Murtle Lake is the largest motor-free lake in North America – and is a must see on any true paddler’s “to do” list. There is over 100 kilometers of shoreline to explore in this area. This area is a natural, beautiful, sensitive environment for those who love and appreciate the outdoors. Clear starry nights, no airplanes, no motors (except for Park Staff).
I traveled here on my very first paddle and back-country experience over the August long weekend with my partner, my mother and her partner, and Jordan’s sister’s family of six. I had no expectations and was very excited to be away from the hustle and bustle of life on this trip. We stayed for four nights, five days in this stunning natural playground. Not only was it absolutely incredible to feel so completely relaxed and
happy, but it was lovely to spend time with so much family. We spent our mornings playing with the smaller children (who hung out near the beach and campsite) and spent the afternoons paddling around and fishing.
The best fishing was at Henrietta Lake, a short paddle from Campsite #2, and one kilometer hike into the lake. Beware, this is not a good lake for swimming as the cedar rot is misleading and the leeches are absolutely huge.
We ventured over to Campsite #3, better known as Sandy Point for a fabulous day trip. The views of the Wavy Range are incredible and the beach is pure white sand with protective lava rocks. This was my favourite swimming spot as one can wade out for a short while and then there is a drop off. It is also a great spot to filter fresh water. I learned from fellow campers that there is an excellent hike straight across the way up into the Wavy Range. I’m going to venture there next time as it is an extensive paddle up the Straight Creek and then a ten kilometer hike to the Wave Crest Peak. This will be an awesome spot to test out my alpine overnight camping gear. It sounds like a multi-day adventure for sure!
Another wonderful place I have yet to explore is McDougall Falls, which was much further than I realized when looking at the map prior to leaving. This would be a full day of paddling or a multi-day exploration on the way over with a short hike up McDougall Falls and to nearby McDougall Lake. Jordan’s last name is McDougall, so we totally must do it in this lifetime! We did get out to Fairyslipper Island, which was a lovely day trip. There was incredible fishing to be had here and the views of the area are simply incredible. To my surprise, there was a fire pit out on the spit – even with the fire ban, one can have a fire here as it would blow onto the water in either direction. Amazing!
Also, just saying – with the right wilderness skills and guidance, a camper of any age can have a great time out here. My sister-in-law is proof as the last time she went out there she was ten months pregnant, and this time, Ilya was the youngest at eleven months.
Be prepared for the portage in from the parking lot. All I can say is you should only pack what you absolutely need, or you may regret hulling it all the way up to the lake. It is two and a half kilometers, but with a loaded canoe, one cannot move that on his or her own. Be smart, and be ready!
We spent a few more days in Valemount visiting family and even made a stopover in Jasper to see Ant Man at the cinema. Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park did not disappoint either. Overall, it was an incredible trip and if I could, I would go back in a heart beat.
Know Before You Go:
- Read up before you go and make a plan of where you’ll explore – it’s huge!
- You’re 100% on your own out there. Prepare to meet bears, moose, and other wildlife.
- Speaking of which, use the provided bear caches and prepare for fire bans.
- It is crucial to practice leave no trace wilderness skills in this area.
- Bring bug spray, candles, sunscreen, and an application for fresh water or tablets.
- Prepare for all weather, even in summer. Be ready for cold snow, rain, or beautiful days.