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Archaeology Canada

Diving Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka has a rich history. There are recorded archaeological sites showing pre-contact occupations that cover an entire 10,000 year period. Artifacts have been found from the early, middle and late pre-contact periods. The Minnewanka site is one of a series of such early sites in the lower Bow Valley. There are also historical sites like the old Cascade Power Plant and the submerged features of the Lake Minnewanka townsite – Minnewanka Landing.

The resort village of Minnewanka Landing was established in 1888, when the first hotel – the Beach House – was constructed. Development continued at the site as wharves were built, cottage lots were made available for lease, hotels and restaurants were constructed, and lake tours aboard cruise boats were offered.

The changes to the lake and the area surrounding it began in 1895. A dam was constructed on Devils Creek to improve the lake’s shoreline. A second dam was built by the Calgary Power Co. in 1912 in Devils Canyon for water storage.

This dam raised the lake 3.5 m (12′), creating a new shoreline for the townsite and flooding Devils Creek. The government built a bridge over Devils Creek to maintain the original road from Banff to Minnewanka.

In 1923, the government built the Cascade Power Plant and three employee residences in Devils Canyon. This power house supplied Banff with electricity. It was abandoned when the third and present dam was built by the Calgary Power Co. in 1941 under the War Measures Act. This dam raised the lake 30 m (100′), flooding the townsite, the 1912 dam and the bridge at Devils Creek.

The historical activities surrounding Lake Minnewanka reflect the development, growth and changing attitudes towards national parks. This townsite is the best preserved, rare example of a submerged historic village in Canada. It contains unique specimens of early 19th century technology that are in the same location as they were when they were submerged.

1895 DAM

This small log dam is the earliest structure associated with the site. Marine archaeologists have assessed its condition to be extremely fragile. This structure would be destroyed if it was leaned on or touched by divers. You can help us protect this unique structure by avoiding it.

The submerged features of Minnewanka Landing are important cultural resources, rare within a national park. This submerged heritage belongs to each and every Canadian. Anything altered or removed from it diminishes this heritage. Individual visitors may not have a great impact on the site, but hundreds of divers and heavy boat traffic for sightseeing and fishing causes major cumulative and irreversible damage to the sites. Activities such as artifact retrieval, attaching objects to the features, graffiti, anchor dragging and down rigging fishing are all very harmful to these resources. Under the Canada National Parks Act, anyone removing, damaging or destroying prehistoric or historic artifacts or structures, is subject to a fine of $2000.00.

Lake Minnewanka is 1450 m above sea level, 18 km long with a maximum depth of 100 m. All dives at Lake Minnewanka are cold water, altitude dives. Visibility fluctuates depending on the time of year and the number of divers at the site. Depths vary depending on the time of year, rising up to 5.5 m (18′) from spring to fall. Depths listed below were taken in October. There are 16 features located in three main diving areas.

For more information visit Parks Canada or download their PDF

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