Fish Lake rests between Nordegg and Goldeye along David Thompson Highway in Bighorn Backcountry, Alberta.
Fish Lake and Shunda Lake are the same lake. Local folk assume this is intuitively obvious. It is not. The Bighorn Backcountry, Nordegg Area Map shows them as two separate lakes. This appears to be incorrect. Time can be wasted trying to find something not there.
The clearly-signed exit to Fish Lake (Shunda Lake) is south off the David Thompson Highway (Hwy 11), 4.0 KM (2½ miles) west of the intersection into the historic hamlet of Nordegg. A kilometer down the paved road, a turn right onto major gravel road travels a short distance to parking near the Fish Lake boat launch.
The Fish Lake Resource Management Trail is an easy and relatively flat 2.2 KM (1⅜ mile) hike/stroll on excellent path which begins at a signed trail-head near the far of the parking area. The lakeside path continues past the cookhouse to a short, narrow bridge/dam over the outlet from Fish Lake. Ignore the trail branch to the right and continue along the lake shore path to the trail kiosk. There are no interpretive bulletins here today. The interpretive bulletin is important to fully appreciate the impressive features of this short, easy trail.
The Fish Lake Resource Management Trail was constructed and maintained by inmates of the Nordegg Correctional Institute in the 1980's. The minimum security jail and work camp initiative, established at Nordegg in 1963, was subsequently abandoned many years ago.
The Cookhouse at Fish Lake near Nordegg, Alberta, Canada
The trail along the edge of the lake shore provides excellent and peaceful views to mountains beyond. Near 0.5 KM (¹⁄₃ miles) a clear trail intersection turns right to a continuation of the Fish Lake Resource Management Trail. Hang a right.
The trail also continues straight ahead to loop around Fish Lake. The Fish Lake Loop is a 4.7 KM (2⅞ mile), relatively flat endeavor which will consume a couple of very scenic and potentially relaxing hours. Along the Fish Lake Loop, keep left unless you want to visit Goldeye Lake and/or Black Canyon.
The Fish Lake Resource Management Trail gradually gains a bit of elevation through spruce forest and past gnarled dead fall snags to an impressive old growth forest of towering, 300-year-old+ white spruce accompanied by a wide range of wildflowers.
The trail passes above a spectacular meadow on the left, then rapidly drops in elevation to a marshland area with a dramatic shift in vegetation. The trail descends past an old dam before returning to intersect with the original trail.
A left turn leads past the bridge dam and the cookhouse to the parking area.
The Fish Lake Resource Management Trail is a nice way to wind down and end an excellent hiking day, which included the tour of Brazeau Collieries and the loop around Goldeye Lake, before returning for supper at the Nordegg Lodge Restaurant and a final night of fundamental accommodation at Nordegg Lodge. The evening is consumed with processing of photographs and the use of the two hours of complementary Internet access to respond to mail and comments.
Tomorrow will be another excellent hiking day with plans to hike Tershishner Falls and Allstones Lake on the way west and south transitioning from Nordegg accommodation to the next staging location at David Thompson Resort.