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Ghost Lake Provincial Recreation Area Beach

Cochrane, Alberta

This beach is managed by Alberta Parks. All water quality testing is carried out by Alberta Health Services and follows the same guidelines as publicly monitored beaches in Alberta.


Located on the Ghost Lake Reservoir near the Transalta Dam of the Bow River (originally built in 1929), the beach is rocky with chilly water that deepens very quickly in the what is an unmarked swimming area.

Ghost Lake, about 45 minutes from Calgary, and the beach location offer spectacular views and options for camping and boat rentals at Ghost Lake Recreation Inc. in the marina on the other side of the Bow Valley Trail, where the denuded campground is located. There is a boat launch and pier right beside the beach; be aware that water levels can change and the water is cold year round.


The reservoir and dam are named for the Ghost River, which flows into the east end of the reservoir. It was designated "Dead Man River" on Palliser's map of 1860, but the name was changed to "Ghost" to recall tales of a ghost prowling up and down the river valley, picking up skulls of fallen Blackfoot Indians who had been killed in battle by Cree Indians (Holmgren and Holmgren 1976). In 1873, two dedicated Methodist ministers, the Reverend George McDougall and his son, the Reverend John McDougall, set up a mission across the river from the present site of the locality of Morley to promote the cause of their church. At the same time, they brought the first cattle to the area and started the first ranch in the southern foothills. In 1874, the Hudson's Bay Company built a trading post on the hill above the mouth of the Ghost River to trade with the Indians drawn to the McDougalls' mission. A tireless crusader, George McDougall became lost in January 1876 in a blizzard near Nose Hill in Calgary and perished (MacGregor 1972). He was buried beside his church, which still stands on the north shore of Ghost Reservoir where the mountains to the west and the sweeping west wind can evoke the ghosts of the past to imaginative visitors.
In 1929, Calgary Power Ltd. leased reserve land from the Morley Indians to build the Ghost Dam across the Bow River just below the confluence of the Ghost River to create Ghost Reservoir (Snow 1977). A power transmission line was built from the Ghost power plant to Edmonton; for years, this line was the backbone of Alberta's electrical system (MacGregor 1972). Now, the main purpose of the reservoir is to provide power to Albertans during times of peak daily demand.
Despite limitations imposed by large water level fluctuations, cold water temperatures and wind, the reservoir is popular for power boating, windsurfing and sport fishing. There are no boating or fishing regulations specific to the reservoir, but the Ghost River and its tributaries are closed to angling from 1 November to 15 June and a bait ban is in effect in all flowing waters from 1 November to 15 August (Alta. For. Ld. Wild. 1988; 1989). These regulations may change from year to year. In winter, the reservoir is popular for ice fishing and ice boating.
The best access to the reservoir is at Ghost Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area, previously known as Lakeside Park and Campground, which is just southwest of the bridge crossing the Ghost River (Fig. 2). Facilities include day-use services year-round and a summer campground with 51 sites, a day-use area, tap and pump water, sewage disposal facilities, a boat launch, a telephone and a gravel beach. The shoreline around most of the reservoir is gravel. The water is clear and algae are inconspicuous year-round.



Ghost Lake Provincial Recreation Area Beach is sampled from May 24th to September 1st.

The status of this beach is GREEN.

This means the beach passes water quality tests at least 95% of the time.

The status of this beach was last confirmed by N. Sask. Riverkeeper on September 3, 2015 at 12:20:16 PM UTC.

The Swim Guide shares the best information we have at the moment you ask for it. Always obey signs posted at the beach or advisories from official government agencies.

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