Moraine Lake Photo, Wenkchemna Peaks, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

Moraine Lake photo, Wenkchemna Peaks, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

Hey Folks

Here’s another image from the Canadian Rockies – immortalized on the Canadian $20 bill. Moraine Lake is one of the classic views of the Canadian Rockies, indeed, of anywhere. It’s a special place. The lake is most likely mis-named – it’s probably not a moraine that formed it at all, but a rock slide. The peaks that tower above the inviting turquoise lake are called the Wenkchemna Peaks. “Wenkchemna” is the Stoney Indian word for 10. The Stoney Indians lived in the area, and guided early European settlers and explorers in the region.

Samuel Allen and Walter Wilcox were 2 of the first European explorers in the area, and they’re generally credited with much of the initial exploration of the Canadian Rockies – given, of course, that various Indian Nations already lived there, and had done so for centuries, and called the place home. Wilcox was especially fond of Moraine Lake and Wenkchemna Peaks, claiming of the Valley of Ten Peaks that “no scene has ever given me an equal impression of in spiring solitude and rugged grandeur.” Wilcox Pass, up near the Columbia Icefields is named after Walter Wilcox. Interestingly, all of the Peaks were almost all later renamed, only 2 of them retaining the names the Stoney Indians knew them by. One of them was later named after Samuel Allen.

Personally, I like the idea of naming places and features in a way that offers some description of their subjectivity rather than naming them after some person we admire. I’d rather refer to the Valley of 10 Peaks than Wilcox Pass, for example. One is merely an abstraction, a reduction, the other is an acknowledgement of the physicality, or nature of the place. Wenkchemna it is!



Banff National Park Photos.

11 thoughts on “Moraine Lake Photo, Wenkchemna Peaks, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

  1. Carl Donohue

    hey Ron,

    Thanks man. I’m not sure though .. haven hiked over way too many moraines, the name “Moraine Lake” conjurs up rugged terrain, rough walking, and sharp pointy rocks that hurt when you fall on them, in my mind. 🙂



  2. Beth Lunsford

    Breathtaking shot!! Hey Carl, I like Valley of 10 Peaks much better, too. It’s way more descriptive than boring names.I had to laugh when you were “describing” to Ron how Moraine Lake sounded. Does sound like it could be painful!!! Have a great day!

  3. Carl Donohue

    Hey Beth,

    Thanks, I appreciate all the comments.

    just going over these photos and thinking about trips down there makes me want to head back. I think I’m suffering a little Canadian Rockies withdrawal.



  4. Pingback: Hole in the Wall, Skolai Pass, Wrangell St. Elias National Park. - Stock Photos - Skolai Images

  5. Barb

    We have traveled in the Banff and Jasper National Parks twice Both times were in mid to late September. We love Fall in the Rockies, but the slant of the sun did not give me the best photos of Moraine Lake. We were there in the morning and afternoon. When is the best time of year, and time of day for that matter, to photograph the lake and have sun on the peaks and a reflection in the lake? While I’m asking, what about Lake Louise and Maligne Lake by Jasper?

  6. Carl D Post author

    hello Barb

    I think mid-summer, early mornings are best for Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. Maligne Lake spring – fall is usually good. Mornings best. IMO, of course. 🙂



  7. Barb


    I looked at my pictures and I have some really beautiful ones, but none of them have the sun on the lake. The mountains on the left side of the frame are always in the shadows also. I’ve been doing some research and it seems the angle of the sun is best in June…in the morning. They say that’s when you get the mountains in the sun and reflecting in the water. Would you agree? We are planning to take a trip out there this year. We can go anytime. We like the color in the Fall and the smaller crowds, but I want good photos this time…like yours, with the best lighting.

    I agree about Lake Louise, but I’m wondering about Maligne Lake. I think we drove to Maligne Lake in the morning. We were going to take the boat trip…which is the only way you can photograph those famous “calendar” peaks, but we didn’t because the sun was so bright. I don’t remember what the problem was…if it would have been shining on the mountain or shining in our eyes…and hence, the camera lens, but we decided it wasn’t worth the time and money and would return another day when the lighting was better. Any thoughts?

    BTW, I respect your “IMO” and I’m thankful for any insight or advice you can give me.

    One more thing…just curious…what does Skolai stand for?

    Thanks, Barb

  8. Carl D Post author

    Hey Barb

    “Skolai” is a place I like, named after a native Ahtna Chief who used to live there. HIs real name was Nicolai, but his nickname was Skolai.

    I like Fall in the Canadian Rockies. It might not be the best time for certain images like Moraine Lake, but it’s glorious all the same. There are so many places to shoot there, you can’t go wrong. But ….

    I’d agree .. summer is better at Moraine Lake.

    I’d suggest, if that’s what you want to do, that you still take the boat trip out on Maligne Lake .. spend the money and see what you get. it’s better than going all that way to Jasper and then NOT riding out.

    If you can find Darwin Wiggett’s excellent book on how to photograph the Canadian Rockies, I highly recommend it. I believe its out of print now, but you might get lucky and find a copy.

    The Canadian Rockies are awesome.



  9. Barb

    Thanks for your time, Carl. I appreciate it.

    I’ve been looking at your photos and checking out your website. Absolutely awesome and beautiful photos!!
    I wish I had the stamina to go on one of your backpacking trips in Alaska. I could get myself in shape, but I have asthma, so when I hike I have to do it at my own pace. For example, it took me all afternoon to hike up to the Tea House at Lake Louise. I think that was more about the elevation, because actually it was an “easy” trail. Are any of your trips geared for older folks who aren’t in perfect health?

    I’ll be looking for you behind a camera or carrying a tripod 🙂 Happy trekking and photo taking!


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