Things To Do: Sailing Ghost Lake

Cochrane, Alberta

Ghost Lake - Cochrane, Alberta

Most people can't imagine sailing amongst the foothills of southern Alberta. But when the wind blows along Ghost Lake, 18 kilometers west of Cochrane, Alberta, it makes for a perfect outdoor adventure on the footsteps of the Rocky Mountains.

Ghost Lake, located 45 kilometers west of Calgary, is a man-made reservoir along the Bow River and is the closest mid-size lake in the region. Sailors and power-boaters enjoy summer days on the water, with the Rocky Mountains standing tall on the horizon.

View Ghost Lake, Alberta in a larger map

This reservoir holds the mountain runoff from the Bow Valley watershed and is used to control the level and flow of the downstream river. The water color ranges from deep blue to bright turquoise depending on the amount of limestone sediment in the water.

This is the closest lake to Calgary and Cochrane for sailors and boaters to enjoy (Lake Minnewanka is the next closest). Ghost Lake is surrounded by undeveloped foothills and framed by the front range of the Rocky Mountains to the west. Mount Yamnuska can be seen prominently in the distance. Highway 1A lines the northern shore. Two small cottage communities dot the shore line while the Morley native community can be found at the mouth of the lake.

Summer Fun at Ghost Lake

The lake is popular with boaters (jet boats and seadoos are also allowed). Even though trout is present in the water, there are few anglers due to the depth of the water and the amount of boat traffic, especially on the weekends.

Ghost lake is long and narrow and there's plenty of room for boaters to find an empty spot along the shoreline for anchoring or mooring. The lake is about 13 kilometers long and up to 1.5 kilometers wide. However, boaters may not want to venture past the large curve to the west due to the shallow depth and rocky bottom.

There are two boat launches, one private and the other public on the eastern shore. The large public boat launch is provided by the government (no fees) and is a part of the Ghost Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area (camping is seasonally available). Get there early to beat the rush at the launch site (up to 3 can go at a time). The crowds tend to disappear by evening. Mooring buoys are for prepaid renters.

There are three coves on the south shore of Ghost Lake, about 6 kilometers up the lake. The middle one, is the most popular due to its depth (10 feet) that allows for docking to the high-bank shore. The other two are not as sheltered.

Boating season is from mid-May to mid-October. The strong winds make it suitable for sailing in the summer & iceboating in the winter.

Winter Fun at Ghost Lake

The lake usually freezes from December to mid-May and is a popular winter fishing place. Iceboating is also popular here as the western winds scream down from the nearby mountains. The lake is unusual in that the surface is often clear of snow.

Things to do at Ghost Lake

  • Boating, sailing, wind-boarding, etc. in the summer. The water is always cold (+14C at its warmest) so wetsuits are highly recommended.
  • Ice boating and ice fishing in the winter.
  • Camping.
  • There are only a couple of picnic tables near the dock but the rocky beach is flat in some areas for an afternoon or evening bonfire.

Ghost Lake is a perfect retreat that's only 15 minutes from the town of Cochrane, Alberta. Get out and enjoy the wind, water and Rocky Mountain views! You can also find more things to discover in Alberta, including incredible scenery, great hikes and outdoor adventures, and interesting (and weird) roadside attractions.