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Two small lakes just outside of the Town of Jasper, Lake Annette and Lake Edith are favorites of local lake lovers. Although the lakes aren't quite as spectacular as some of those in Jasper National Park, the stunning view of Mount Edith Cavell, one of the highest peaks in the Canadian Rockies, makes for some photogenic scenery. But the main attraction to local residents is the two lakes' proximity to work and home with opportunities for swimming, picnicking and hiking offered along the shore. Both Lake Annette and Lake Edith lie on the Athabasca Valley floor, at lower elevation than other national park lakes. They are relatively shallow, allowing them to warm for comfortable swimming each summer. Lake Annette and its shoreline are all public. Lake Edith, however, has about 50 cottages on leased land around the lakefront-the only national park in Alberta with such cottages. The lakes are close together, separated only by a narrow strip of land holding the swimming beaches, playgrounds and picnic areas.
Despite being less than four miles from the tourism center of Jasper, the shorelines and surrounding areas remain heavily wooded and support a wealth of wildlife. In order that visitors can take full advantage of the scenic area, hiking trails have been established around both lakes. Lake Annette features a nearly two-mile paved trail that is wheelchair accessible and nearly flat. Interpretive signage along the trail educates hikers to natural features of the landscape and landmarks seen from that viewpoint. Benches are conveniently placed to allow for a scenic spot to rest and enjoy the view. A small pond, named Ocher Lake, is located at the southeast corner of the trail loop, but the lake has much quicksand and is not used. Multiple parking lots between the two lakes give access to a large picnic area with fire pits, grills and picnic shelters. Camping is not permitted, and the access road closes at night.
Lake Annette is a popular fishing lake, although motors are not allowed. Canoes and kayaks are popular ways to glide along the shoreline, taking care not to startle the ospreys fishing in the lake or the loons who enjoy the quietest portions. Whitetail deer, mule deer, caribou, bears and elk are frequently seen in the area along with smaller mammals. Visitors are reminded that all animals are wild and unpredictable, so no feeding of wildlife is allowed. Scuba diving is also popular in Lake Annette, with Edmonton dive shops regularly bringing beginning divers here. The lake's crystal-clear waters allow great underwater visibility. One of the features enjoyed by divers is the sight of water bubbling out of the sand on portions of the lake bottom. These are the natural springs which feed Lake Annette. The lake has no inlet or outlet, but water is gained via the springs. Some investigation has shown that the water comes from Medicine Lake over 20 miles away via an assumed underground Maligne River. The waters originate from local glaciers, giving the lakes their unique blue hues. Other places that show evidence of this underground river are Maligne Canyon and Medicine Lake. Dye testing of the waters hasn't been conclusive so far, and it is suspected that there is quite a large network of underground streams through which the water travels.
Lake Edith is immediately to the north of Lake Annette. The lake is very shallow in some areas, with sandbars leaving the water only ankle deep far into the lake. A swimming beach and boat launch are located on the same narrow strip of land as the beach areas of Lake Annette. The hiking trails around Lake Edith are a bit more complicated, kept away from the shoreline in some areas by the private leased land on which the cottages sit. The shoreline itself is accessible to the public by law, but visitors are asked to be respectful of the privacy of lakefront dwellers. Instead of a shoreline walking trail, the marked path includes several stretches of local roads and streets. Mountain biking is popular on these trails, with the distance to completely circle the lake around three miles.
The cottage development at Lake Edith is called a subdivision. The cottage community began in 1908 when writer Agnes Laut obtained permission to begin an artist/writer community at the lake. Parks Canada granted limited access leases to Agnes and some of her friends. The envisioned artists' colony never fully materialized, but the leases continue four generations later. Some of the old cabins have been rebuilt, others replaced by lovely homes. Many of the cottages are still used seasonally, but many have been winterized and are used as year-round homes. The 'subdivision' makes this the only place in the Alberta parks system where there are private cottages. Lake Edith residents have become a cohesive community dedicated to taking care of their unique neighborhood and beautiful lake. Community residents have devoted much effort to a project to 'fire-proof' their neighborhood by cutting trees, replacing flammable roofing materials, removing brush and removing pine needles from walkways. Community events in recent years have included a Polar Bear Swim in an ice-rimmed open-water area to benefit charity.
The lucky few who live here take full advantage of the recreational activities afforded in the Jasper area. One favorite is the Jasper Tramway to the summit of The Whistlers, an aerial sightseeing route with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers. Also a favorite in winter, the Marmot Basin holds ski resorts and all sorts of snow-based recreation. In winter, the trails and pathways are transformed into excellent cross-country ski trails. All types of outdoor recreation is available in the surrounding area such as guided horseback rides, helicopter tours, bus tours of the glaciers, back country hiking, whitewater rafting, and visiting the many glacial lakes in the Jasper National Park.
Those wishing to take advantage of the Jasper National Park attractions will find all types of lodgings readily available, from luxury resorts to guest cottages to inns, hotels and hostels. Available real estate is scarce and limited by restrictions on who may buy; most is reserved by local ordinance to those who wish to live and work in the area permanently. Jasper itself has plenty of short-term lodgings and a good number of restaurants, artists' studios, shopping and services. The lakes are a scenic summer vacation whether you arrive by car or train. You'll be richly rewarded by a stroll along these pleasant lakeshores.
*Few statistics exist for Lake Annette and Lake Edith.
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