August 22 23, 24 Jasper National Park
Our first day in Jasper was a quiet one. This is a great little village with about 1/10 as many people as there were in Banff. We found the visitors center, got information about some local hikes, had lunch in town and ended the day with a movie. We were camped close to town in a huge campground with 307 sites. The spaces are all wooded and nicely spaced, so you don’t feel overcrowded or squeezed in.
Just north of Jasper village is Maligne Canyon and lake. The canyon is provided with a trail system along its edge that included 6 bridges that cross at various points along the way. At some places the canyon is really a gulch that is 50 meters deep and only inches wide in spots. At several spots you can see rivers flowing into this stream that emerge from under the rocky banks. These underground rivers actually come from Medicine Lake, which is about 10 miles east of this canyon. Medicine Lake has no apparent outlet, yet every year by October the water is down to only puddles that once again turn into a lake with the spring snow melt. This magical water seeps out through fissures at the bottom of the lake and flow into Maligne canyon 10 miles below.
At the end of the road you come to Maligne Lake, which is the largest lake in Jasper National Park. It is a long but thin lake renowned for its fishing. The usual tour boat ride is available as well as canoe and kayak rentals for $30 an hour. The best know picture of Maligne Lake shows a small pine covered island in the center of the lake. It is not to be seen from the shore, only a boat ride gets you that popular view.
The hike we wanted to take was closed this week because of bear sightings. Sometimes they do not close the trails when bears are in the area but require that you go in groups of at least 4 people. Locals have told us that there are many bear in the area right now because it is such a good berry year, and the bears are swarming in to take advantage of the crop.
On Friday we went to Athabasca Falls, just south of Jasper village. These falls occur in another rocky canyon through which the river is forever eroding away the solid sides of the gulch it flows through. This is a much shorter canyon than the Maligne canyon but more imposing because of the steep falls that are accessible by a foot bridge that crosses just where the falls plunge about 50 feet. When we arrived there was a small crowd of people, but not overwhelming. However, just as we started back to the truck, three bus loads of tourists unloaded and swarmed toward the falls. We timed that one just right.
Underground river flowing into
Medicine Lake that drains from fissures on the bottom. Native people thought it was magic
Maligne Lake, The largest lake in Jasper