Lake Minnewanka, also known as ‘Lake of the Evil Water Spirit’, will again play host to the 4th Annual Banff National Park Dragon Boat Festival. This local First Nations moniker refers to a mythical ‘half-human, half-creature’ who was believed to prey upon unsuspecting boaters who dared to ply the waters of the lake. On August 13th & 14th, nearly 500 ‘full’ humans will defy the myth, applying furious momentum to power their spiritually inspired dragon boats across the same waters just outside of the town of Banff.
Dragon boating originated in southern China over 2000 years ago and is one of the earliest known forms of aquatic competition. Forty-foot long boats, consisting of 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steersperson, all striving for perfect synchronicity, race to cross the finish line ahead of their competitors. This year’s event on Lake Minnewanka will see 24 teams from across Alberta and British Columbia compete in paddle sprints of 200 and 500 metres between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
“The beauty of Banff National Park’s mountain scenery is a wonderful complement to the colourful and exciting sport of dragon boating” says Stu Back, director of in-resort services at Banff Lake Louise Tourism. “It’s an event that celebrates sportsmanship, culture and the great outdoors, and presents yet another opportunity to share our national park with visitors from around the world.”
A new aspect to this year’s festival will be the placement of world-class ‘Buk’ dragon boats, the same that are often in play at national competitions and world championships. These fine boats are provided by the Edmonton Dragon Boat Racing Club and the Topmade Dragon Boat Club; race operations will be directed by Kwantum.
The event offers outstanding viewing and venues for catching all the action around the shores of Lake Minnewanka. Spectators are encouraged to use the free Dragon Express Public Shuttle which leaves the town of Banff every 30 minutes between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. from four convenient locations: the Brewster Bus Depot, the Mount Royal Hotel, the Transit Zone on the corner of Banff Avenue & Fox Street, and the Overflow Camping Lot on the Minnewanka Loop Road.
Food and beverage vendors will be on site at this year’s event and the Information Tent will be offering drinking water to those with reusable bottles, true to Banff National Park’s ‘Towards Zero Waste’ program.
Following Saturday’s races, special cultural performances, presented by Cascade Plaza, will be featured between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. in Banff Avenue Square including First Nations drummers and traditional Chinese lion & dragon dancing.
A Heritage Moment
In the late 1800’s, Lake Minnewanka was home to Minnewanka Landing, a popular resort community which featured a hotel, fishing guides, boat rentals, restaurants, clipper sailing, and even iceboating. Minnewanka Landing was popular location due to its proximity to the Banff townsite and its fine boating facilities. When the lake was dammed, the reservoir submerged the resort, today presenting a unique opportunity for scuba divers.