Sep 21, 2010 - Alberta, Campgrounds, Canada, Travel    4 Comments

Jasper and Environs

I decided to go into Jasper today with the toad, much like I did when I visited Banff. There was a museum exhibit I did not want to miss, not believing my good fortune at being here in time for it, and I also wanted to check out some of the surrounding area. It made better sense to do that with the smaller vehicle with good gas mileage! This is going to be rather a long post, but I don’t feel that the individual items deserve their own posts. I’ve interspersed some photos into the text, but do check out the gallery in its entirety for more details.

Jasper townsite is about 75km from Hinton, nearly an hour away. It was almost noon when I pulled up to the park gates. I was asked if I was stopping in the park (no pass is required if you drive straight through) and, if so, for how many days. I replied that I would be going in and out today and would be going through tomorrow. I don’t know if it was the lateness of the hour or what, but I was given a pass that’s good till 4PM tomorrow for the daily rate!

en route to Jasper townsite

Like Banff, Jasper is located within a national park. Unlike Banff, Jasper has an industry outside of tourism so it has a stable economic base that does not fluctuate with the seasons. My impression of Jasper is that it is a more humble version of the ritzy tourist town (think Banff, Aspen, Whistler…). It’s a bit grittier than I would have expected, store and gas prices are reasonable, and homes tend to be modest… even though a tiny bungalow costs a half million dollars!

downtown Jasper

The town is small and doable on foot, so I just parked at the entrance and did a sort of figure eight through the streets, taking in the major landmarks. I noted that there is well-marked RV parking in town.

Jasper Library

I was eager to get to the museum to see the exhibit about the explorer David Thompson.

Jasper museum

Thompson is an explorer who charted most of the continent in the early 19th century. His maps are legendary. He was a man who understood that he was witnessing sweeping changes to the British North American regime and the birth of a nation. He was the one who charted a usable route through the Rockies, securing what is now British Columbia, a land the Americans were eying. Thompson’s explorations united eastern and western Canada and helped shaped the nation that was born on July 1, 1867. Like many great men, he died penniless and insignificant. A sad end to a remarkable story.

excerpt from Thompson's diary

The Jasper museum is excellent! It charts the history of the park and the townsite from prehistory to today. Like many towns, Jasper’s heyday ended with the demise of the railroad era. Today, the Jasper Lodge attractions the wealthy and famous sort of folk that were the original visitors to Jasper until reliable roads made the area and townsite more accessible. It was around the 1950’s that the idea came to charge people an entrance fee into the park.

gate into Jasper, circa 1950

After getting my fill of the museum, I grabbed some lunch and then headed out of town to travel the Maligne Lake Road.

Jasper train yard

This road leads to the swanky Jasper Lodge, as well as several geographic landmarks of interest: Maligne Ravine, Medicine Lake, and Maligne Lake. Maligne comes from old French that means ‘wicked’, thus named by a man of the cloth who had a difficult time making a portage.

Maligne Valley

Maligne Ravine was my favourite outdoor part of the day. The sinuous, claustrophobic channel with its thunderous waterfalls and turquoise pools filled me with wonder. I practically hung off the side of the bridges to try to get a sense of the sheer drop with my camera, but I don’t think I really captured it. The view was such that I didn’t even think about the height factor. I just wanted to take it all in!

Maligne Ravine

Next stop was Medicine Lake, so called by the local natives because they felt the lake contained medicine, or magic. This lake looks like a lake in the summer, but drains in the fall, leaving only shallow pools! The mystery has been explained, but it’s still quite a sight to behold!

Medicine Lake

Medicine Lake

Shortly after Medicine Lake, I encountered a pair of moose:

The final stop of the day was Maligne Lake, considered one of the most beautiful in Canada. It was worth the nearly one hour drive from Jasper townsite!

Maligne Lake

I did pop over to the Jasper Lodge on the way back, but I was most certainly not dressed to be walking around a posh property inconspicuously, so I was a bit shy and only got a shot of it from a distance:

Jasper Lodge

Coming home, I finally had a wildlife sighting I’ve been eager for. I’ve seen deer, caribou, moose, bison, foxes, wolves, bears, and more, but I’ve never seen a wild sheep before! Thank you construction for slowing down traffic!


I ended the day by popping into Hinton to scope out the best gas station at which to fuel up Miranda tomorrow (the Shell on the north side) and to get some groceries (VERY nice IGA!).

When I got home, I hooked up the water and sewer hoses after filling the fresh water tank. I dumped the holding tanks and will put away everything once I’ve had a long shower tonight. The car is already hooked up, so there won’t be too much to do to get ready tomorrow. I’ll have a lot of ground to cover and many things to see, so I don’t want to waste too much time puttering around here.

Finally, here is a shot of the campground:

Hinton/Jasper KOA

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  • Fabulous pictures, I am always amazed at the beauty and can only imagine what it must be like in real life. 🙂

  • My new camera has been worth every penny!

    When I’m out there it’s the smell more than the scenery that I find memorable. It’s this pure fresh mountain air that you wish you could bottle and take with you!

  • Gorgeous! Wow.

  • Rae,

    The pictures of Rocky Mountain Sheep look like Goats to me. However, the Goats would have longer coats and be more snow white. I thought the Sheep would be much more brown in color but if these are Sheep they appear to all be female.

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