Landscapes - Robert Downie
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Spirit Island

Stillness descends over Maligne Lake and Spirit Island after a stormy day of canoeing in which we had a mix of rain, hail, sunshine, and snow. Kodak used a picture of Spirit Island taken by Peter Gales as part of a showcase for Kodack Colorama, that was displayed prominently in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal in 1960. Kodack Colorama was leading the new phenomenon of consumer colour film at the time and since then the island has become one of the iconic vistas of the Canadian Rockies. The ‘island’ is in fact a small peninsula which is only cut off by water briefly after large spring snowmelts. We spent three days canoe camping around the lake, and the colour of the water in the southern end of the lake really needs to be seen to be believed.
Being one of the most popular back country trips in the Rockies, it can be notoriously difficult to book a camping spot on the lake. We were lucky that the ice melted off the lake a couple of weeks early this year and Parks Canada released an extra week of bookings which were previously withheld. We quickly booked at the last minute, and were amazingly the only people in the campsite near Spirit Island on the first night we camped. With the ice having only been off the lake for a week, we were able experience Spirit Island all to ourselves. The next morning as we paddled to explore the southern end of the lake we did not see another vessel.
Maligne Lake sits at an elevation of 1,675 metres (5,495 feet), and has a maximum depth of 97 metres (318 feet). The deep water temperatures in the lake never rise above 4°C (39°F) even at the peak of summer; so it’s not a lake you can afford to capsize your canoe in. This shot was taken just after sunset. Jasper National Park. Alberta, Canada

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