Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Peyto Lake

with 38 comments

Everybody photographs Banff National Park’s Peyto Lake, so why shouldn’t I? On September 4th we hiked up to the popular overlook from which I took this picture. Fortunately it gives no hint of the dozens of people around me.

UPDATE: I should’ve explained that the lake’s wonderful color is due to what’s called glacial rock flour.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 26, 2017 at 4:46 AM

38 Responses

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  1. Do you know why the lake is this colour ? It looks fab !


    November 26, 2017 at 11:05 AM

    • Fab indeed. Here’s how one website answers your question: “The lake gets its colour from the large amounts of glacier rock flour that flow into it during the summer months. The colour varies depending on the season and even with the time of day.”

      Until this trip I hadn’t encountered the term “rock flour.” You can read more about it at


      Steve Schwartzman

      November 26, 2017 at 11:25 AM

      • it looks a bit like blue milk to me, thanks for the link !


        November 26, 2017 at 2:43 PM

  2. Wonderful!


    November 26, 2017 at 12:39 PM

  3. Beautiful scene. Just amazing that the blue comes and goes to a certain degree. I love the Alberta area and I particularly like the numbers of animals in that area. Did you see the huge culvert that allows animals to traverse under the freeway? What a civilized way to allow them to move around! Your photo is “suitable for
    framing” in its perfection.


    November 26, 2017 at 2:06 PM

    • I don’t recall seeing any underpasses, but on the Trans-Canada Highway south of Lake Louise I noticed several animal bridges over the highway.

      Alberta provided us with some great scenery, as you’re aware. Why it took me so many decades to get there, I don’t know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 26, 2017 at 4:09 PM

  4. I’ve seen many pictures of the lake, but seeing it first hand must be a real treat.

    Steve Gingold

    November 26, 2017 at 3:42 PM

    • While I’ve been aware of Lake Louise for as long as I can remember, Peyto Lake, Bow Lake, Moraine Lake, Maligne Lake, Medicine Lake, and others were all new to me.

      Seeing them was a treat, no question. Still, I could have done without the swarms of people at the most scenic places. I expect they could have done without me, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 26, 2017 at 4:13 PM

      • One of the reasons I tend to stay local is just that…swarms of people at the iconic locations.

        Steve Gingold

        November 26, 2017 at 4:28 PM

        • Right, and as you’ve seen, most of the places I go are local ones where I’m the only photographer. Still, I’m sure glad I got to see and photograph the great scenery in the places we’ve taken trips to over the past few years.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 26, 2017 at 4:37 PM

  5. My first thought was that the lake’s color seems unreal, in the sense that the San Antonio River seems unreal when they dump green dye into it for St. Patrick’s day. The distinction between the sky’s color and that of the lake adds to the sense of unreality.

    I’d never heard of rock flour, either. I’m feeling just silly enough this morning to imagine Nature singing, “If I knew you were comin’, I’d’ve baked a lake.”


    November 27, 2017 at 6:58 AM

    • As long as the photograph doesn’t look half-baked, I’m happy.

      Yes, the lake does look unnatural, like some chemicalized ponds I’ve seen that are part of industrial processing. Fortunately I got to enjoy Peyto Lake’s “unnatural” color as a natural thing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2017 at 7:28 AM

  6. That water is unusual! I am with you on avoiding crowds of people. I’m thankful for good hiking legs to take me away from the target tourist spots. There is nothing like having it all to yourself!


    November 27, 2017 at 6:59 AM

    • Our trip covered the last week in August and the first two in September, still the tourist season. Assuming we’d probably never return, we visited places that the guidebooks made us think were the most scenic, and as a result I don’t think we found more than brief solitude anywhere we went. To get greater solitude up there we’d have to visit in colder weather, which has its disadvantages. All in all, we made out well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2017 at 7:36 AM

  7. Gorgeous view, gorgeous photograph. Stunning. Last time I was there there was about four feet of snow…couldn’t even get to the viewpoint! 😄


    November 27, 2017 at 9:39 PM

    • Sorry about the four feet of snow that kept you from getting to the viewpoint. When we flew out of Calgary on September 14th, we’d heard a television report that morning saying that snow had fallen overnight in the mountains. Fortunately we saw Peyto Lake on one of the few clear days of our trip (the others being hazy from the smoke of forest fires).

