Surrounded by tall evergreen trees near today's Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, Lake Minnewanka's waters have drawn people to the area for years to enjoy kayaking, hiking, and the beautiful scenery. But most people don't realize that beneath the icy waters lies the sunken city of Minnewanka Landing.
Since 1886, this was a busy summer village at the base of the Canadian Rockies with a popular beach house and hotel. Minnewanka Landing grew with more roads, cottages, restaurants, and boatyards that sailed tourists around the much smaller original lake.
“It was during the Second World War, and everyone was hungry for power,” Bill Perry, Parks Canada archeologist. “Calgary and the surrounding area were growing substantially during that point in time and required more power, so Lake Minnewanka was seen as an easy end.”
What changed this lovely little town's fate was the Calgary Power Co. who built a hydroelectric dam in 1921, flooding part of Minnewanka Landing. However, the town kept running for twenty years until a new larger dam was built in 1941, raising the reservoir’s waters by 98 feet. Thus, Minnewanka Landing disappeared beneath the waves.
Yet, this little town remains remarkably intact and still has tourists visiting it... in scuba gear; about 8,000 each year.
“Because of the cold, clear water, wood actually survives quite well down there,” Perry says. “That’s why it has become such a popular diving place for local scuba diving clubs. There's just so much left to see.
Besides this sunken city, there's a Native American campsite thousands of years old where archaeologists find ancient stone weapons and tools.
“What is particularly interesting about that for me is looking at the whole area as a cultural landscape,” Perry says. “The area's 13,000 years of continuous use absolutely fascinates me.”