Boating on Lake Minnewanka

Things To Do in Banff, Alberta

Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park


After a winter of record snowfall in the Canadian Rockies, we had to wait until mid-July for our first outdoor adventure of the summer season in Banff National Park. We decided to go boating on Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in the Canadian Mountain Parks.

Lake Minnewanka is located 10 minutes outside of Banff, Alberta and is man-made reservoir created to generate hydro-electric power for the townsite. It's the only lake in Banff National Park that allows sailboats, power boats and larger vessels. It doesn't allow jet boats or Seadoos.

Located further than Ghost Lake near Cochrane, this is a popular lake for anglers and boaters looking for day sails from Calgary. Two Jack Lake is another popular lake and is located just below Lake Minnewanka, at the bottom of the dam. It's a smaller lake suitable for kayaking, canoeing & scuba diving. Larger boats are prohibited.

Boating In Banff

Reversing down the public boat launch at Lake Minnewanka was a bit harrowing. It was the first time of the year I was reversing a boat trailer and my attempts were a bit crooked to say the least. Tourists were even snapping pictures, much to my chagrin.

On the water, a few other boats were tied up at the large public dock. The far side facing the open water was reserved for large tour boats. Since we were ready to go and didn't need to tie up, we started the outboard and headed to the other side of the lake.

Boating on Lake Minnewanka, Banff, Alberta
Don't miss a boat trip in Banff, Alberta.
Mountain view from the lake Banff, Alberta, Canada
View of the mountains from Lake Minnewanka.


Lake Minnewanka is a long, narrow lake. Crossing the lake took only a few minutes. The large mountains acted as a wind buffer and the water was calm and the air was still. We were planning on beaching the boat and having a picnic on the rocky shore but we didn't want to attract the roaming wildlife in the area - including deer, elk, mountain sheep and bears. Instead, we headed up the lake.

At 28 kilometers long, this is the largest lake in the Canadian Mountain Parks. The views of Mount Inglismaldie & Girouard were spectacular. Looking up at these rocky giants from the water, we saw mountain faces that were inaccessible from the roads in the park. Absolutely remarkable.

As we ventured further, the scenery got prettier and quieter. We'd cut the engine and just floated on the placid turquoise water. Between the musical bird calls that echoed in the secluded valley, the silence was unbelievable. The grand mountains looked down upon us in the valley. Absolutely beautiful.

History of Lake Minnewanka

Minnewanka means "Water of the Spirits" in the Nakota Stoney Language, the local First Nations people. They've inhabited the area for over 10,000 years and many rocky tools have been found in the area.

Dams were constructed on the Cascade River in 1912 and 1941 and created the existing lake. SCUBA divers who can brave the cold water have a cordoned off area near the earthen dam to explore a submerged village, concrete foundations and the previous 1912 dam 30 meters below.


View Lake Minnewanka - Banff, Alberta in a larger map

From Calgary, take the first Banff exit and turn right onto the Minnewanka Loop. The parking lot is on the western end of the lake near the dam. The furthest parking lot has larger stalls to accommodate trucks and boat trailers. A National Park pass is required when boating on Lake Minnewanka.

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