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Your Guide to Lac St. Anne, Alberta: Central Alberta’s Diamond In The Rough

Water's Edge

Lac St. Anne, Alberta: Central Alberta’s colourful diamond in the rough. And, as I would discover, a decent place to go motorcycling.

In This Alberta Article You Will Discover:

  • Why You Should Visit Lac St. Anne, Alberta
  • What To Expect When You Arrive
  • What to Do While You’re There
  • Real Estate Prices & Rental Homes

Alberta Beach, a scruffy little hamlet on the shores of Lac St. Anne, is a colourful place to be sure. Just spend an afternoon sipping a Corona at the lakeside Jungle’s Bar & Grill, and you’ll see all types of folk crawl out of the woodwork.

“If I see my mom,” mumbles an inebriated 30-something from the table next to me, “I’m totally getting a ride home with her.” It’s half past noon, and the locals are celebrating Canada Day in style.

The waitress answers my request for a menu in robotic fashion.

“We don’t have menus, we have cheeseburgers, chicken fingers or BLTs,” she drones. I nod my head, place my order and try to figure out how this place that seems a world away could be only 60 km from downtown Edmonton.

Motorcycling

There is great dual-sport motorcycling in the Lac St. Anne Area.

The 55-square-kilometre Lac St. Anne is a popular cottage retreat for Edmonton residents — although far less so than mainstays like Pigeon and Sylvan lakes, located between Alberta’s two major cities of Edmonton and Calgary. On this weekend in particular, it feels like a hidden gem — the tiny public beach is not half full and traffic is non-existent. A few other tourists like myself wander the streets, conspicuous thanks to their fanny packs and triple-decker ice cream cones. We stop in at shops like the Hey Loft, a knickknack store with surprisingly reasonable prices, or one of the cutesy, family run coffee or sandwich shops.

A short walk from Jungle’s to the public beach, a small patch of grass and lake-sand less than 100 metres long, reveals why cottagers might wish to keep this area from becoming the next Sylvan Lake. Lac St. Anne is an oasis in the northern forest — a clear-water, picturesque prairie lake ringed with private cottages. A couple of wakeboarders and pleasure boaters make their rounds on the water in front of me, and in the distant corner, a boat sits at anchor — perhaps with a lazy angler aboard. Near the long, rickety wooden pier, an elderly gentleman plies the waters in an honest-to-God Aquacar; one of the few remaining examples of this failed 1950s-era amphibious vehicle. However, for a large lake less than an hour’s drive to Alberta’s capital city, this place is practically a ghost town.

Named after the grandmother of Jesus Christ, Lac St. Anne has a holy history. Originally dubbed Wakamne by the local Nakota Sioux, meaning “God’s Lake,” Europeans renamed it Devil’s Lake upon their arrival, perhaps do to a heinous misinterpretation of Wakamne, perhaps due to the sudden storms that can descend on the lake, seemingly without warning. It was the missionary Father Thibault who renamed it again in 1842, in honour of his patron saint. Although the famous Father Lacombe moved the mission to the present-day city of St. Albert, Lac St. Anne still has a holy following — thousands of people pilgrimage there each year, claiming physical and spiritual healing from its warm, shallow waters.

Lac St. Anne still has a holy following — thousands of people pilgrimage there each year, claiming physical and spiritual healing from its warm, shallow waters.

Lac St. Anne Cottages

Lac St. Anne is a great spot for watersports, from fishing to wakeboarding.

Holy water aside, there are many reasons the cottager might want to take a look at this lake and the surrounding areas. In Alberta Beach, lakeside living can be had for around $200,000. Lakefront cottages are a bit more than homes in the 762-person town, but still below the provincial average of about $700,000.

However, just a quick jaunt north of Alberta Beach, along the road that encircles the lake, cottagers will find a new development that offers all the joys of cottage ownership with none of the headaches. The Water’s Edge is a condominium style community, offering brand-new, lakefront, lakeside and lakeview craftsman cottages. Sure, it might not be the off-grid paradise you’ve always dreamed of, but for the mid-$300,000s, you can move right in, and for $120 per month in condo fees, you don’t even have to mow your lawn.

Rick Arndt, president of the Water’s Edge developments, explains the draw to this community.

“Lakeside living often comes with hassles like maintenance problems, well water and septic tanks. This complex takes the worry out of those issues. All of the green-spaces are maintained for you, as are the roads, clubhouse, boat-launch… and the provincially approved water treatment and low-pressure septic system.”

But for those who might worry this planned development is an abomination of nature, Arndt assures that nothing could be further from the truth.

“This property owns the riparian rights, which allowed the development a half-mile of lakefront,” Arndt says. “But the development actually enhances the environment.” Only native species were used, including natural grasses and bulrushes. Fish habitat was enhanced as well. Arndt had an environmental assessment done to ensure any modification would be done in an environmentally sensitive manner. On the lots, rather than a fenced off subdivision, the craftsman-style cottages (which have a “cabin-y feel,” according to Arndt) are separated by a combination of 20 to 24 different species of native trees and shrubs.

“We are rebuilding the natural setting,” assures Arndt. And it is quite a setting. Unique to an Alberta lake, the Water’s Edge property is sloped, offering four sloped benches that allow for breathtaking vistas that stretch for 20 km or more, across the lake and into the horizon. “Our lots celebrate the lake,” adds Arndt. “We’re not just a developer out to make a buck, we’re building a legacy.”

Alberta Beach

Alberta Beach, on Lac St. Anne, is a popular summer recreation spot.

Whether you choose modern, hassle-free living at The Water’s Edge, or pick up a cozy, sub-$200,000 bungalow in Alberta Beach, Lac St. Anne’s holy waters will soothe your spirit all the same. And if all that holy water and serenity starts to get to you, a quick trip to Jungle’s Bar & Grill provides the perfect compliment.

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

5 comments… add one
  • Eugene Courtrille May 29, 2013

    I am just trying to find out if can help him will family tree of my grandparents – Gordon Courtoreille and Sara Courtoreille from the Lac St Anne area or Alberta Beach area. My dad name is Ben Courtrille; my mother Lillian Courtrille; I do not her madian name.

  • China MDF May 30, 2011

    Excellent stuff from you,I adore what you have got right here. You make it entertaining and you still manage to keep it smart. This is truly a great blog thanks for sharing…

  • David Webb Aug 14, 2010

    Well, to be fair, Rick said he’s not ‘JUST’ out to make a buck… of course he’s there to make money – we all work for money, whether as a butcher, baker or real estate developer. But any real estate developer wants to build a legacy – that’s why they choose that field. So I’d say you’re both right.
    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Billy Bob Aug 14, 2010

    Ahhh…no. It IS about Rick Arndt making a buck. Or 2

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