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Boating in Waterton Lakes National Park

By touring - Posted on 27 October 2011

Boating in Waterton Lakes National Park

Boating in Waterton park is always exciting. The strong winds of southern Alberta can power a sailboat or windsurfer down this 10 kilometer lake in no time. Power boaters have the freedom to meander the open waters and stop along the scenic shoreline.

There are plenty of flat spots to beach your craft and enjoy a picnic at the base of a picturesque mountain. Waterton Park has some of the most beautiful Alberta lakes to go boating.

The Lakes of Waterton Park

Middle & Upper Waterton Lakes in Southern Alberta
The channel between Upper & Middle Waterton Lake is well marked with buoys.

Middle and Upper Waterton Lake are the only lakes to allow boats. A narrow and shallow channel (4' draft in the fall) connects the two lakes and is well marked by buoys. Stay within the channel as large rocks are just outside of the dredged channel.

The high winds can make boating in Waterton a bit tricky, even for power-boaters. The choppy water can have 4’ swells and even larger in the exposed middle. Staying close to shore may provide some shelter but the waves batter all shorelines. Check the weather conditions in Waterton often as gusts can get up to 110 km/hr.

Conditions in Middle Waterton Lake are calmer than on the upper lake, making waterskiing more pleasurable. Wet suits are highly recommended as the water never gets above +14 C.

Cameron Lake is located at the end of the Akamina Parkway and is off-limits for power, sail or electric powered boats. Kayaks and canoes only. Paddle boats are for rent as well.

Lower Waterton Lake is the smallest of the three big lakes and is off limits to all water crafts. The surrounding marsh area is homes to many migratory birds.

Boat Launches in Waterton

There are two boat launches in the park, one at the Waterton Marina (1-403-859-2362)and a free one at the Linnet Lake Picnic Area.

Waterton Marina
This is a large marina offering mooring, fuel, motor oil and a concession stand. Use this boat launch if your vessel has a draft of more than 1.5 feet.

Linnet Lake Boat Launch
Linnet Lake is a small pond but this boat launch serves Middle Waterton Lake. It does not have a concrete pad and the slope is gradual. Only boats with a small draft (1 foot) can be safely launched without reversing too far into the water.

Free boat launch on Middle Waterton Lake

Free boat launch on Middle Waterton Lake.

Precautions for Boaters

  • Parks Canada is serious about stopping evasive water species and a free boat launching permit is required.
  • The high winds of southern Alberta can pick up at anytime and may make for a rough journey. Call the Waterton parks office (1-403-859-5133) for daily updates.
  • If the winds are strong, try boating on the middle lake instead of the upper one.
  • It can get up to +37 C during the summer and the hot wind doesn’t have a cooling effect. Stay well hydrated.
  • The Linnet boating area has docks, picnic tables and washrooms. The shore is popular with young families so be careful of young children when launching & retrieving.
  • Bears are common in Waterton National Park. If you're overnighting on your boat, make sure you know how to avoid a bear attack as they may forage on deck!

Docks around Waterton

There are number of docks located around the lake where hikers can start their treks.

Crypt Lake dock in Waterton Lakes National Park
  • Wishbone Dock – Located on Middle Waterton Lake, the dock is 3.8 kilometers from the Vimy Peak Trail, the only trail in the park that leads to the peak of a mountain.
  • Bertha Bay – 2.4 kilometers south of the townsite of Waterton is Bertha Bay, a quiet cove at the base of a towering mountain. The Waterton Lakeshore Trail skirts by and the junction to the Bertha Falls Trail is 0.9 km away.
  • Boundary Bay – 5.8 kilometers south of the town is the Canada/US border and the start of the Boundary Trail. Backpackers can take the extended loop back to the townsite along the Carthew-Alderson Trail. The small cove is sheltered from the winds.
  • Crypt Lake Landing – This is the starting point of the Crypt Lake Trail. Only temporary docking is allowed as the Waterton Shoreline Cruise boats make daily landings. The rocky shore is gradual and boats with a 2-3’ draft can safely land. Trees are close by to tie-up.
  • Goat Haunt Ranger Station (USA) – Upper Waterton Lake is about 10 kilometers long and spans the international border into Glacier National Park (1-406-888-7800). Boaters can check in with US Customs at the ranger station. Note that there are no roads to this area of Glacier National Park and access is either on foot or by boat. Citizens other than Canadian or American should check for access rules for hiking around Goat Haunt.

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With a little precaution and attention to the weather, boating in Waterton is one of the best experiences in southern Alberta.

Get more insider tips on Canadian Adventures at Scenic Travel Canada.

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