Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka was quite a bit smaller back in 1880. In 1895 a small wooden dam was built, followed by a dam which raised the lake by 12 feet in 1912. Then in 1941, with the authority of the war measures act, the current dam was built, and the Ghost river at the east end of the lake was diverted to help raise the lake by a full 100 feet. The lake shoreline moved west around a half a mile, flooding the townsite of Minnewanka landing and other archeological sites dating back thousands of years.

The over 1/2 Km long earthen dam runs like a huge scar along the West side, the large rocks speaking of its industrial nature. The concrete spillway has sprung a few small leaks, feeding the algae below. The control dam feeding into Two Jack lake tries to hide in the canyon below the lookout. At the base of the dam, a pipe emerges spewing a token amount of water into the old Cascade river bed. Farther down river, the old power plant built in 1923 sits like a ghost among the trees.

Yes, it did provide Banff with power and create the best fishing in Banff. And it even provided curious scuba divers with some history to discover. But not without cost.

This amount of order is rarely found in nature. Smooth asphalt, concrete blocks with no parking signs, jumbled rocks, and a straight pile of dirt attest to humanity's imprint.  Polaroid 450 using Kentmere VG paper The backside of the spillway. Crumbling concrete, chain link fencing, and an engineered pile of dirt make up this dam.  Polaroid 450 using Kentmere VG paper Spillways are ugly.  Polaroid 450 using Kentmere VG paper The dam rises out of the water in defiance of nature.  Polaroid 450 using Kentmere VG paper The control dam feeding into Two Jack lake is another industrial site supporting this man-made lake.  Polaroid 450 using Kentmere VG paper Part of the effort to hold back 220 billion litres of water.  OM-2, Delta 100 film Over 1/2 Km of quarried rocks line the dam.  OM-2, Delta 100 film This pile of dirt was put here in 1941.   OM-2, Delta 100 film Concrete and algae,  OM-2, Delta 100 film Token water from Lake Minnewanka is let through the dam to help restore a .5 CFM Cascade River. This water is seen by some as a waste of potentially generated power.  OM-2n, HP5+, ID-11 1:3 This is the Cascade River today inside a pipe, OM-2n, HP5+, ID-11 1:3 The headwaters of the Cascade river 2.0, OM-2n, Fomapan 400, A76 1:1 A control channel monitors the level of water going through, OM-2n, Fomapan 400, A76 1:1 A sign indicates a dive site to discover the submerged Minnewanka Landing The old power plant built in 1923, now a historical site, OM-2n, HP5+, L76 1:1 Minnewankapower2.jpg The power plant sits in contrast to its awesome surroundings, OM-2n, HP5+, L76 1:1 Somehow windows in old buildings are difficult to preserve, OM-2n, Fomapan 400, A76 1:1 An old barbed wire fence tries to keep things out of the historical site, OM-2n, Fomapan 400, A76 1:1 What's left of the old surge tower, OM-2n, Fomapan 400, A76 1:1 80 years worth of trees, OM-2n, Fomapan 400, A76 1:1 A sign attempts to explain what happened here, OM-2n The spillway is representative of the dam, Polaroid 450 6 sec @ f/25, Kentmere paper, Dektol 1:2

A sign overlooking Lake Minnewanka states: "LAKE MINNEWANKA - A COMPROMISE WITH NATURE This lake has been artificially raised twice; 16' by the devil's canyon dam in 1912 and an additional 65' in 1941. Beneath these quiet waters lie the remains of the old dam across devil's canyon: off the point across the bay the foundations of the old village at Minnewanka landing lie preserved beneath many fathoms of water. The natural scene has been altered but nature has done much to heal the scars wrought by man."

Lake Minnewanka's shoreline before 1885

Page Notes