If you are looking for a place to spend some of your vacation days or a weekend near Edmonton, or you're passing through the area on your way to visit the renowned national parks of the Rocky Mountains, Cross Lake Provincial Park is a place that combines the comfort of a spacious campsite with the classic scenery of the Canadian lakes.
To the north of the capital city of Edmonton stretches a transition area between the boreal forests and the infinite grasslands of Alberta, the westernmost of Canada's three Prairie Provinces. Beyond this natural frontier where Cross Lake Provincial Park is located, big lakes and wide woodlands mark the landscape of the northern region of the country.
Cross Lake Provincial Park bears what once was the original name of its lake, which has a cross-like shape. The lake was later renamed Steele Lake in memory of a soldier who died in World War One, Ira John Steele. This 10.7 square mile (27.7 km2) nature park established in 1955 encircles the full expanse of the lake, housing the park's campsite. Steele Lake, aside from being a good fishing area, offers a sandy beach, a boat launch, bird observatories, and a number of paved hiking trails that weave through the forests. The park receives visitors year-round. Visitor services are available from mid-May to mid-October.
The climate is something to take into account before going to Cross Lake Provincial Park. In April the thunderstorm season begins in the prairies of Alberta, and it lasts until mid-October. The intense feeling of chaos provoked by these massive summer storms, a spectacular demonstration of the power of nature, could be one more attraction for fans of natural phenomenon and storm-chasers. Consult the weather forecast. At the end of July, when the heat comes after the heaviest rains of the season, be sure to load up on bug spray. Locals know that this time of year, when the temperatures reach over 85 F (30 C), mosquitoes abound.
In August, the lake turns a stunning green because of algae growth. Swimming when this algae is present is not recommended. It could damage your health, and especially that of your pets.
More than a nature reserve, Cross Lake Provincial Park is a pleasant recreational area and a nice fishing spot. The campsite environment is casual, And there may be some noise from your neighbors, especially in the summer months.
Cross Lake Provincial Park is just under a two-hour drive north of Edmonton (92.6 miles / 149 km) and less than an hour and a half from Athabasca (74 miles / 119 km). It's an easy drive. The roads are well-maintained, but this can mean construction work during summer.Snow tires are strongly recommended in the cold Alberta winters.
The last 6.8 miles (11km) of AB-801 is a gravel road that takes you directly to the park entrance.
Cross Lake Campground contains 130 campsites for both RVs and tents, three of which are handicap sites. The Park Office is located before the bridge that crosses French Creek. Most of the campsites are located in the forest surrounding the lake, and some have lake views. One of the best things about the campground is the privacy. Linked to the main camp by a hiking trail, you have another tent camping option at George's Point, a more peaceful area on the other side of the lake. If you go in mid-summer, bring along your mosquito nets or the mosquitos could eat you alive.
Services available include 15/30 amp power, drinking waterand showers. There’s also a boat launch, two parking areas, and two birdwatching platforms. Picnic tables and picnic shelters make for great places to eat, and a sani dump makes for a convenient stay. Fish cleaning stations, two playgrounds, and a marked swimming zone right off the beach add to the fun. The park office houses a small convenience store (ice-cream, canned goods, and firewood available for purchase). Max RV limit: 50feet. Visitor services are available from mid-May to mid-October.
The surface area of Steele Lake measures about 2.6 square miles (6.6 km2), and it is an average of 10.5 feet (3.2 m) deep, with a maximum depth of 20 feet (6.1 m). From May 15 - March 31, you can fish Northern Pike, Yellow Perch, Big Bass, Trout, Bull Trout, Arctic Grayling, Walleye, Lake Whitefish, and Burbot. Don't forget your fishing license, and check the regulations about which species are catch-and-release and which can be consumed. Some rental companies in Edmonton offer you the option to rent a fishing boat and have them bring it straight to you at the lake of your choice.
No rental services are available at the park. However, you can bring your own, or you can rent canoes, kayaks, and rafts in Edmonton or Athabasca. Not far from Cross Lake Provincial Park is the Athabasca River. This river, the third-longest in the province, offers great canoeing, kayaking, and rafting. You can book a guided tour at different locations along the river.
The best time to visit Cross Lake Provincial Park may be autumn or spring when there are fewer visitors. That's the time of the year when it's easiest to see wildlife, as well as the best time to enjoy especially bright night skies. A large variety of bird life inhabits the lakeshores and surrounding woods. You can see species like beautiful pelicans and majestic bald eagles. The lake has two birding platforms. The forests are home to wolves, deer, and other critters like mischievous squirrels. Keep food and pets safe, and remember that it's prohibited to feed the wild animals.
The paved hiking trails that weave through the forests surrounding the campsite lose none of their charm in the winter. Strap on your snowshoes and traipse through the snow as you enjoy scenes of glittering snow-dusted spruces, trees native to this region of Alberta.
Steele Lake is a nice spot for ice fishing. Dress warmly with a good hat and gloves, and consider goggles. Don't park your vehicle on the ice. The surface area of Steele Lake measures about 2.6 square miles (6.6 km2), and it is an average of 10.5 feet (3.2 m) deep, with a maximum depth of 20 feet (6.1 m).
Winter temperatures below 5F (-15C) guarantee snow. Cross Lake Provincial Park is a great place to enjoy skiing through the spruce forests. Plan to ski well before the sun goes down to avoid unexpected encounters with wildlife.