Karst Spring surges from a cavern above Watridge Lake in Kananaskis west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The trailhead is clearly signed only a few meters prior to arrival at the Watridge Lake shoreline. The initial section of the easy and spectacular 1.2 KM (¾ mile) one-way extension trail to Karst Spring initially crosses vibrant wetlands on wooden beam platform over an expansive and very beautiful area. Abundant and prehistoric horsetail is thriving in the wet ground and well on its way to creating brilliant green ground cover.
Following a lengthy section on wooden beam platform through lush and vibrant wetland, the raised wooden beam section finishes with a step onto a boulder and begins the dirt trail portion which quickly gains access through mature forest to the edge of roaring white water. The early season runoff is impressive.
Soft trail through old growth forest is aromatic and soothing. White noise from distant crashing water gradually intensifies into a roar as the trail quickly gains proximity to frothing white water. Elevation gain begins beside the roaring water and continues up through the forest with intermittent views of the falling water. This section of the hike is an impressive and indelibly memorable natural experience. The early season water volume amplifies the impact.
The sound of crashing, white water is present in the accompanying videos but the rich aromas combined with the good feel of negative ionization and cool mist on the skin will require a personal visit.
Just past the first bench, trail heads right and gains more deliberate elevation gain through forest on the loop up and around towards the viewing platform literally on top of the Karst Spring outlet. The roar of the white water is overwhelming and frothing water seems close to compromising the flat rock floor of the viewing platform. This is a magic and surprisingly soothing place to enjoy lunch in the midst of crashing white water emerging into rapid downhill descent. Surrounding fields of brilliant green moss cling to the surface of rocks, logs and branches to amplify the intensity of abundant life.
An interesting, informative and interpretive plaque explains and illustrates the nature of a Karst Spring. To the best of current knowledge, the true source has never been discovered beyond the speculative influence of several possibly credible opinions.
To be here alone with the crashing water is an extraordinary privilege. The frothing water is high and wild. How the platform continues to remain in place is not immediately obvious. The flat rock ledge is likely integral to the rock face and the water has not been sufficiently high to compromise the base of the small platform viewpoint.
Enjoying lunch here on the bench is a very special and unique experience.
Reluctant retreat from this multi-sensory arena begins with crossing back over the short hillside trail component into the curling descent through rugged forest to the lower bench for another opportunity to sit, look and listen.
The abundant negative ionization created by the rapid, white water is energizing and combined with the sound and aroma of wet old growth forest makes the natural experience magnetic and difficult to leave. The gradual transfer into the boardwalk crossing the fragrant scent of serene and quiet wetland is a fitting transition to the serene visual extravaganza at Watridge Lake. To visit and enjoy this natural treasure is an uncommon, special and valuable gift.
Main features of this hike are the serenity of Watridge Lake combined with the diverse sensory experience of Karst Spring.
This special and relatively straightforward hike offers a broad range of spectacular wilderness features. Ideally, the hike should be done in early summer on a fair weather day. A bonus would be to avoid the crowds with an early or late day adventure off weekend if possible. Optimize the potential of the experience with a bit of strategic and tactical planning.
Photographs for the hike to Karst Spring from the trailhead near the shoreline of Watridge Lake in Spray Valley Provincial Park were taken on July 6, 2017 in Kananaskis Country west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.