Who would have ever thought that one lake could be pitched against another in some kind of weird competition? Is that even a thing?
You bet it is up in northeastern Alberta’s lake country. There are many lakes within the “Lakeland” (it’s actually called this), but there are two sub lakes under the grandeur of Cold Lake that battle year in and year out for the title of “Best Lake,” in the Provincial Municipal District no. 87. The fightin’ 87!
In one corner, we have Moose Lake— the Mighty Moose. Boasting a magnificent size of 52.8 km surface area, a glorious sand-bar and a hugely anticipated yearly fishing derby! Conveniently, it’s a 5 min drive from the bustling oil patch town of Bonnyville.
In the other corner, we have Crane Lake—easily the funnest place in Alberta in the summertime. I know, you thought it was Banff, but it’s not—Crane Lake is the funnest place in Alberta. Crane Lake’s water quality is highly prized as it is spectacularly spring fed: thus, it’s impervious to dreaded blue-green algae blooms. Crane Lake water is what you wish your liver was—always clean and ready to go. Crane features a great camping resort and the folks who run it do a bang-up job keeping that ice cream stocked, bait in the fridge, and the public beach tidy. Crane Lake also has its very own legitimate, fun-loving-pirate!
But let’s get back to the square-off, for “Best Lake.” Put on your boxing gloves, and let’s duke it out, once and for all! Mouthguard in, *boxing ring DING* and GO!
Residents of Moose build all sorts of fantastic dwellings from the quaintest cottages to stunning McMansions. Shoreline tours on Moose can take all day and are the.best.way to kill a sunny afternoon getting your tan on while floating your troubles away. It’s a big lake with many neat shorelines to discover. Snooping on everybody’s backyard action, while casually floating by: is capital fun! Cue up Little Big Town, “Pontoon” here. Moose folks know that good living starts at 5 pm when you rush home to prep your surfboat or pontoon boat to host your peeps for an evening on the water. These guys are experts at rigging up their *tubs with BBQ grills and inverters to power drink blenders. Classy indeed! Moose is close to the town of Bonnyville where most lake residents work: therefore daily lake usage is optimized. Crane is farther from supporting towns and living up there is a 25 min commute— making it longer to make it home every night after work to hit the water by 5:05 pm.
You’ll find $150k wakeboard boats at every third personal pier on Moose and note the swankiest pontoon vessels. There’s always a ‘good spot’ on Moose to find calm waters to surf: thanks to its large surface area, and windy days just aren’t much to worry about.
The fishing on Moose is superb with plentiful Northern Pike & Perch stocks, in particular. Fisherman rarely need to compete with watersports enthusiasts for space either as Moose’s is spaced comfortably for all types of users. Crane Lake fish-snobs however, love to point out that eating too much Pike from Moose— may not be the best for your health due to years of urbanization on Moose shorelines. Not so awesome. Moose offers a beautifully developed boat launch and day-use-area with a premium campground—Vezeau Beach. It’s conveniently located to encourage off-the-lakers to launch for the day. There are also many handy ‘secret’ launch spots that are still used but not formally maintained by the local M.D.
The song, “Drink Cuss Or Fish” by Brett Kissel perfectly captures the fishing vibe on Moose.
Worth noting is the protected lands of Moose Lake Provincial Campground / Park. It’s best-in-class for families looking to connect with nature. While this is a gorgeous campground to enjoy: provincial park rules are quite sticky. This can be a bit buzz-killington for lake lovers looking to howl at the moon on a hot summer night around a campfire. Provincial park protection also ensures that it’s an ATV free zone-good or not so good, depending on your preference. Heading to the many private, locals-only spots around Moose, are best suited for the classic Molson-Canadian-party-animals. The sand-bar is Moose’s amazing swath of 3′-6′ deep water that is naturally located in the center of the water body. This is where you siddle-up to other boats and take a beer-break after hitting it hard on the wakeboards, tubes, and surfboards. It’s the best ‘social’ spot to find on the water— where you might stay for 10 minutes or stay all day.
Moose residents are admirably some of the best lake-health advocates and stewards—mostly because of its discouraging yearly algae bloom (August-October). Many of its landowners have inherited their lake lots from their parents or grandparents and extreme pride in upkeep reigns supreme. Carving out your beach to be ‘just the way you want it,’ is strongly frowned upon, reportable and fineable. Lakeshore residents here, are fiercely protective of the naturality of Moose shorelines—and everyone keeps an eye out for gross offenses performed by landowners. Off-site cattle watering stations have been set up by the local M.D. to aide farmers that have land touching Moose *tributaries: proving that care, is met with solution.
Now over to Crane Lake, remember the funnest place in all of Alberta—in the summertime.
