Hiding away just 15 minutes north of the town of Banff, you come up on one of Banff National Parks’ truly beautiful areas, the Minnewanka Valley. This area is home to Lake Minnewanka, the largest body of fresh water in the western national park system.
Certainly, not all of the visitors to the park get to see this most interesting of spots, but ones who do come away with knowledge of the local animals, history, geology, geography and, oh yes, photos of one of Banff’s most breathtaking areas.
The lake itself has been a transportation corridor into the heart of the Rocky Mountains ever since man set foot on North American soil:
Archaeologists have discovered sites dating back 10 to 15 thousand years of the encampments of the aboriginal people who traveled this valley and stopped to hunt and fish. More recently, in 1841, such renowned persons as Sir George Simpson and Reverend Robert Rundle travelled to this famous valley. A few years later, in 1858, Captain John Palliser travelled through the Minnewanka Valley on an expedition for the Royal Geographic Society when, with the help of Sir James Hector and J.J. Macarthur, he made the first maps of this area and named some of the local mountains.
One hundred and ten years ago, the Canadian Pacific Railway, who were very busy constructing the world famous Banff Springs Hotel, decided they required some interesting areas for their guests to visit, so they started the tour boat operation on Lake Minnewanka with two stern wheel, steamdriven boats. Today, visitors travel the length of this valley on modern and very comfortable passenger boats. Also, they have the benefit of enjoying a heritage interpretive program done by well-trained and knowledgeable escorts onboard who will point out many of the most interesting features along the way: taking you back through history some 600 million years to learn how the Canadian Rockies came into being.
For the hikers, this valley offers trails and back country camping, while the sports fisherman might enjoy chartering a half-day fishing trip, or just renting a boat & equipment, and going out on their own. Lake Minnewanka Boat Tours, in Banff, can arrange any of these activities for groups or individuals throughout the summer season. They can be reached in Banff by phone at 762-3473, or they can pick you up by bus if you do not have your own transportation – just call Brewster Tours at 762-6767. You may also contact the desk in your hotel for more information on visiting the spectacular Minnewanka Valley and Lake Minnewanka.
By Ian Mackie