The Lower Kananaskis Lake Penstock was a winter attraction in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
The old wooden penstock, which through age, leaked like a sieve, is completely gone. All that remains is a line of boulders as a reminder of the amazing ice sculptures created in winter by leaking water. The annual attraction will be remembered like an old friend.
The Penstock Loop Trail in Kananaskis Country is a unique, easy and accessible 4.7 KM (3.0 mile) snowshoe, beginning at the parking area of Lower Kananaskis Lake in Kananskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
The Penstock Loop Trail is an excellent mission for this day near calendar year-end when daylight is short.
A penstock is a large tube or pipe. At this location the pipe was 3.3 m (11 feet) in diameter, which carries water from the source to an electricity generating plant downstream.
The penstock here was very interesting because the pipe was made of wood and over time it eventually leaked progressively.
In wintertime, water squirts from cracks in the massive, wooden duct and visions of photographing the sunny landscape through the huge icicles clinging to the penstock is anticipated.
This snowshoe to the penstock will be substantially different from expectations.
What is this? At the bottom, left-hand corner of the kiosk is a notice declaring the Penstock Loop Trail closed due to replacement of the old wooden penstock, constructed in 1955, to be replaced by a new, far more efficient penstock that does not leak.
Change? This is terrible! What will happen to the icicles?
The old wooden penstock is being replaced.
Leaving sunny Calgary, snow accumulation is sparse and prairie land is barren. Approach to the mountains involves driving into snowstorms and heavy cloud cover.
Driving south on Kananaskis Trail, with the Fisher Range of mountains to the left (east) and the Opal Range of mountains to the right (west) a light snowfall begins the gradual weather deterioration.
At the annual winter road closure, the turn right on Kananaskis Lakes Road passes the crowded Pocaterra cross-country ski parking area and the intersection to the Smith-Dorrien Trail which heads north to Canmore, Alberta, Canada.
Shortly past the left turn to the Kananaskis Lakes Visitor Centre, the Canyon exit is on the right and 2 km (1.6 miles) later on twisting, snow-covered road, there is arrival at the parking area for Lower Kananaskis Lake.
The temperature, in a light snowfall, is cool and perfect for snowshoeing. William Watson Lodge and the base of Mount Indefatigable reside along the shore of Lower Kananaskis Lake created by the earth dam which causes an interruption in the Kananaskis River.
Downstream is the Pocaterra Power Station, named after a famous Kananaskis Country pioneer, George Pocaterra, like Pocaterra Ridge further south.
The trail-head is near the outhouse but the option over snow is proceeding directly to cross the bridge over the spillway and gain the top of the earth dam which creates Lower Kananaskis Lake.
Snowshoeing to the other side of the dam, it is clear on the way across, the old wooden penstock is still there.
One new section has been replaced at the base of the dam but the rest remains intact, using the term loosely. The penstock leaks very badly and it is exciting to snowshoe down to the massive display of ice sculpture surrounding the old penstock. The sun is well hidden behind thick cloud.
There is far more ice surrounding the old wooden penstock than could possibly be imagined. Although sad, it is evident the old, historic penstock desperately needs to be replaced.
However, in the moment, the inner child is eager to get to the end of the dam and loop down below to the penstock so, with an aggressive pace, arrival at the magnificent display is quick.
Following is a series of photographs taken on the snowshoe along the penstock. This photo essay may be overkill but next year this amazing display will no longer exist so the photos record the event for posterity.
An attempt to continue past the trail-end turning point is thwarted by recently cut forest protruding above insufficient snow for protective cover. Snowshoes would be frequently snagged on brush.
Retreating to the road takes a path away from the penstock past a construction area where large, snow-covered piles of construction aggregate lead to the mildly undulating trail through forest under heavily overcast sky.
The snow shower stops for a while, then begins again towards the end of the trail.
The Penstock Loop Trail crosses the Smith-Dorrien Trail.
Along the trail a couple are snowshoeing ahead of me. Later, near trail end, we meet again and they kindly take a picture for the day.
A T-junction occurs at a water diversion. An elaborate and very sturdy trough is controlled by a variable gate to combat erosion and channel water to natural features which will make better use of the flow.
The Penstock Loop Trail continues to the left. The trough ends abruptly about half a kilometer later and the water continues within a natural channel. Today, all is frozen solid.
Near trail end, a sign proclaims the trail, just completed, is closed.
A hasty return across the dam and over the spillway bridge includes a brief pause for photos up and down the spillway.
On extrication from the forest, the outhouse looms large at the Lower Kananaskis Lake parking area.