Watridge Lake is a pristine, emerald, mountain gem in Kananaskis Country west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Trail-heads for Watridge Lake are accessed via the Smith-Dorrien Trail (Hwy 742) in the Spray Valley Provincial Park component of Kananaskis Country. Taking the Mount Engadine Road exit to the Mount Shark Day Use area, across the Smith-Dorrien from the trail-head for Rummel Lake, passes the entrance to the iconic Mount Engadine Lodge and a formidable single vehicle bridge before skirting incredible meadows on the left and swinging right uphill on gravel road. After passing roadside parking for the singular trail-head to Marushka (Shark) Lake and Tent Ridge, the road continues to climb to the left exit into parking at the Mount Shark Helipad or beyond to the Mount Shark Day Use Area.
There are no sharks in Shark Lake (Marushka Lake) but the formidable mountain backdrop resembles a giant shark fin. A trail-head at the helipad adds about a kilometer each way to the hike or continuing along the dirt road past the helipad will arrive soon at main parking in the Mount Shark Day Use Area.
The Mount Shark Day Use Facility is an inheritance from the 1988 Olympics as a training and competition backup site for events hosted at what is now the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park. The main trail-head for the hike to Watridge Lake is conspicuously obvious near the kiosks. There are washroom facilities nearby as well.
This hike begins from parking at the Mount Shark Helipad. Parking is on the fringe of the area and all vehicles are facing the same direction. Compliance seems sensible. Middle ground is where helicopters land and depart. The hike begins on gated grassy road that drops down initially on gentle, curling descent followed by sustained moderate descent into expanding mountain and lake views. Just over a kilometer from start, the wide trail pops out from forest into the expansive parking area at the the Mount Shark Day Use facility.
The trail is a broad, historically significant, dirt road and a major route connecting the Mount Shark area with major trails in Banff National Park including Bryant Creek and beyond to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park in British Columbia.
Discovery of standalone mountains along the mildly twisting route, combined with an assortment of wetland areas and a crossing of the fast-running Watridge Creek, keep the relatively flat, 4.5 KM (2¾ miles) one-way, hike continually interesting.
The Watridge Lake hike is both a destination and an access hike. Today's hiking destination is Karst Spring where the trail-head resides at the end of the Watridge Lake hike. The two components will be posted separately to divide the photographs into reasonable numbers. Karst Spring is a unique, spectacular, short and easy hike just under a kilometer (⅝ of a mile) with about 122 m (400 ft) of elevation gain.
The flow of Watridge Creek under the wide, wooden flat bridge is high and fast. Snow melt in the mountains remains high longer this year after a prolonged winter. The word 'normal' is seldom used in mountain areas where seasons can become confused.
The wide, well-signed and major turnoff to Watridge Lake gently descends and, a short distance further, passes the trail-head for Karst Spring mere meters prior to arrival at the spectacular Watridge Lake shoreline.
Watridge Lake is a sub-alpine gem showing perfectly on this beautiful, bluebird day. Wisps of cloud-accented sky drift above mountain-surrounded emerald waters where gauging of lake depth is determined by distance from shoreline. Intermittent gentle breeze adds fresh forest aroma to the mix of calming influence. Two short videos create an impression of presence at the shoreline.
Following the second stage of the hike to Karst Spring, Watridge Lake gets a second visit on the return hike via the same route used for access. Retreat from Watridge Lake turns right at the road to head back to the Mount Shark Day Use Area.
On the return hike there is time to sit with Lynne Rappell on her memorial bench, tucked away just off the main trail and overlooking a field of wildflowers with bordering tall evergreen trees which direct attention to the majesty of surrounding mountains.
The return hike repeats the opportunity to marvel at the beauty of vibrant wetlands and the sound and sight of rushing water beneath the platform bridge over Watridge Creek.
Forest and mountain views are constant companions on the return over road where mid-day sun is making shady sections look very attractive. The water supply is being depleted more rapidly and the prospect of a fresh supply of cold water in the cooler at the car becomes increasingly more attractive.
The Mount Shark Day Use Area provides a quality toilet facility and is the hinge point for the final leg of the hike to the car at Mount Shark Helipad.
The hike to Watridge Lake and beyond to Karst Spring is an excellent and fairly easy day hike with a worthwhile effort to reward ratio for those who want a straightforward and memorable scenic hike. The effort should include time taken to relax and absorb the natural wonders. This hike is a winner that may be crowded in the most common hiking times.
Photographs for the hike to Watridge Lake and Karst Spring were taken on July 6, 2017 in the Spray Valley Provincial Park component of Kananaskis Country west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.