hide You are viewing an archived web page collected at the request of University of Alberta using Archive-It. This page was captured on 16:46:04 Dec 08, 2010, and is part of the HCF Alberta Online Encyclopedia collection. The information on this web page may be out of date. See All versions of this archived page. Loading media information

Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Site Profile: Lake Minnewanka

visitors to Lake Minnewanka.

This long and lovely lake has many names and many faces, manymoods and many stories to tell. In the past century, man's interventions have, step-by-step, deepened, lengthened and altered it. But Lake Minnewanka - "Water of the Spirits" asthe Stoney people named it - has seen it all before.

Once, perhaps 75,000 years ago, Minnewanka was just the largest of a series of lakes fed by the ancestral Bow River. The river flowed into the View through the trees: Lake Minnewanka. Archaeologically, Lake Minnewanka is truly the Water of the Spirits. People have camped along its rocky shores for more than 100 centuries, leaving faint traces of their passing. lake's western end from a course which took the water around the north perimeter of Tunnel Mountain and along the later valley of the Cascade River. Slowly, as the climate cooled,the water level began to change, gradually dropping as huge glaciers grew to the north and west. At last, about 25,000 years ago, a tongue of ice pushed down the valley, bringing a long silence of the life of the lake.

When the glaciers at last began to shrink more than 10,000years later, the "Water Spirits" were reborn. The receding ice deposited large moraines at the western end of the Minnewanka valley and for a time, as melt water poured down the Cascade River from mountain glaciers to the north, the lake filled the valley, growing much deeper than it is now.

This Glacial Minnewanka was just another brief entry in thelake's long history however, and by 10,500 years ago, the water had dropped below its present dammed and regulated level and Clovis people were living along a shoreline that now is submerged for much of the year.

View of Lake MinnewankaToday there are five backcountry campgrounds along the north shore and it's likely that many areas along this undulating south facing lake shore were used as campsites by early Albertans as well. One of those most studied by archaeologists lies at the place where the Cascade River once poured from Stewart Canyon intothe lake. Most of the site is underwater now, but a section of itis annually exposed in early spring, before the snow pack melts in the high mountains. Since the 1970s, archaeologists have worked on the site intermittently and have charted a record of occupation spanning 100 centuries.

View of Lake MinnewankaLittle wonder. The lake is long, deep (under today's controlled conditions 24 kilometres or 15 miles long and 142metres or 466 feet deep - the longest and second-deepest lake in the mountain parks) and bountiful. Lake trout in excess of 20kilograms (44 pounds) were often caught when Europeans first began visiting the lake a little more than 100 years ago. Along its shores, elk, deer and mountain sheep are abundant (as are bears)and the lake is on a golden eagle flyway, a spring and fall migration route from summer nesting territories as far north as Alaska and Siberia to wintering grounds in the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming.

Though contained and captured in the last century, Minnewankais in many ways what she always was, a free spirit of the water.

Expository plaque at Lake Minnewanka. Click for details!

GETTING THERE: From Banff, follow Banff Avenue across the Trans-Canada Highway and continue northeast 5.5 kilometres (3.4miles) to the Lake Minnewanka parking area at the west end of the lake.

Reprinted from Barbara Huck and Doug Whiteway's In Search of Ancient Alberta with kind permission from Heartland Associates, Inc.

Heritage Trails:

Listen to the Trails:

To listen to the Heritage Trails, you need the RealPlayer,available free from RealNetworks:download the RealPlayer from Real Networks!

402 - Old Aboriginal Sites at Lake Minnewanka403 - Lake Minnewanka, Part Two404 - Lake Minnewanka, Post-Glacial Environment

or Read the transcripts:

402 -Old Aboriginal Sites at Lake Minnewanka403 -Lake Minnewanka, Part Two404 -Lake Minnewanka, Post-Glacial Environment

[previous] [next] [back to top]

Albertasource.ca | Contact Us | Partnerships
            For more on the Aboriginal history of Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.