’s murky depths and is a popular photo opp for local divers.
One hundred years ago there were boat tours on the lake. These excursions, lasting upwards of six hours, would take visitors on site-seeing adventures around the lake’s rugged shoreline and offer glimpses of Banff’s raw natural beauty. The tradition of boat tours still continues today with Brewster Travel Canada’s Minnewanka Lake Cruises. These one-hour jaunts still offer visitors the chance to get a new perspective on one of Banff’s most storied water bodies. The tours are guided by an interpreter who offers deep insight into the lake’s illustrious past and will share more than a few captivating stories about the lake’s early years.
Recently I had the opportunity to partake in one of the cruises and was quite happy with the wealth of knowledge the guide possessed. As someone who is familiar with the lake I was surprised to hear a few stories and facts that were previously unknown to me. Not only does being aboard the boat offer exclusive photo opportunities of some of Banff’s most striking landscapes, but there are also chances to spot elusive wildlife along the shoreline. Our tour was fortunate to see a Bald Eagle perched high in a decaying tree overlooking its preferred fishing grounds. Even with the ever-present smokey haze courtesy of the Verdant Creek Wildfire burning along the border of Banff and Kootenay National Parks the scenery was remarkable. If you’re hoping for a new way to experience Lake Minnewanka the Lake Cruise might be just the adventure you’re looking for, but remember to reserve early to ensure your seat.
To learn more about the Minnewanka Lake Cruise or any of the other Rockies Attractions please visit the Brewster Travel Canada website or you can purchase the Ultimate Explorer Pass that provides admission to four of Brewster’s top attractions. You can also connect with Brewster on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and Vimeo) and don’t forget to share all your Lake Cruise photos using the hashtag #BanffLakeCruise. To discover more of Minnewanka’s supernatural history please read, The Spirit of Minnewanka.