Sep 232014
Emerald Lake and Crowsnest Mountain

A good eighty or so years separate the two images seen in this report. In both we see Emerald Lake and Crowsnest Lake and Mountain in the Crowsnest Pass of Alberta. The first image is from a black and white postcard scanned and sent to us by a reader of the BIGDoer blog. He asked us to check out the location seen to document what things look like today. And as you can see, not much differs, save for the new highway seen in front. Otherwise, the scene as it was then, is as it is today, a beautiful stunning place of mountains lakes and trees.

Both photos were taken from the old Crowsnest Highway. This section was eventually bypassed as it was prone to rock falls coming off nearby high cliffs, unseen and to the left of the camera position. Today, half the road, which is now closed to traffic by the way, had been covered by boulders and such that have slid or fallen down from above. Also, in winter water seepage often made it a skating rink. Not good! The exact date the highway rerouting took place is not completely clear. Some sources say 1974, others 1978.

This original image, according the person who sent it to us, dates from around 1930-1940 and was photographed by an HC McBurney from nearby Coleman Alberta.

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The writing on the postcard seems to suggest that it’s Crowsnest Lake in front (or Crow’s Nest as they spell it). No, it’s the aptly named Emerald Lake, a gorgeous deep blue/green. Crowsnest Lake is separate and is in behind the low rock peninsulas, although the two bodies are connected via a small channel. Note how many trees have grown up since the postcard image was captured. At the left end of the bridge in the now photo are the remains of a few dead trees, which clearly match up with those seen in the old image at the same location (only they’re still alive back then).

The prominent peak seen in behind in both photos is Crowsnest Mountain. The Pass is famous for it. It’s rather odd geologically as it’s sort of alone and by itself in a wide valley. Because of this, some people assume it’s the remains of a volcano. It’s not. There is a moderately technical scramble route to the summit and I bet the views are something else, but we have yet to visit.

The shoulder of another mountain can be seen in the middle background on the left. This is Crowsnest Ridge, which we’ve hiked up. Just to the left of the photo and off camera, at the base of that ridge, is the Crowsnest Lake cave, a place we last visited in the 1990s. We hope to return. A fair sized river flows from its mouth, emptying into Crowsnest Lake. Also just off camera but to the right this time is the Crowsnest Power Plant, a fascinating historic structure that’s been abandoned for many decades.

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Not seen on the far side of Crowsnest Lake at the base of the ridge, is the CPR’s southern mainline. It’s been here since the 1890s.

This part of the Crowsnest Pass is legendary for the gale force winds that often blast up the valley. This day was no exception and it blew so hard that at times is was difficult to stand. Adding to the discomfort, a frigid mist was whipped up from Emerald Lake below. Brrrrr!

The Pass is one of our favourite places to visit. There is so much history and so much amazing scenery. Notice how many Crowsnest reports there are on this blog.

Regarding how we compose the now photos: we simply shoot them free-hand. We don’t fix any image alignment problems in post. We get in it right in the camera using a complex grid formula which we’ve developed over the years. Not an easy thing to do, this technique, which we practice a lot, allows us to match the composition of old photos well. It’s not perfect, nor could it ever be, but it allows us to get real close.

If you have an old postcard or picture that shows a scene like the one we documented here, and would like us to use it in one of our (near) famous “then and now” reports, be sure and contact us. Pictures must be yours or in the public domain (most old cards are). This postcard was sent to us Bill who works at the UofA picture archives. Thanks! And please send more!

To see some hikes we’ve done in the “Pass”, follow these links…
One Mine Ridge.
Tent Mountain was torn a new one.
DC3 plane crash.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date of adventure: September, 2014.
Location: Crowsnest Pass, AB.

Crowsnest Lake and Mountain

The view from the old Crowsnest Highway (circa 1930s/40s).

Emerald Lake and Crowsnest Mountain

Aptly named Emerald Lake with Crowsnest Mountain in back.


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8 Comments on "Crowsnest Pass then and now"

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Bob Henry
Bob Henry

That’s home to me.


re the old Crowsnest highway my parents drove on that road in the twenties back and forth from Coleman to Corbin BC and it was still being used in the 60’s don’t think the new road came in till the early 70’s

Dan Overes

I would be more apt to believe the sources which say 1978 for the rerouting of the highway. I remember being a young child driving with my folks over the old road and, being born in late ’72, I wouldn’t think I’d remember it if it was rerouted as early as 1974.