Memorial Lakes are a group of three clear blue alpine lakes that are not far off from the popular Ribbon Creek Trail. Despite this the lakes remain under the radar for most hikers and tourists visiting Alberta’s Rockies. But aside from its beautiful view the lakes are also known for a tragic series of events in the summer of 1986 that gave them their name.
Hikers at the third lake may notice a large brick cairn on its shore, dedicated by the Alberta government, that lists the names of 13 people along with a quote. On June 6, 1986, a Cessna carrying wildlife biologist Orvall Pall, who was monitoring Bighorn sheep populations, and pilot Ken Wolff crashed into a forested section of Mount Kidd, killing both. Following the Cessna’s noted absence, friends of the pilot hastily took off in their own Cessna to search for the missing plane. Only hours after the initial crash, the Cessna searching for Ovrall and Ken crashed into the side of the nearby Mount Lougheed, killing all three onboard.
In the following days, several search groups were organized to look for the two missing planes numbering in the hundreds, joining in these efforts included the Canadian air force and multiple other government agencies. Despite the difficult weather, the wreckage of the second plane was found on June 9th. Finding the first plane remained more difficult, due to the forested area it crashed concealing the wreckage. On June 14, a Canadian air force DHC-6 Twin Otter, searching for the first plane crashed onto a cliff on Cox Hill killing the eight people onboard and starting a forest fire, which hampered early efforts by personnel on the ground who witnessed the crash to reach the crash site.
An investigation into the third crash found that a visual illusion caused by the sun gave the illusion that the surface of the mountain was smoother than it actually was, it is possible that this same illusion could be to blame for the two other crashes as well. The wreckage of the first plane was found on June 18.
Know Before You Go
Trailhead is at Ribbon Creek Day Use Area. Start from the end of the parking lot on the trail to Ribbon Falls, follow it for 3.5 km then depart onto the trail on your right. Follow this to get to the Memorial Lakes.