You may have never been to Lake Louise but we’re willing to bet that you’ve already seen a photograph of it. It has the honor of being the world’s most photographed lake and it’s easy to see why. There is something very special about Lake Louise that captures the hearts and imaginations of photographers and nature lovers from all over the world. The blue water against forested or snow-capped mountains is stunning and one of the major attractions of the Canadian Banff National Park.
Located 87 miles west of Calgary, Alberta, it’s also about a day’s drive from Vancouver through the spectacular Coast Mountains and the Canadian Rockies. It’s easy to get to via the TransCanada Highway. If you prefer to travel by train, the Rocky Mountaineer has regular services between April and October. It is most well known for the spectacular views from its shores. If you stand with the Chateau Lake Louise behind you, there is an amazing view of Mount Victoria which stands at 11,365 feet high. To your left is Fairview Mountain which stands at 9001 feet high. You also have the Beehive Hems to your right. It is possible to walk around the entire lake and at certain times of the year, you will be alone. However, in the summer months, the lake attracts up to 15,000 visitors a day.
How Deep Is Lake Louise?
The deepest point of Lake Louise is around 230 feet. Parks Canada is the government agency that looks after Lake Louise and they state that they do not monitor the water levels in the lake because they are constantly changing. Levels can get higher and lower depending on the season, rainfall, and the melt from the glacier that supplies the lake. There is some evidence that the glacier is under pressure as a result of global warming.
|Drains into||Bow River|
|Surface elevation||5.740 ft|
|Max. length||1.2 miles|
|Max. width||0.31 miles|
|Surface area||0.31 sq miles|
|Max. depth:||230 feet|
5 Facts About Lake Louise
Here are 5 incredible facts about this stunning lake that you may not know:
1. The Lake’s Water Color Is Unique
Many mountain lakes and rivers are a vivid blue-green color and Lake Louise is one of the most striking. The color is from glacial meltwater that starts to flow as temperatures rise in the spring. This glacial water contains silt and rock flour created by the rocks grinding underneath the ice as the glacier moves. Because rock flour is so fine, it is held in suspension in the water and sunlight reflects back off it creating a vivid blue-green color. Because the composition of the rocks under each glacier is unique, so is the color of the water.
However, you can only view this natural wonder at certain times. The first meltwater of the year, in late spring, does not contain much silt. So, at this time of the year, the blue color is not very obvious. During July and August, the meltwaters are at their highest and the silt levels rise. This produces a vivid blue coloration in the water that thousands of visitors flock to see. By September and October, the glacial silt is starting to settle and the color fades.
The color can even vary from hour to hour depending on the light. If there is cloud cover, there will be no color because direct sunlight is needed. Also, the angle is important. The lake looks at its most stunning when viewed from above.
2. The Lake Doesn’t Thaw Until June
When planning a trip to witness the striking blue waters of Lake Louise, timing is everything. If you arrive too early in the year, you may even find that it is still frozen. Lake Louise sits high in the Rockies at 5740 feet. At this elevation, spring comes later than in many other parts of Canada. As a result, Lake Louise is still frozen when many other Canadian lakes have melted.
The thaw of Lake Louise starts in May when the ice thins and breaks up creating fascinating patterns that can be captured in photographs. The final clearance of the ice is usually very rapid and can happen in just one day. As the glacial flow increases, the ice gets washed to the front end of the lake where it is carried away into Lake Louise Creek.
The exact conditions of every thawing season are different so it is impossible to accurately predict the thaw date. If winter hangs on in the Rockies, the melt can be delayed by over a week. In recent years, the earliest melt has been on May 30th and the latest has been June 17th.
3. Some Fish Survive in the Lake All Year
Most of the lakes in the Banff mountain national park did not contain any fish until humans intervened. Those that did have a fish population, contained only a handful of species.
Through a series of accidental and planned releases, Lake Louise does now contain fish. However, the populations are not actively stocked and a catch and release approach is encouraged amongst anglers.
