Lake Minnewanka – Banff’s Lake of the Spirits

Lake Minnewanka

Archeological evidence of stone tools suggests the original shores of Alberta’s Lake Minnewanka served as camping and hunting grounds as long as 10,000 years ago. The Stony people named the glacial lake “Minn-waki” or ” Lake of the Spirits” for the gale force winds that appear from nowhere and blow mercilessly over the water.

“There’s an entire village under there” quips Hubby on our hike.

Lake Minnewanka

As I look about this jewel of Banff National Park I exclaim to my trivia king ” Exactly where could a village be hiding?”

“Under the water,” he nonchalantly throws back. ” It happened when the lake rose about 100 feet”

Having recently come through flooding season I can appreciate increased water flow but almost a ten story building?

Lake Minnewanka

“In the late 1800s there was a log hotel constructed on the shores of the lake. Likely now that would be somewhere out there in the middle,”  explains my personal guide waving a finger toward the center of quiet lake.

“By the early 1900s Minnewanka Landing  was a summer resort with restaurants, wharves and even cruise boats!” My personal historian went on and on.

“Are we getting to the part about the sunken village yet?” I moaned as we walked along. My attention span is that of a gnat.

Lake Minnewanka

“It’s all got to do with dams and electricity,” explains Hubby.

“Well that sounds like a dreadful combination. No wonder the village got in trouble.” I think I received an eye roll for that one.

Lake Minnewanka

In 1912 a dam was built to store water for a hydro electric plant. Then after a 20 years of arguing between those wanting power development and those pressing for park protection, a second dam was built in 1941. The Canadian government approved it under the War Measures Act. They proposed that the  power was needed to supply the war effort.

That was the summarized version so as not to have you nod off.

Really how can he store this all stuff in his brain?

Lake Minnewanka

” Can you imagine if today anyone suggested that a village in a Canadian National Park be covered up with water to provide power?! ” I exclaim.

I have visions of thousands of protestors lining the streets of Banff as I write. They won’t be looking for maple syrup or a stuffed toy moose to take home that’s for sure.

Lake Minnewanka

The only way to see the the ghost town, now 60 feet below the water, is with scuba gear. Considering the temperature of a mountain lake being fed by glaciers this seems relatively unappealing. I don’t care how good wetsuits are these days.

Those brave souls who have made the plunge report all foundations are still present, along with railroad tracks, power towers and the original wharf.

The name Lake of the Spirits seems particularly fitting.

Lake Minnewanka

What do you think? Have we convinced you to come explore the Canadian Rockies with us?

For other walks around the world click here to see what Jo and friends are up to.

221 thoughts on “Lake Minnewanka – Banff’s Lake of the Spirits

  1. Wow, this is so beautiful!! I did visit the Canadian Rockies when I was in Canada as an exchange student for quite a few years ago, and this post just took me back to that time….


    • I am delighted it brought back happy memories for you and that you were able to spend time here. The scenery is awe inspiring I will say no matter how often one gazes at those peaks.


  2. wouldn’t take much to persuade me to visit the Rockies again :lol:

    one of the joys of living in Calgary was, to me, its closeness to the Rockies

    of course, on my first visit to Banff, I had to do the touristy thing and have a soak in the hot springs :oops:

    but that out of the way, we managed to squeeze in a few weekend trips exploring the area,and the scenery, as you say, is breathtakingly beautiful


    • I’m smiling at your fond memories Duncan. The hot springs must be done at least once. :) quite amazing that in the dead of winter one can sit in that naturally hot water.

      We hope to explore and share more of the Rockies this summer so perhaps you will recognize some old stomping grounds. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts Duncan. Always a pleasure to chat with you.


  3. Beautiful. . . I’ve been to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado several times and enjoy hiking in it. These pictures make me think that someday I’ve going to have to go further north and explore the Canadian Rockies.


  4. Banff has always been on my list of must visits…I’ll make it one day! And having just seen Patagonia’s new film Damnation (about the unnecessary number of dams in this country and their effect on the environment) I really feel for this ghost of a village, the film is worth a watch!


    • Thank you for letting me know about the film. I had no IDE bout the number of towns and villages that suffered the same fate until the comments started coming in. My husband was telling me that in China a massive amount of people were displaced ( 1.3 million- 13 cities, 140 towns and more than 1600 villages) by the building of a large dam. It all seems horrifyingly shocking to me.
      I appreciate your visit and taking the time to leave a comment.
      I do hope you get out our way to visit. So many incredible spots to see.


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    • An amazing display of nature as if these beautiful mountains are showing off shining in the sunlight. I do hope you can visit our beautiful part of the world. Thank you for your visit and your lovely comment.


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  7. I’m utterly amazed by these pictures. When you think nature has shown you all the tricks it can still surprise you. Yet another reason for me to visit Canada. I confess to mispronouncing the name of the lake in the office aloud though. Woops. Look forward to more on this blog :)


  8. Thanks for reviving a few memories, esp those pics with Mt. Rundle in the background. Your comment on the water temp reminded me of an American movie where someone had just gotten back from water skiing on Lake Louise. No, I don’t think so.


    • Water skiing on Lake Louise? Definitely must have been for the movie. Yes that cold water is a deterrent that’s for sure. A friend of mine did her scuba certification in Lake Minnewanka and she said she had never been so cold in all her life. I gather you had a trip out this way? Hope it was wonderful.


      • My grandmother and uncle lived in Edmonton. I visited Alberta as a boy and kept up the habit as an adult. I think I’ve been to Banff and Jasper about half a dozen times. And a piece of family history re Lake Louise. My mother’s cousin’s grandfather scouted for the CPR, and he was the first European to see Lake Louise. There’s a mountain named for him along the the Icefields Parkway, Mt. Wilson.


  9. I Take My family to Calgary from Toronto for family vacation. Vent to Banff and round it.Visiting lake minnewanka was beautyfool. Hearing the storie about princes and lake minnewanka my 6 years granddoughter in maze ever since. If enybody can give any information where can I purches book, picture or any memoriable from the storie please lett me know.


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