Moraine Lake, Alberta, Canada

Lake Locations:

Canada - Alberta -

Moraine Lake, one of the jewels in Banff National Park’s crown, is sometimes dismissively called ‘the other lake’. Nothing could be more misleading. Neighbor Lake Louise may get more visitors and more travel industry attention, but Moraine Lake is a star in its own right. Located about ten miles from Lake Louise, Moraine Lake nestles in Banff’s spectacular Valley of the Ten Peaks and offers scenery that’s unrivaled anywhere. The setting is so striking that the Valley of the Ten Peaks was twice featured on the back of the Canadian $20 bill, giving the setting the nickname of ‘the $20 view’. Because the road to Moraine Lake is usually only open from late May until October, winter visitors to Lake Louise may not see Moraine Lake at all unless they get a birds-eye view via helicopter. And, because many visitors to Banff and Lake Louise arrive via tour group, they may not have a car to make the trip to Moraine Lake or have the physical stamina to either hike or bicycle the remaining ten miles to its shores.

Moraine Lake is a bit smaller than Lake Louise at just 110 acres, yet the vivid shade of blue reflecting from its waters creates a scene that can only be hinted at in the best of photographs. The water that fills the lake comes primarily from Fay Glacier via Larch Creek. Although the road to Moraine Lake may be open in May, the water displays its best colors later in June; additional inflow brings in the rock flour from the glacier that lends its many hues of blue to the water. To get the best view of the lake, many visitors climb the Rockpile Trail along the moraine beside the lake. The trail climbs about 80 feet to a vantage point where visitors have the opportunity to take pictures of the lake and the peaks beyond. This is the view that is seen on the $20 bills issued in 1969 and 1979. Another popular and easy trail at Moraine Lake is a paved pathway near the Moraine Lake Lodge to a spectacular waterfall. The waterfall cannot be seen from the water, but the other views are well worth renting a canoe to explore the lake. Several other trails around the lake are more strenuous and lead to the the Consolation Lakes, Eiffel Lake, Wenkchemna Pass, Larch Valley, and Sentinel Pass.

Fishing and swimming are not permitted at Moraine Lake. There is no boating allowed except canoeing. The Lodge is the site of all commercial services including food. Guests at the lodge have their canoe provided along with their room, and lodge staff can arrange a number of outdoor activities for guests such as horseback tours, gondola rides, helicopter rides, white water rafting and guided fishing trips to streams in the area. Most activities can be arranged privately through the companies that offer them for non-guests. Those planning to hike should check latest trail conditions and warnings. This is grizzly bear country, and occasionally rangers will insist on hiking groups of more than four persons for safety when there is recent bear activity in the area.

Camping areas are provided along the nearby Bow River which serve both lakes. The tiny Village of Lake Louise contains such necessities as a medical center, police department, and some shopping. Areas other than Moraine Lake Road are open for most of the winter, and the village serves as unofficial headquarters for local ski areas and winter activities. The Town of Banff is about 35 miles to the south along the Trans-Canada Highway and holds a number of lodgings and tourism amenities. From here, visitors can take gondola rides to the top of Sulphur Mountain, enjoy a relaxing soak in Banff Upper Hot Springs, learn the history of Banff and the surrounding area at the Wylie Museum of The Western Rockies, and tour the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, often called the Castle in The Mountains and Banff’s first hotel. One must-see attraction is the Banff Park Museum National Historic Site in the original 1903 log cabin where the park system was first organized. The museum holds thousands of examples of plants, birds and animals originally collected to study the park’s natural environment.

There are a variety of lodging opportunities around the Town of Banff and are likely the best options for the non-camper and non-Lodge guest. Some self-catering guest houses exist, as do a few small motels with kitchenettes. Banff also hosts a number of chain hotels. Few private rentals outside of town can be found within the park other than the few concessions permitted by the park service. Little in the way of real estate can be found unless one travels outside of the Park boundaries. For nature enthusiasts, the area within Banff National Park and around Moraine Lake will offer myriad opportunities to hike, climb, fish and enjoy some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. Plan to spend at least a week exploring the park and making the auto trip along the Icefields Parkway. And remember, you can’t really say you’ve seen the Canadian Rockies until you’ve seen ‘the other lake’.

Things to do at Moraine Lake

  • Canoeing
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • Museum
  • Shopping

Moraine Lake Photo Gallery

Moraine Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 109 acres

Shoreline Length: 3 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 6,181 feet

Maximum Depth: 46 feet

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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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