Some fish are able to survive the very cold winter temperatures. Cutthroat Trout living in inland lakes often grow to between 17 pounds 40 inches in length. They have an orange/red coloring that runs linear to the mandibles making them look as if they are bleeding, hence the name “Cutthroat.”
Bull Trout also survive in the lake all year. They have a color and markings that are similar to a brook or brown trout but they are actually a char and are related to the salmon. They can only survive in very specific habitats that are ‘cold, clean, connected, and complex’. In Canada, they are only found in British Columbia and Yukon. They are listed as Vulnerable by IUCN Redlist.
Finally, there are also Mountain Whitefish in the lake all year round. These are salmonid fish with slender bodies and silver scales with an olive-green shade dorsally. They prefer clear and cold mountain waters.
4. You Would Not Like Swimming in Lake Louise!
This is a lake for looking at rather than swimming in! The temperature rarely rises above 41 degrees F. It is made up of melted ice after all! According to Scientific American, the human body can only survive in water at this temperature for a maximum of 20 minutes. Some people would only survive for 10 minutes. At these temperatures, you start to lose strength and coordination because all the blood is directed to the vital organs to keep them alive.
This is why the lake hosts a Polar Bear Dip as part of the Canada Day celebrations on July 21st. Some brave people dare to plunge into the waters but most only stay in for a few seconds.
Luckily, there are plenty of other things that you can do on and around the lake, all year round. You can start by simply looking at it and taking in its beauty. The Visitor Center has lots of interesting exhibits about the geology of the lake. You can also purchase the necessary permits and licenses and get advice relating to your visit.
Canoeing and Kayaking are permitted as is fishing (with licenses). There are amazing organized group hikes and planned self-guided hikes as well as excursions to local mountains where you can try mountain biking, horse riding, and even rock climbing.
In the winter, this is an extremely popular ski resort (the second largest in Canada) offering 139 runs and hosting Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup which is Canada’s most popular alpine ski race. There’s also ice skating on the lake and horse-drawn sleigh rides at the lake’s hotel — Chateau Lake Louise.
5. It Has Not Always Been Called Lake Louise
Lake Louise was not always called Lake Louise! Indigenous people lived in the area where they existed by hunting large game animals like bison. In the old Canadian language of Stoney, the area is called Ho-run-num-nay, which means “lake of the little fishes”.
Things pretty much remained the same until construction workers for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) arrived. One local guide took a worker called Tom Wilson to the site in 1882 and when he saw the lake he named it Emerald Lake, presumably because of the color of the water. Two years later, it was renamed Lake Louise after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta who was the 4th daughter of Queen Victoria of England. Eventually, the village in the area was given the same name and is the highest permanent settlement in Canada.
Lake Louise became part of Banff National Park in 1892. It soon became a popular tourist destination and has been one ever since. The construction of the Trans-Canada Highway made it even more accessible.
Where is Lake Louise Located on a Map?
Lake Louise is one of several glacier-fed lakes located in Banff National Park. The park is in the Canadian province of Alberta, located between the province of British Columbia to its west and Saskatchewan on its east. Alberta borders the Northwest Territory to the north and the U.S. state of Montana to the south.
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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Can I stay at Lake Louise?
The only place to stay at Lake Louise is the luxurious Chateau Lake Louise. This stunning hotel has spectacular views across the lake but is not an inexpensive option! For more limited budgets, the best option is to stay in the town of Banff and travel to the lake for the day.
When is the best time to visit Lake Louise?
Lake Louise is always beautiful. The best time to see the blue-green water is during July and August but this is also when it is most crowded. During May, the melting ice is also very picturesque. The snow-capped mountains surroundings the lake are stunning in the winter.
Are other lakes near Lake Louise?
Yes, Moraine Lake is just an 8 mile drive away. The water in this lake is crystal clear and bright blue with reflections of the surrounding mountains. If you are at Lake Louise, it is certainly worth a visit.
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- Parks Canada, Available here: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/banff/visit/les10-top10/louise
- Banff and Beyond, Available here: http://banffandbeyond.com/things-you-may-not-have-known-about-lake-louise/