Located just a commute away from Bonnyville and the city of Cold Lake, you will instantly feel transported back to your 17-year-old self when you crest over the last hill entering Bodina Resort (the main infrastructure zone of Crane). Visitors come to this lake for its famed crystal clear *mesotrophic water: a true treat for landlocked water-loving-prairie-folks. While Crane is of superb water quality, it is a bit on the small size (9.28 square km surface area) as far as lakes are measured. Moose residents when hearing about how awesome the water is at Crane, are quick to point out that Crane’s entire size of lake can fit into any of Moose’s many bays. Crane’s smaller size makes it near impossible to find a calm spot to surf or fish on busy lake days. Hmm, perhaps this is a scene where size does matter—but equally, so does water quality.
Crane Lake no matter what time of year is guar.an.teed to plaster a big smile across you and your family’s faces! There’s a unique energy that is summoned up and kept impressively alive from its spirited residents /cottage owners. Crane is incredibly care-free, relaxing and filled with just plain undressed and stripped down fun. If you were too late on booking your seasonal camp ‘spot’ for the year (they book up fast in May) then your best bet is to cozy up to some of the gracious local hosts. These residents are the epitome of friendly and welcoming. This is so appreciated compared to the stuffiness of Moose residents. Crane offers community volley-ball nights, fish fry’s—you name it! The real pirate of Crane is always out on the water trolling for anybody who looks like they’re in dire need of a good-time. You best ‘walk the plank’ and board his vessel— if ever offered. He’s quite a character with a refreshing personality. Kenny Chesney’s song, “Pirate Flag,” almost completely describes the Pirates metaphoric back-story.
Crane is where you will find a species of humans that are poster children for what it means to be Canadian—ya know, perfectly joining nature with picturesque enjoyment. In fact, Molson Canadian commercial hopefuls are best suited to hang at Crane, compared to Moose. You will find yourself growing envious of the lifestyle movement that the people who reside there full-time have created. Here, you can get as loud as you want. It’s become yearly tradition to cut big holes in the ice to ‘polar bear’ dip into— then subsequently mad dash to the hot tub to warm up. If this doesn’t make you feel alive— I’m not sure what would?! It’s definitely worth it to check out the Jet-Ski tournaments and to watch some of the most everyday people with mad-surf-skills perform. Barefoot walking (with ice cream dripping down your hand) wearing a mismatched old-as-dirt-bikini is the perfect attire for strolling the beach at Crane. Here, it’s totally fine to be a ‘hot mess’ and this is somewhat encouraged. Can’t do that at Moose! Cue up some “Float Your Boat,” by Ryan Follese — “Beer to drink and trash to talk,” indeed.
Crane features an excellent network of ATV trails that are fairly ‘loose’ on regulatory compliance. Sure, if you’re a total tear-it-up jerk, they’ll have something to say about it: but typically residents do a great job of gently showing you ‘how’ to respect their shared spaces. They want you to have fun too and will help you on your quest— often pointing you to all their favorite spots. They’ll be the folks on the trails to help you if you’re lost or ran out of fuel. Chances are they will invite you back into their homes for an unforgettable night of belly-laughs while encouraging you to try things you’ve never tried before. Ask for the shot-ski ! So fun!
Crane residents charmingly redefine what it means to get back to what really matters in life: good friends, good times, and fun adventures.
*Ding* Spit out the mouthguards—this bout is over and it’s time to weigh-in on the results.
Moose Lake is fancy, big, private, formal and offers much for area residents and tourists. Crane Lake is clean, bustling, fun, young and escapist. It’s a tie with both arms rising above the Official! Upon closer inspection, clearly, we can’t pick a ‘winner’ as what these lakes represent and have to offer— is vastly different from each other. Therefore, your optimal enjoyment boils down to a matter of personal preference. What kind of experience do you feel like having on the weekend? And if you want to move to one of these lakes, how would you prefer to live—quietly with more space or communal with random adventure? What’s really lucky is the increased chance to visit and live at the lake if you’re from this impressive Municipal District of Alberta. Maybe we’ve all just gotten a bit too much out of hand with ‘hair-splitting’ on which has the better what? Indeed, smart residents of both Bonnyville and Cold Lake; know that it’s a wonderful choose-your-own-adventure—happening every weekend in the heart of Alberta’s amazing Lakeland!
Dedicated to the good people of Moose Lake, Crane Lake and our good pal — Trevor Hallwachs.
Mesotrophic: A body of water having a moderate amount of dissolved nutrients. In Crane Lake’s instance, it is deemed a clean lake, a rarity in the Prairies.
Tub: Slang- Local usage to reference a boat.
Tributary: Water inlet feed joining to another water body.
Quick Lake-Song Find:
- Pontoon – Little Big Town
- Drink Cuss Or Fish – Brett Kissel
- Pirate Flag – Kenny Chesney
- Float Your Boat – Ryan Follese
- Smooth – Florida Georgia Line
- Buy Me A Boat – Chris Janson
- Sail – Awolnation
- Flower Power – Greta Van Fleet
- Lonely Together – Avicii ft. Rita Ora
- Anywhere – Dillon Francis
- Temperature – Sean Paul
- Goodbye – Glen Morrison
- Ride – Ciara ft. Ludacris
- Make You Mine – High Valley
- The Enforcer – Monster Truck
- So Far Away – Dire Straits
- Rich – Maren Morris