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2017 at 10:26 PM

  8. I have seen Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo which also have glacial flour but I have yet to see them looking as turquoise as Lake Peyto.


    November 28, 2017 at 7:00 AM

    • When I noticed that two of the lakes in the article about glacial rock flour are in New Zealand, I looked at a map to see where they are. We passed not too far from them, and perhaps if I’d known about them and their glacial flour in February I’d have made the effort to see them. Or maybe I wouldn’t, given how many other scenic things we already knew about and were doing our best to cram in.

      Now you can add the even-more-colorful Peyto Lake to your list of worthy places.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 28, 2017 at 7:11 AM

  9. The colour of the lake is exquisite .. hard to believe by this pic, that there were other people about …


    November 30, 2017 at 12:06 PM

    • “Exquisite” is a good word for it. Not till the Canadian Rockies had I ever seen lakes with such brightly saturated ultramarine water. I’d gladly have done without all the people, but there wasn’t any way to avoid them at the most popular places.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 30, 2017 at 4:26 PM

  10. I’ll add my exclamations over the beauty of this image. It doesn’t even look real.


    December 27, 2017 at 8:35 AM

    • And this was just one of several lakes we saw that had such improbably saturated water. I’ve never seen anything even close to that in the American Rockies.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 27, 2017 at 8:59 AM

      • I wonder if it is potable. If so it would be a rich source of minerals! I’m certainly not suggesting anyone exploit it. I only wondered if the early settlers used it.


        December 28, 2017 at 8:32 AM

        • I searched a bit just now but didn’t find anything about whether the water in Peyto Lake is drinkable. Someone must know.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 28, 2017 at 9:03 AM

          • I don’t think I’d drink it. I’m remembering now that a lot of bodies of water out there are~ah I’m having a senior moment and can’t find the word. Opposite of acidic, at any rate, and dangerous to drink.


            December 29, 2017 at 8:41 AM

            • The first word that popped into my head was basic, in its chemical sense. Then I realized you probably meant alkaline.

              Steve Schwartzman

              December 29, 2017 at 12:08 PM

              • Yes, but that wasn’t it. Yes, alkali, that was the word people used.


                December 29, 2017 at 7:46 PM

                • We got that from the Arabic word for ‘ashes, lye, potash.’

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  December 29, 2017 at 8:20 PM

                • when I was groping for the word my mind did tentatively bring up lye and potash. I had no idea we got it from Arabic~how interesting!


                  December 31, 2017 at 8:56 AM

                • Arab scholars were early researchers into what we now call chemistry and used to call alchemy. That al- is a sign a word comes from Arabic, as in algebra and almanac.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  December 31, 2017 at 9:58 AM

                • Their study into algebra, if I am not mistaken, inspired the artists of the Renaissance with the discovery of 0 and a vanishing point.


                  January 1, 2018 at 9:20 AM

                • The Arabs conveyed to the West the discovery that the Hindus had made of zero (along with ancient Greek mathematics that the Arabs had preserved). The Mayans possessed a concept of zero, too, but it didn’t influence Europeans, who already had it by the time they came to the New World. As far as I know, it was indeed Renaissance Europeans who developed the concept of parallel lines converging to a vanishing point in drawings and paintings.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 1, 2018 at 12:27 PM

                • I thought it was pretty cool when I learned that. It is interesting that the Hindus and Mayans also knew about zero. It fascinates me, the story of different civilizations making discoveries, or not making them.


                  January 2, 2018 at 10:09 AM

                • I have several books on the history of mathematics. When I was teaching, I would occasionally draw from them to supplement the regular material in the courses.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 2, 2018 at 10:26 AM

                • Lucky students, yours. I haven’t got the mind for math but I do find it beautiful and fascinating.


                  January 4, 2018 at 11:16 AM

                • There are many intriguing things that can be shown and understood at a simple level. I wish more math teachers did that in their classes.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 4, 2018 at 11:20 AM

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