Pyramid Lake in Jasper National Park

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Written by Madison Valois posted on Monday, July 27th, 2009

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Pyramid Lake offers lots to see and do

The Athabasca River viewing point in Jasper National Park.

The Athabasca River viewing point in Jasper National Park.

JASPER, Alberta – The Pyramid Lake area of Jasper National Park offers some amazing sights and great chances to see the wildlife of the Canadian Rockies. It’s a relatively short drive from the town of Jasper with access from Pyramid Lake Road.

Beginning in Jasper, follow Connaught Drive and turn right onto Cedar Avenue, which becomes Pyramid Lake Road shortly after passing the Recreation Centre. Climbing a bench above town, it meanders through Canadian douglas fir forest.

Douglas fir, one of the largest trees in the Canadian Rockies, contains thick cork layers which allows these giants to survive all but the largest forest fires. As a result, some large douglas fir trees can be almost a metre in diametre. Most average around 50 cm.

Typical of the true Canadian Mountain forest, the douglas fir thrives in the Chinook blasted valleys of the Athabasca River. Pyramid Bench sports more than 20 small lakes left behind by the action of Canadian glaciers. With this plethora of ponds, the area is also riddled with trails that have access to many of these tranquil locales. Watch for elk and deer, along with the occasional moose, black bear and grizzly. A gated road at the two kilometre mark blocks access to Cabin Lake, the town’s main water supply.

Although most fire roads have been made redundant with the advent of helicopters, this road still forms one of Jasper’s first lines of defense. For mountain bikers, it provides access to the Saturday Night Loop, a 28.9 kilometre (17.3 mile) loop trail which skirts the shoreline of several local lakes. Just beyond the Cabin Lake access, the road passes a cottonwood slough. The “cottonwood” trees in this case are trembling aspen and balsam poplar, part of the same family as the true cottonwoods.

See the crystal clear reflection of Pyramid Mountain in Jasper National Park.

See the crystal clear reflection of Pyramid Mountain in Jasper National Park.

This is one of the premier birding locations in Jasper National Park. Keep your eyes open for birds like the Barred owl, Pied-Billed Grebe and Barrow’s Goldeneye. As the sun goes down, watch for the careful movements of beaver and moose. Along the shores of Patricia Lake, Patricia Lake Bungalows provide quiet accommodation. A boat rental allows for a relaxing paddle.

Beneath these waters lie the remains of a top secret World War II project—code name Project Habbakuk. The idea, which came directly from Winston Churchill’s office, was to build an unsinkable battleship. How could this be accomplished? The answer seemed simple; it would be made completely out of ice. Where better to build a prototype than within the frozen wasteland of Canada, specifically Patricia Lake. A 1:50 scale model was built, and they managed to keep it frozen during the summer of 1943.

Unfortunately, the astronomical cost of actually deploying a full-size ship became apparent, and the venture was dropped. The refrigeration equipment was turned off, and the prototype sunk to the bottom where it still rests. Divers routinely explore the bottom to marvel at the remains of this unique structure.

The road ends at Pyramid Lake. This lake allows gasoline powered motors, and boats are available for rent at Pyramid Lake Bungalows. Cast a line for rainbow and lake trout along with rocky mountain whitefish. In fact the Alberta record-setting white sucker fish was caught in Pyramid Lake. During winter, a lighted skating rink is maintained on the lake surface. The Canadian Rockies do not get much better than they do here.

Highlights: Douglas fir forest, Pyramid Bench, aspen forest, Patricia Lake, Pyramid Lake.

Activities: Sightseeing, photography, walking, hiking.

Location: Begin from the town of Jasper.

Time: Minimum of one half-hour for driving.

For more information on Canadian Rockies accommodations: Click here!

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