Jasper Lake Sand Dunes
Jasper Lake Sand Dunes © Chris Whitty
Air, earth, water and living organisms have waged a battle on the shores of Jasper Lake for over 8000 years. Here the only sand dunes in the Canadian Rockies have been formed and constantly reformed by wind since the end of the last ice age.
Jasper Lake is a wide, shallow section of the Athabasca River beside the Yellowhead Highway. Acting as a kind of sieve, the lake removes silt and sand from the river, allowing it to sink to the lake bed. When the water level recedes in the fall, vast sand flats are exposed and dry out, becoming vulnerable to the strong westerly winds that sweep through the lower Athabasca Valley. In winter, these winds blow the sand and silt down the valley, forming two large dune islands near the northwest shore of Jasper Lake.
In the lee of the dunes, mature clumps of spruce and balsam poplar have gained a stronghold, while colonizing grasses, rose bushes and willows wage a constant war against the winds and migrating sands. Nowhere else in the park is the balance of nature so apparent – or so fragile – as in the Jasper Lake sand dunes.