Banff National Park Scuba Diving

Scuba divers at Lake Minnewanka.

Scuba divers at Lake Minnewanka.

Being landlocked, Banff National Park is not renowned for scuba diving. An interesting opportunity for Banff scuba diving—Lake Minnewanka—does exist, however, and it’s surprisingly popular. A rough wagon road was constructed between Banff and the lake, and in 1888, Willoughby Astley and W.H. Disbrowe opened the Beach House, a primitive log hotel on the lake’s southern shore. It offered a dining room, boat rentals, and was a popular base for anglers. Others built cottages along the shore and a community known as Minnewanka Landing slowly evolved. In 1912, the government decided to use Lake Minnewanka as a storage dam for its downstream generating stations. This raised the water level, and as a result, all the buildings were moved to higher ground or demolished. In the early 1920s, a new, larger dam was proposed for a hydroelectric system, but it wasn’t until 1941 that the plan was put into effect. The new dam raised the lake level by 25 metres and doubled the lake’s surface area; the 1912 dam was submerged. Also disappearing underwater was the relocated townsite, comprising four streets, wharves, and a few buildings, and it is this old townsite that attracts coldwater scuba divers through the summer months.

For a list of dive shops and sites, contact the Alberta Underwater Council (780/427-9125 or 888/307-8566, www.albertaunderwatercouncil.com).

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