A Day on the Water: Summer in the Canadian Rockies

A Day on the Water: Summer in the Canadian Rockies on Where Rockies

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For as long as people have roamed the mountain ranges of the Canadian Rockies, they have been attracted to water. Large bodies of water hold spiritual significance, such as Lake Minnewanka, or Water of the Spirits, which tells of the spirits returning with the melting glaciers. Spirit Island in Chaba Imne, now named Maligne Lake, is a place of great spiritual significance. It still calls people to return year after year. The rivers created a network for travel and provided fish to eat while the rains rejuvenated the landscape and brought new life to the forests.

Today, people are still drawn to the water. Many summer vacations hinge on watersports or spending time relaxing next to a lake or a river. Water in the mountains takes on many different forms. Whether it’s a glacier holding pure fresh water, a stately alpine lake on top of a mountain, a flowing river with rapids, or a cool refreshing rain, there are many ways to spend a day on the water during summer in the Canadian Rockies.


Under the Sun

Two people kayak on Vermillion Lakes under Mount Rundle in Banff during summer in the Canadian Rockies

Kayaking on Vermillion Lakes. Photo by Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Noel Hendrickson

Take in some mountain sunshine while enjoying a tour on one of the Rockies largest bodies of water. Try the Lake Minnewanka Cruise in Banff or the Maligne Lake Boat Cruise in Jasper. Both tours cover the history, geology, wildlife and Indigenous culture of the area with informative and entertaining guides.

Explore the lakes and rivers on your own with canoe and kayak rentals. In Banff, the Canoe Club has kayaks, canoes, SUPs and all the accessories for exploring the Bow River and Vermillion Lakes. Rent canoes at Moraine Lake Lodge or Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and get on some of the most iconic water in the national park.

In Jasper, rent canoes and kayaks from Maligne Lake Boathouse or take in the gentle waters of Lac Beauvert with rentals from the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Explore Jasper’s pristine lakes with rentals from Pyramid Lake Resort or Pure Outdoors.

Want something a little more exhilarating? Get your blood pumping with whitewater rafting! With trips from mild to wild, rafting is a great experience for the whole family. Take a gentle trip down the Bow River with Chinook Rafting or Rocky Mountain Raft Tours. Find everything from relaxing floats to exhilarating waves in Jasper. Try Jasper Raft Tours, Jasper Rafting Adventures, Jasper’s Whitewater Rafting or Maligne Rafting Adventures.

Some of the best whitewater in the Rockies is in Golden’s Kicking Horse Canyon. Enjoy intense rapids and an adventure that’s sure to leave you wanting more. Choose a trip from Hydra River Guides or the pioneers of rafting in Golden: Glacier Raft Company. Want to take the experience to the next level? Take in a Heli-Raft Tour with Glacier and fly into the lower canyon for 4 km of continuous class 4 rapids! No experience is necessary for this invigorating day on the water! Is there any better way to spend your summer in the Canadian Rockies?


Over Land

Athabasca Falls plummets over the rocks during summer in the Canadian Rockies

Athabasca Falls on the Icefields Parkway. Photo by Sebastian Gomez on Unsplash

In select places throughout the Rockies, the rivers have cut through the soft sedimentary rock, creating natural wonders and geological treasure troves. In Banff, take the Johnston Canyon Trail that winds through caves and waterfalls with catwalks anchored to sheer cliff faces. This trail gets busy during the summer, and sections may be closed for wildlife preservation. ROAM Transit offers shuttles to this busy tourist spot.

Maligne Canyon in Jasper is the deepest canyon in the Rockies, and during the summer months the Five Bridges Trail is the best way to experience this natural wonder. Discover waterfalls and underground caverns of rushing water along this picturesque walk. Fuel up for your adventure at Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen and take a guided tour with Sundog Tours.

Hike high into the mountains to discover beautiful alpine lakes. Some popular day hikes include Chester Lake in Kananaskis, Consolation Lakes in Banff National Park and Gorman Lake in Golden. Learn about the unique alpine ecosystems with a guided hike from White Mountain Adventures or Hiking with Claire. For the ultimate alpine experience, try a heli-hike with Rockies Heli Canada and discover the alpine environment in the untouched backcountry of the mountains.

Chase after some of the Canadian Rockies sought after whitefish, brown trout, bull trout and the elusive greenback cutthroat. Bring a guide from Wapiti Sports in Canmore, Banff Fishing Unlimited, and On-Line Sport and Tackle or Curries Guiding in Jasper. Make sure you have the required provincial and national licensing before wetting a line.


When It Rains

Whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River in Golden BC with Glacier Raft Company during summer in the Canadian Rockies

Rafting the Kicking Horse River. Photo courtesy of Glacier Raft Company

Sometimes the weather just doesn’t cooperate with your outdoor plans. A rainy day is a great way to explore what the Canadian Rockies have to offer in their vibrant mountain towns. Discover the history at local museums such as the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre, the Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives, or the Golden Museum and Archives.

Unleash your creativity with workshops and fun nights at artsPlace Canmore or create something special at Crock A Doodle. Discover the award-winning quilt store Sugar Pine Co. and find designer fabrics for your next project.

If all else fails, spend a rainy day curled up with a good book! We recommend Bikepacking in the Canadian Rockies by Ryan Correy and What Bears Teach Us by Sarah Elmeligi. Find books like these and so much more at local bookstores Café Books in Canmore, and Bacchus Books in Golden.


Beneath the Waves

A person stands at the end of a wood dock at sunset on Lake Minnewanka in Banff during summer in the Canadian Rockies

Standing on the dock at Lake Minnewanka. Photo by Travel Alberta / Corey Myke

Underneath the pristine surface of Lake Minnewanka is the remains of a former resort town called Minnewanka Landing. This lakeside destination was inhabited from 1886 to 1941. The town offered cottages, restaurants and a hotel as well as sailing and watersports on a much smaller, natural version of Lake Minnewanka. The construction of a hydroelectric dam in 1912 flooded part of the town, but it still continued to be a popular destination. In 1941, construction of a newer and bigger dam raised the water levels of the lake by 98 feet, completely drowning the resort town, which still resides on the bottom of the lake. The remains can be seen by scuba divers under the chilly waters.


So whether you’re soaking up the sun, exploring over land or keeping dry when it rains, there are countless ways to connect with water this summer in the Canadian Rockies!

Taylor Jaine