Lake Minnewanka Underwater Ghost Town – Improvement District No. 9, Alberta - Atlas Obscura

Lake Minnewanka Underwater Ghost Town

Improvement District No. 9, Alberta

The only way to visit this old resort hotel is with scuba gear.  


Sixty feet beneath the frigid aquamarine surface of Alberta’s Lake Minnewanka, the ruins of an old resort hotel lay in wait for intrepid scuba divers and inquisitive fish.

The Minnewanka Landing resort first opened in 1888, and according to Parks Canada a small community began to flourish “as wharves were built, cottage lots were made available for lease, hotels and restaurants were constructed, and lake tours aboard cruise boats were offered.” Lake Minnewanka’s glistening waters made for excellent trout fishing, and the surrounding mountain peaks offered A1 skiing opportunities during winter months.

In 1920 the Vancouver Daily World reported cheerily that “the attractions which draw visitors to the lake are many and varied … The pretty chalet, situated on the west shore and overlooking the beauties of the lake, is itself an inducement for a sojourn.”

The resort village met its end during World War II as the Calgary Power Company sought to increase its hydroelectric capacity to power a nearby ammonium nitrate explosives plant. On June 4, 1941 the House of Commons of Canada met for four hours to consider the controversial matter before ultimately coming down in favor of the wartime necessity.

Upon completion of the Cascade dam the water level swelled to nearly 100 feet above their previous mark, and Minnewanka Landing was left stranded on the bottom of the newly expanded lake. A 1951 Great Falls Tribune article described how “approximately eight million gallons of water annually are stored in Minnewanka to be released in the winter months through the Cascade hydro plant near Banff and down the Bow river.”

The remnants of Minnewanka Landing were left to remain frozen in time beneath the jewel-like glacial meltwater. Today it makes for an unparalleled diving trip if you can brave the freezing temperatures. Dive sites recommended by Parks Canada include the old hotel, several houses and wharves, which make for a “very interesting dive …  a lot to observe and explore.”

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