We will explore two premier areas of Banff National Park, Lake Louise and Cave and Basin, weather permitting. We will drive to Lake Louise from Banff (about 40 minutes), and after orientation, likely at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel, delegates will be allowed to explore the area for a couple of hours. The internet says that Lake Louise is the most photographed place in Canada, if not the world. What do you think?
Banff is the birthplace of Canada’s National Park system, and was initially established around the Cave and Basin Hot spring site to attract tourists west on the newly built rail line. Now a National Heritage site, it hosts the only endangered animal in the park.
We hope to include this site on the trip, weather permitting. The "Cave" is a travertine mound formed over glacial sediments, that was later hollowed out by acid speleogenesis. Large mats of Thiothrix sp. growing in the outlet provide food for the Banff Springs snail, which evolved over the last 5000 years from cold water cousins. The snails are uniquely adapted to life in the warm anoxic spring waters. Cycles of snow melt can destroy the microbial mats, and lead to mass die off of the snails – an annual trauma for this endangered endemic species.
Lake Louise is Canada’s highest permanent settlement, at over 1700 m (5700 feet). The lake and surrounding area are ancestral lands of the Stoney-Nakoda and other First Nations people. The lake is glacier-fed by Victoria Glacier and ringed by high peaks with hanging glaciers and many glacial moraine features, including Mount Victoria, which is on the western end of the lake. The lake elevation is 1600 m (5200 ft) and reaches 70 m (220 feet) deep. The surrounding mountains are part of the Slate Range of the Canadian Rockies and reach over 2500 m (8200 ft) in elevation. Most of the rocks surrounding Lake Louise are comprised of Proterozoic sandstones, siltstones, and carbonates. The water’s turquoise color is due to finely ground “glacial flour” produced by the glaciers, and the lake exists because a previous glacier paused briefly and deposited an end moraine that now traps surrounding meltwater.
Rocks outcropping along the shore, including near the Hotel, are Middle Cambrian, Gog Formation, and contain trilobite trace fossils in the quartzite. There are several places along the lakefront where you can take a short hike, eat your lunch, enjoy the scenery, and find prime locations for all your selfies.
Trip Details Delegates will depart early Wednesday morning (after breakfast) at the Banff Park Lodge by chartered bus. This will be an all-day trip, and we will return in time for mid-afternoon activities. A boxed lunch, water, and snacks will be provided. We will likely be out of cellphone reception for most of the day, as well leave Banff.
Regular shoes are fine (but may get turned red from the mud). A warm jacket, gloves, and rain gear may be useful given unpredictable fall weather and higher elevations (~1400 m above sea level). Sunscreen is recommended, as are sunglasses and a hat.