Johnston Canyon and Moraine lake

Published: October 3rd 2009
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Johnston Canyon and Moraine Lake

Johnston CanyonJohnston CanyonJohnston Canyon

Suspension walkways clung to the canyon walls.
Johnston Canyon and Moraine Lake


The National Parks people and the government of Canada know that one of the major draws to the Canadian Rockies and the national parklands is the chance for people to see wildlife. So it's a worry that the reproduction rate of some of the big animals has been dropping. In response, there are efforts to buttress up the wildlife habitats and educate people on staying away from critical areas during spring calving and the autumn rutting season.

On the highway between the townships of Banff and Lake Louise, the policy of “twinning” is being put into effect. This means high and secure fencing all along both sides of the road, to keep the animals and cars from colliding, which is usually to the detriment of all concerned. This restriction is coupled with special bridges for wildlife to cross over the roads when they need to. The fences funnel the wildlife to the bridges. It may not be their favourite path through the forest, but at least they can make it safely to the other side.

Johnston Canyon

It's a turn off the main highway to get to Johnston Canyon. Thanks,
Johnston Canyon petrified salmonJohnston Canyon petrified salmonJohnston Canyon petrified salmon

Well, that's what this rock in the white water looked like to me.
Sherril, for telling us about it. It's a good hike along a river into a narrower and narrower gorge. The trail is often along suspension bridges clinging to the cliff walls. When I first heard about this, I imagined swaying bamboo bridges and me clinging in terror to a tree, refrusing to go on over. But it's not Indiana Jones territory. The suspended sections seemed quite secure, though signs cautioned us not to run on them, and the trekkers ranged from the white-haired and frail, to babes in backpacks.

As we started along this trail late in the afternoon, we only went to the first waterfall (of many) but it was a neat hike anyway. At that falls, you could walk through a natural cave/tunnel to stand on a fenced ledge and get up close and personal with the upper level falls and gaze downward at the lower one.

And the trail managers had the consideration to put an icecream stand right at the end of the trail where you returned, so I left happily maple walnut.

Moraine Lake

Morain Lake was as pretty to me as Lake Louise, though it's considerably less famous. In fact,
Johnston Canyon FallsJohnston Canyon FallsJohnston Canyon Falls

When you passed through the cave/tunnel at the right and climbed up onto a fenced ledge, you were very close to the upper falls.
it's nearby and it also has a lesser type lodge and restaurant and cafe. There's a HUGE pile of rocks at one end and scientists disagree over whether it's from a giant rockslide off a nearby mountain or a moraine left by a retreating glacier.

There's a trail around the edge of the lake—we took it partway. Again we were setting out later in the day (rain in the morning) so we turned back before getting to the end. We were a little skittish because we weren't seeing many hikers, and the other trails at Moraine Lake required people to travel only in tight bunches of at least 4, due to bears in the area. We saw a small group of Koreans come off a trail and one of the girls did indeed have a bell attached to her shoe.

Back near the starting point of Moraine Lake we tried another short trail, and this is where we saw some furry marmots, for the first time. And also a pica. You get some points if you know what that is. Hint: it's on the small side.

So that venture was rewarding for us, adding a bit more
Johnston Canyon FallsJohnston Canyon FallsJohnston Canyon Falls

Seeing this double falls was definitely a reward for the hike--which was, in fact, pretty easy.
to our growing list of sightings. We love seeing animals in nature. Portland's great, but I don't spot much there besides dogs, crows and squirrels. Actually, on our trip we've seen more squirrels than anything else, but different types, tiny ones with black tails.

Next on our radar was the Columbia Icefields, the true start of the Columbia River—and more.

Additional photos below
Photos: 10, Displayed: 10


Moraine LakeMoraine Lake
Moraine Lake

View from atop the moraine.
Moraine Lake skreeMoraine Lake skree
Moraine Lake skree

These piles of skree formed from rocks sliding down off the mountains.
Moraine LakeMoraine Lake
Moraine Lake

We walked partway around the lake, but then turned back.
The moraine at the bottom end of Moraine LakeThe moraine at the bottom end of Moraine Lake
The moraine at the bottom end of Moraine Lake

The mystery: was this a rockslide or a glacier moraine? For a sense of scale, note that's a human on the top of the rockpile.
Trekkers on a lake questTrekkers on a lake quest
Trekkers on a lake quest

Yep, still having a good time.
New rules about bearsNew rules about bears
New rules about bears

It's against the law to hike in groups of less than four!

4th October 2009

bears, oh my
So, I have friends who wore bells on their packs while hiking in Alaska--have you got some? We are hoping to feed you dinner when you get down our way-don't want to hear of you being...dinner!! Loving keeping up with your travels. We will be in Maine in July this year, so let us know when you will be getting the the southern part of heaven. best, Kathy
7th October 2009

Pica is big, next to elite (for you old typists). I agree, though, that a pika is on the small side relative to its closest relatives, the rabbits. Pikas are in serious trouble right now, as the mountaintops to which they cling grow warmer. A pika can't tolerate 77 degrees (F) for more than 6 hours, so it's no good thinking they could run down the mountain and up another one that might be taller or farther north. Count yourself lucky to have seen one of these furry little squeakers! Wildlife hardly gets cuter than this (except maybe for a baby roo). Once when I was hiking, a pika ran up and chewed on my shoelace!

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