Maligne Lake, Alberta, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Alberta -

With a name derived from the French word for wicked or evil, Alberta’s Maligne Lake (pronounced muh-leen) offers a contradictory scenic and serene face. Located within Canada’s Jasper National Park, remote Maligne Lake shares its name with a nearby mountain range and the Maligne River. So named by Father Pierre-Jean De Smet in the mid 1800s, the title was likely originally bestowed to indicate the sometimes dangerous rapids of the Maligne River during spring flood. Certainly, the millions of visitors who have come to admire the 4,900-acre lake haven’t felt it had any malicious intent . . .just beautiful views, towering mountains and plentiful wildlife!

The first European to see the lake was Henry McLeod in 1878 while he was scouting routes for the Canadian Pacific Railway. By the early 1920s, Maligne Lake was a widely-visited attraction for wealthy ‘outdoor adventurers’ who were treated to rustic but opulent facilities on the lake while they toured the area on horseback. When Jasper Forest Park was granted national park status in 1930, Maligne Lake became the largest lake within the new park and soon one of the most visited. Because much of the water derives from glacial melt, the lake’s waters usually have the stunning blue hues created by ‘glacial flour’ carried from the mountains.

Three ice fields can be seen from the shores of Maligne Lake: Maligne, Unwin and Charlton glaciers provide the stunning backdrop along with the peaks of mountains Charlton, Unwin, Llysfran, Mary Vaux, Mount Paul, Samson and Leah. It was scenery such as this that made the original tourists flock to Jasper National Park. Located 50 miles by car from the Town of Jasper, visitors must make a special effort to get here-an effort eased considerably by the in-park concessionaires who provide services.

There is no swimming beach; the average temperature of the lake is a cool 39 degrees and ice-free only from late May until September. There is also no way to launch large private boats, making it far easier to control the lake’s environment and prevent boat-caused pollution. Canoes, kayaks and rowboats may be rented from the historic 1928 Boathouse. The original builder of the Boathouse planted rainbow trout and brook trout in the lake in early years, and the trout now reproduce naturally, growing to large size. Trout fishing has become quite popular, although a Mountain Park fishing license is required. The only motorized boats on the lake are the diesel-powered cruise boats operated by the main concessionaire. A variety of cruises are offered, from a 90-minute cruise to scenic Spirit Island, family cruises for families with children (including snacks, hands-on nature activities and a nature-themed scavenger hunt on Spirit Island), and longer-length photographic cruises especially geared to photography buffs.

The 1927 Maligne Lake Chalet still holds the traditional afternoon tea. The Chalet offers meals and snacks to visitors, provides maps and information, and acts as a visitors center. Several popular trailheads begin near the Chalet at the north end of the lake. Few are considered ‘easy’ trails, and most require some exertion. The shortest and most level is the two-mile Mary Schaffer Trail that follows the shoreline, then loops back through the forest to the parking area. Another short trail is the Moose Lake Loop, about two miles of relatively flat walking. Others are considerably longer and steeper, culminating in the multi-day 27-mile Skyline Trail above the tree line that eventually ends up in the town of Jasper. For those who aren’t inclined to do a lot of hiking, the concessionaire offers a variety of other activities, including some tours by van.

One tour nearly everyone wants to take is the short trip to Medicine Lake-a couple of miles north of Maligne Lake and downstream along the Maligne River. Unusual Medicine Lake’s water actually disappears each year. Not a true lake, Medicine Lake is created when spring thaws add too much water to this area of the Maligne Valley, and it can’t escape fast enough. As to where the lake goes, that question was answered several years ago when geologists added a bio-degradeable dye to the water to track its course. The dye appeared in several local lakes; water had traveled via underground seepage through the porous karst limestone to show up in the other lakes. During dry periods, there is very little water left in the shallow lake until the next year’s spring thaw. The half-day tour includes a stop to enjoy some of the waterfalls at the south end of the lake and walk a few short paths, then watch for the many wildlife the naturalist/guide can point out, such as moose, elk, bear, bighorn sheep, wolves, eagles and osprey.

The Maligne Lake concession handles the shuttle vans that transport visitors to and from Jasper hotels and lodgings, and provides a full complement of activity tours year round. The concession organizes trout fishing trips (gear provided), arranges for whitewater rafting in the area, and offers a full schedule of winter activities for off-season visitors to enjoy. Cross-country skiing excursions, snowshoe treks, and an extremely popular Ice Walk explore the winter landscape under the helpful guidance of experienced tour guides. The Ice Walk isn’t recommended for children under age seven and includes ice cleats to safely traverse stretches of slippery slope to view ice caves, frozen waterfalls and glaciers.

Two canoe-access-only camping areas are located along Maligne Lake. Other lodgings are primarily found in the Town of Jasper and along the Icefields Parkway. Jasper has everything a vacationer could desire in amenities and services. The entire town is geared toward accommodating Jasper National Park visitors. Several private campgrounds join the hotels, guest houses and resort-style lodgings in the town, while restaurants are plentiful and varied. Jasper has several walking and hiking trails that can be reached from many of the hotels, and a fully-equipped Visitors Center provides maps, information and recommendations. Truly, Maligne Lake can be enjoyed any time of the year.

Things to do at Maligne Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park

Fish species found at Maligne Lake

  • Brook Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Maligne Lake Photo Gallery

Maligne Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 4,870 acres

Shoreline Length: 28 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 5,479 feet

Average Depth: 115 feet

Maximum Depth: 315 feet

Water Volume: 642,247 acre-feet

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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