When my fiancé suggested a summer honeymoon in Canada including a scenic boat trip in Alberta’s Banff National Park, I quickly agreed. My childhood family ski holiday in the Canadian Rocky Mountains had been magical. We’d never seen such dramatic and rugged beauty on a grand scale. The memory of this fairy tale trip stayed with me for years. I’d always wanted to come back in summer.
Warm and Sunny Skies
We flew into Calgary International Airport and rented a car. It took less than 90 minutes to drive straight into the Canadian Rockies and the town of Banff on a wide and well-maintained highway. The transformation from winter wonderland to the warm glow of summer was breathtaking. The dry air and pleasant temperature of 220 C (720 F) in July made the trip even more pleasurable.
Lake Minnewanka lies just outside of town. It is the largest lake in Banff National Park, which became evident once we began our cruise, courtesy of a Brewster Travel Canada tour that you can take anytime from mid-July to early September. We stood on the sunny back deck of the 65-passenger Alberta Explorer with our cameras poised, ready for shoreline wildlife sightings. Over the course of the tour, we saw two elk and a deer, a coyote and a pair of bald eagles. Being on the lake provided a unique perspective for photography. And with someone else doing the driving, we could relax and enjoy the scenery.
Learn a 10,000 Year Old History Lesson
Throughout the hour-long cruise, our entertaining and knowledgeable guide, Chris inspired surprised gasps and thoughtful murmurs. We learned this glacial lake is 25 km (18 mi) long, 2 km (1.2 mi) wide – with depths up to 122 m (400 ft)!
We learned not only about the geology and ecology of the area, but its history and culture as well. Human activity at the lake traces back more than 10,000 years. The lakeshore was once a hunting and camping ground of the Stoney First Nations, who called it Minn-waki, meaning Lake of the Spirits.
In the early 1900s, European settlers built a small summer village with hotels and restaurants and named it Minnewanka Landing. When the dam was built, the village was submerged and has been well preserved in the cold, glacial waters. Chris said divers come from around the world to see unique specimens of early 19th century technology. It got me thinking about a second summer holiday in Banff.
After the cruise we did a gentle one-hour hike to Stewart Canyon. The trail passes the bridge over the Cascade River, where Marilyn Monroe kissed Robert Mitchum in the 1953 movie, River of No Return. Given the stunning river views, we did our best to recreate the romantic scene.
- Boat Cruises