Wabasso Campground and Maligne Lake Road – June 2018

Our campsite at Wabasso

After arriving at Wabasso Campground, we basically spent two nights and two days in Jasper National Park near Jasper, Alberta. Wabasso is a very nice forested campground with very good site spacing and one loop with electric hookups. Our site was not the most level, but it wasn’t terrible and we didn’t have a lot of options with only two sites still available when we booked it.

The Athabasca River, with more snow-capped mountains, flowed by the entire length of our campground.
A portion of the river path

The highlight of the campground for us was the trail along the Athabasca River. We walked short sections with the dog and the entire thing without him. The walk was really beautiful with the powerful Athabasca River in the foreground and beautiful mountains in the background. It was also very peaceful. We passed no one on the trail, human or bear.

Bridge 5 was a suspension bridge.

After leaving our campground, we spent a day exploring along Maligne Lake Road. The beginning of the road features Maligne Canyon and its six bridges. We hiked to Bridges 1-4, but cheated on Bridge 5 and just drove into its parking lot on our way out rather than hiking the extra mile+ from Bridge 4 to Bridge 5 (and back).

Bridge 3 over the Maligne River

The upper trail and its four bridges offer outstanding views of crystal clear pools that have eroded into the rock along with several waterfalls. Maligne Canyon’s deepest point is approximately 55m. In spots the canyon’s top opening is only 2m across. The Park Service estimates three hours round trip to hike from Bridge 6 to Bridge 1 and back, too much time for us today.

This beautiful scene is below Bridge 4.

Our next stop along the road was Medicine Lake, which, despite its name, is not really a lake. Medicine Lake is upstream of Maligne Canyon, and it is at this point that the Maligne River largely disappears underground. However, in spring and early summer, the meltwater overwhelms that underground system and water backs up to form Medicine Lake.

Medicine Lake

(In an even stranger twist, much of the water that disappears underground rejoins the Maligne River lower in the canyon that we had hiked. As the river above ground carves down into the rock, the underground river is exposed and joins the visible river again.)

On another day, we would have loved to spend several hours paddling Maligne Lake.

The end of the road brought us to Maligne Lake. Perhaps best experienced with a boat ride, Maligne Lake is quite long and narrow with mountains rising steeply along both sides. The weather wasn’t bad (although it was hazy which impacted our photographs), but we didn’t have time to do the boat trip this year so settled for admiring the lake and mountains from the north shore.

Elk

The Maligne Lake Road is supposed to be good for wildlife. We saw two bears (no good pictures) and two elk along the side of the road. I’m sure it’s better early mornings and late afternoon.

From Jasper, we left the heavy tourist areas of the national parks and headed for our first real “Alaska” destination – Dawson Creek and mile 0 of the Alaska Highway.

Day 17 (Day 11 in Canada)

Miles: 0
Overnight: Wabasso Campground
Weather: Partly sunny (41/73)

Athabasca River
Athabasca River
Maligne Canyon
Maligne Canyon
Medicine Lake
Maligne Lake

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