Highlights: Douglas Fir forest, Pyramid Bench, Aspen forest, Patricia Lake, Pyramid Lake.
Activities: Sightseeing, photography, walking, hiking.
Location: begin from Jasper Townsite.
Time: Minimum of one half-hour for driving.
Short but sweet best describes this winding 7 km (4 mi.) road. Beginning within the townsite, follow Connaught Drive and turn right onto Cedar Avenue, which becomes Pyramid Lake Road shortly after passing the Recreation Centre. Climbing a bench above town, it meanders through a Douglas fir forest.
One of the largest trees in the Rockies, a thick cork layers allow these giants to survive all but the largest forest fires. As a result, some large Douglas fir trees can be almost a metre in diametre. Most average around 50 cm.
Typical of the true Montane forest, the Douglas fir thrives in the Chinook blasted valleys of the Athabasca River. Pyramid Bench sports more than 20 small lakes left behind by the action of glaciers. With this plethora of ponds, the area is also riddled with trails to access to many of these tranquil locales. Watch for elk and deer, along with the occasional moose, black bear and grizzly. A gated road at the 2 km mark blocks access to Cabin Lake, the town’s main water supply.
Although most fireroads have been made redundant with the advent of helicopters, this road still forms one of the townsite’s first lines of defense. For mountain bikers, it provides access to the Saturday Night Loop, a 28.9 km (17.3 mi.) loop trail which skirts the shoreline of several local lakes. Just beyond the Cabin Lake access, the road passes a cottonwood slough. The “cottonwood” trees in this case are trembling aspen and balsam poplar, part of the same family as the true cottonwoods.
One of the premier birding locations in the park, keep your eyes open for birds like the barred owl, pied-billed grebe, and Barrow’s goldeneye. As the sun goes down, watch for the careful movements of beaver and moose. Along the shores of Patricia Lake, Patricia Lake Bungalows provide quiet accommodation. A boat rental allows for a relaxing paddle. Beneath these waters lie the remains of a top secret world war II project—code name Project Habbakuk. The idea, which came directly from Winston Churchill’s office, was to build an unsinkable battleship. How could this be accomplished? The answer seemed simple; it would be made completely out of ice. Where better to build a prototype than within the frozen wasteland of Canada, specifically Patricia Lake. A 1:50 scale model was built, and they managed to keep it frozen during the summer of 1943.
Unfortunately, the astronomical cost of actually deploying a full-size ship became apparent, and the venture was dropped. The refrigeration equipment was turned off, and the prototype sunk to the bottom where it still rests. Divers routinely explore the bottom to marvel at the remains of this unique structure.
The road ends at Pyramid Lake. This lake allows gasoline powered motors, and boats are available for rent at Pyramid Lake Bungalows. Cast a line for rainbow and lake trout along with Rocky Mountain Whitefish. In fact the Alberta record white sucker was taken in Pyramid Lake. During winter, a lighted skating rink is maintained on the lake surface.