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There he discovered a splendid sight – “a narrow, secluded valley with a small lake enclosed by wild rugged precipices… one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen.”
Wilcox named it Moraine Lake after the moraine, or rock pile, deposited by the Wenkchemna Glacier. He was later to write that, “no scene had ever given me an equal impression of inspiring solitude and rugged grandeur”, adding that his time spent contemplating the view was the happiest half-hour of his life.
The next year, Tom Wilson cut a trail from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake. In 1902, the Canadian Pacific Railway constructed a trail of it’s own and before long a carriage road was built. A teahouse was established at the site as early as 1908. The CPR built a new teahouse in 1912 and three enterprising women – Miss Eileen Strick, Miss Barbara Dodds and Miss Marjorie Danks – established tent facilities and a log cabin refreshment and souvenir stand. In 1922, the women built four sleeping cabins. By this time, a proper road had been constructed and opened to the public. The original teahouse was replaced and additional cabins were built in 1923, 1939 and 1941.
The CPR sold Moraine Lake Lodge in 1959 to Brewster Transportation. The Brewster family immediately sold it to Bill and Barb Smythe, who operated it for 15 years. The next owner, Jack Divinsky, ran the lodge until 1985 when Art Davis assumed operation of the resort. In 1991 Art Davis sold the lodge to David Hutton and Nancy Stibbard.
Redevelopment of Moraine Lake Lodge began in 1988. Arthur Erickson, one of the world’s most famous architects, was commissioned to design a new lodge and cabins. His challenge was to build a facility that would blend with the environment while accommodating overnight guests and approximately 4,000 visitors per day. The result is magnificent. Day users and overnight guests have distinct areas for their enjoyment – the library for instance, serves as a congenial common room where overnight guests can relax after a hike, meet other travelers and read quietly by the fire. At Moraine Lake Lodge, people are inspired to enjoy each other as much as the natural beauty surrounding them. As Walter Wilcox was the first to observe, a half-hour or a week spent in this setting can be the happiest of a lifetime.