By Guest Writer Henry Reimer
-he escaped the Alberta winters and
shares his two favorite locations to dive
When thinking of scuba diving locations, one would not find high elevations covered in ice and snow for almost half of the year inviting. However, we would be wrong in that assumption as we explore two great locations in Alberta, Canada. They are not the only locations but they are two that have much to offer a diver who wishes to experience an extraordinary dive. There is nothing run of the mill diving here!
The first is located in Banff National park. The location is Lake Minnewanka, which is 5.5 miles east of Banff, Alberta and only 80 miles west of Calgary, Alberta. Calgary has a metropolitan population of 1,200,000 people and has a complete inventory of services and visitor accommodations, while Banff has a population of approximately 7,800 permanent residents. Banff’s’ major business is tourism and has a large variety of hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, as well as large camping facilities – plus services for all types of budgetary requirements.
For divers, Lake Minnewanka is the only lake in Banff National Park which allows limited power boat use. Boats and canoes may be rented at Lake Minnewanka and maps showing the locations of over 15 popular dive sites are readily available. The lake itself is a large lake, 13 miles long and having a maximum depth of 466 feet. The water temperatures remain cold all year due to the lake’s depth and the run off of massive amounts of snow every spring. Lake Minnewanka has many interesting dive sites because the lake has been dammed in order to facilitate hydroelectric power. Three dams have been built in 1895, 1912, and 1941. Each of these dams has resulted in the submergence of shoreline and town sites that now sit at the bottom and provide great dive sites for those who come prepared for cold water. Due to the size of the lake and the numerous dive sites, divers could plan a fairly extensive visit to the area. Warm weather gear for topside and recommended thermal drysuits for under the water.
For divers who also want to participate in other activities the area is full of hiking, boating, fishing, and hundreds of spectacular views. For divers who like to chop their way through the ice during the winter, Banff has absolutely great skiing available within 20 miles.
The second dive site in Alberta’s national Parks is in Jasper National Park. The closest large city to the site is Edmonton, Alberta. Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and has a metropolitan population of approximately 1,100,000. Edmonton is a major airline hub with extensive services for travelers of all types. Patricia Lake, one of the more exciting dive locations to visit, is just less than two miles outside Jasper which is 225 miles west of Edmonton. Extensive tourist facilities are found in Jasper which is the central service area for this large Canadian National park. Unlike Lake Minnewanka, this dive site is located on a much smaller lake. Patricia Lake is only approximately 1.5 miles long and has an average depth of about 100 feet. The notable dive site relates to a World War II project which had the aim of building huge aircraft carriers made of a combination of pykrete and ice. The aim was to create an almost indestructible aircraft carrier that would be immune from most explosives. The ship was projected to be 2000 feet long and would be anchored in the north Atlantic and aircraft would be able to patrol for German U-boats that almost defeated the United Kingdom in World War II. Large ice blocks were constructed at Lake Louise, also in Alberta. A 60 foot long and 30 foot wide model of the ship was built of the combination of ice and pykrete on Patricia Lake. It housed a building and a heating system. As the war progressed and the allies managed to greatly stem the U-boat problem the plan called Habbakuk was cancelled. The spelling of Habakkuk and Habbakuk are both used in historical literature.
Today some of the wreckage is still visible on the bottom of the lake but 75 years has caused a great deal of damage to what was the cabin. The area provides a large variety of tourist facilities involving fishing, hiking, bike trails, canoeing, site seeing, and mountain climbing.
If you don’t mind a cold adventure both above and below the waterline, Alberta has some choice diving locations available. I grew up in Alberta and spent a great deal of time on these two lakes, over the forty years I lived there. My son may not remember – or was scarred for life when I took him fishing on the lake when he was very young, many years ago. There were some exciting instances when our small fishing boat almost overturned, dumping us into the frigid waters. I can still recall one time when my son’s eyes where large saucers as he was convinced we would not make it home. We always did.
Aside from diving in these two lakes, this is truly one of the most beautiful areas I have ever seen in my lifetime. Take a trip to Alberta and find your adventure!