Sylvan Lake, Alberta


CANADA-SylvanLakeAlberta250Nestled just west of Red Deer, at a point not two hours from Edmonton or Calgary, lies Sylvan Lake, one of the most popular recreational lakes in Alberta. The roads leading to Sylvan Lake are excellent. It is easy driving with a boat and trailer.

During the summer months, approximately 1.6 million people visit this popular lake that measures approximately 42.8 km2 and has a maximum depth of 18.3 metres.  Indeed, MacLean’s magazine has rated the beach at Sylvan Lake as one of the ten best in Canada.

Popular summer recreational activities include boating, dragon boat racing, swimming and windsurfing.   For the fishing enthusiast, plentiful stocks of Northern Pike, Whitefish, Burbot, Emerald Shiner, Yellow Perch, Walleye (Pickerel) and White Sucker inhabit the lake.  Some species are catch and release only but the relatively cold lake temperatures ensure that the remaining species make for a tasty shore lunch.

For those who like their water a tad more turbulent, Wild Rapids Waterslide Park, one of the largest in Alberta is located on the banks of the lake at its southwestern tip.  Thrill seekers are invited to challenge the Kami-Kazi and Hari-Kari speed slides or the Hell’s Gate and Rio Grande Raging River rides.  The Sidewinder even offers ultimate dare-devils a zero gravity experience.  A wading pool and kiddies play area are also available for younger children and those more faint of heart.

While a few launch ramps exist around the lake, the primary launch site can be found at the town’s only marina, Sylvan Lake Marina, located at the southern tip of the lake.   The $15 charge includes launch and recovery, assistance from marina staff and parking for your vehicle and trailer.  The marina itself has 8-10 slips available for transient boaters and advance reservations are recommended.

The Town of Sylvan Lake is a charming community of approximately 9,000 permanent residents located along the southern shoreline of the lake.  It offers plentiful accommodations for those whose tastes run from basic to extravagant.  Several independent campsites are also available for those wanting to get closer to nature.  A variety of restaurants are available in the town offering anything from a quick bite to a fine dining experience.

For those wishing to indulge their need for speed, Sylvan Lake has a couple of popular outlets to satiate their desires. Calida Greyhound Racing Track is located just outside of town with races every Saturday evening during the summer months. Lakeside Go Carts and Mini-Golf, located just west of the marina, offers go-carts for adults and kids. (Racing gloves optional). You can even host your own “Canada’s Worst Driver” competition with their Bumper Cars!  Those who can’t leave home without their clubs will find no fewer than 11 golf courses within a short drive of Sylvan Lake.

Two Provincial Parks can be found along Sylvan Lake’s southern perimeter.  These are Jarvis Bay Provincial Park and Sylvan Lake Provincial Park.  Sylvan Lake Provincial Park covers 85 hectares and includes a narrow strip of beautiful sandy beach.   Picnic tables, tap water, change houses, public telephones, playgrounds and a pier are all provided.  Boat traffic is prohibited along most of the sand beach and along the northern portion of the park; boat speed is restricted to 12 km/hour.  The park is intended for day use only as no overnight camping facilities are provided. Jarvis Bay Provincial Park is located on Highway 20, 7 km north of the Town of Sylvan Lake. It provides 167 campsites, tap water, showers, hiking trails and a public telephone, but there is no beach or boat launch.  (Those utilizing the Provincial Parks are advised to be wary of both cougars and bears.)

Nearby is Rocky Mountain House, an historical site operated by Parks Canada. Over 200 years ago, the North West and Hudson’s Bay companies set up rival posts at the end of the fur trade line on the North Saskatchewan River. Competition for trade was fierce. During 76 years of operation, nine different Aboriginal groups came here to trade. Explorer, fur trader and mapmaker, David Thompson used Rocky Mountain House as a base for finding a pass across the Rocky Mountains. (NOTE: This site is about 40 minutes from Sylvan Lake.) http://www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/ab/rockymountain/index_e.asp

While nautical charts for Sylvan Lake are not available through Canadian Hydrographic Services, they can be ordered online from Map Town Ltd. at a cost of $4.50 CDN.  Their website is http://www.maptown.com/albertahydro.html.

An important determinant in the decision to embark on any trailering adventure is the ease with which you can travel to and from your intended destination. When it comes to travel from primary population centres like Calgary or Edmonton, it doesn’t get much easier.  Simply travel towards Red Deer on Highway 2 and turn west on Highway 11A for 16 km.  The entire trip from either destination should take about an hour and 50 minutes. A trip of that short duration might even meet with the approval of the “When are we going to get there?” clan.

If your idea of a great vacation involves a picturesque setting, pristine waters with plenty of family activities and entertainment, I urge you to come and discover the charm and amenities that Sylvan Lake has to offer.  It’s an ideal destination well suited to the needs of those trailering their boats.  You may just find that this locale etches a permanent spot on your summer recreational calendar.

Sylvan Lake Tourism: www.town.sylvan-lake.ab.ca . Tel: 1-800-780-6029

Sylvan Lake Marina: www.sylvanlakemarina.com  Tel: 403-887-2950

Jarvis Bay Provincial Park Campground: http://gateway.cd.gov.ab.ca/siteinformation.aspx?id=61 Tel: 403-887-5522

Sylvan Lake Provincial Park: http://gateway.cd.gov.ab.ca/siteinformation.aspx?id=125 Tel: 403-340-7691

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