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North America > Canada > Prairies > Alberta > Central Alberta > Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

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For other places with the same name, see Sylvan Lake (disambiguation).

Sylvan Lake is a town of about 14,800 people (2016) in the Central Alberta region of Alberta, Canada.


Sylvan Lake lighthouse

Sylvan Lake is 25 kilometres (16 mi) west of the Red Deer, midway between Calgary and Edmonton, along either Highway 11 or Highway 11A. It is on the southeast edge of Sylvan Lake, a 15-kilometre-long (9 mi) freshwater lake.

The lake is a popular destination for tourists from around Alberta, with over 1.5 million visitors each year. Popular tourist activities include sunbathing, swimming, water-skiing, and camping.


Sylvan Lake town.JPG

Sylvan Lake's first European settlers were French-speaking immigrants from Quebec and the United States. Arriving in 1898 from Michigan, Alexandre Loiselle and his family homesteaded the quarter section that later became the west side of today's Main (50th) Street and the businesses and homes immediately to the west. When the first settlers arrived at Sylvan Lake in 1899, the lake was named Snake Lake from the Cree name Kinabik, (or kinepik) which referred to the numerous garter snakes in the area. The name was changed to Sylvan Lake in 1903. "Sylvan" is from the Latin sylvanus, which means "of a forest".

The completion of the Canadian Northern Railway line to Rocky Mountain House and Nordegg in 1912 and the parallel Canadian Pacific Railway in 1914 opened the west country to settlement and resulted in the incorporation of Sylvan Lake in 1913 under Mayor E.S. Grimson, a local hardware store owner. The anniversary of the founding of the town is celebrated every year in Sylvan Lake as "1913 Days". Farming quickly became a mainstay in the area and in 1923 an Alberta Pacific grain elevator was built on the CPR line immediately north of what is now Cottonwood Estates. The elevator was torn down in the 1970s and the CPR line was abandoned in 1983 and removed in 1986. Since then, the right of way has survived as a natural area and walking path through Sylvan Lake.

Even prior to the building of the railways, Sylvan Lake was becoming a summer resort for families in Red Deer. With the coming of the trains, "the Lake" became a favourite of families from both Edmonton and Calgary. The summer visitors camped in tents, but soon the "Cottage Area" east of 46 Street and in "Lower Camp" on the southeast shore began to fill with summer cottages. In the 1930s and 1940s people began arriving by car and the areas around Norglenwold, Sylvan Lake Provincial Park and Jarvis Bay Provincial Park began to fill up with summer visitors.

The influx of summer residents and visitors also brought businesses and services that catered to the ever-increasing number of tourists. In 1913, the first motor launch took paying passengers on tours around the lake. A large boathouse was constructed in 1926, allowing visitors to rent a boat, canoe, swimsuit, or buy ice cream, pop and other items necessary to a summer day at the lake. Regattas were held on the lake for a number of years beginning in 1923.

In 1928, the Dominion Government, assisted by the Sylvan Lake Women's Institute (WI), built the long pier that jutted out into the lake from the bottom of Main Street. This pier was connected to the earlier WI Pier and formed a square area used for swimming and mooring boats. The first waterslide at Sylvan Lake was part of this facility. The piers were prone to ice damage over the winter and were replaced by the existing landfill that now hosts beach volleyball tournaments, dragon boat racing and the lake tour on the Zoo Cruise.

Get in[edit]

Sylvan Lake can be best accessed by car by taking Highway 11 or Highway 11A west from Red Deer, where one can travel Highway 2 (Queen Elizabeth II Highway) to either Calgary or Edmonton.

Get around[edit]

Map of Sylvan Lake


  • Centennial Park, Lakeshore Drive. In the heart of Sylvan Lake along Lakeshore Drive, a 5-acre day-use area along the waterfront. With direct access to the beach and lake, it’s the perfect spot for a picnic, watching the sailboats on the lake, building sandcastles, taking a leisurely stroll, and enjoying the sunset from one of the many Adirondack chairs that line the park.
  • 1 Rotary Lighthouse Park (Sylvan Lake Lighthouse), Lakeshore Drive. Modelled after Nova Scotia’s famous Peggy’s Cove lighthouse.
  • Sylvan Lake Park (formerly Sylvan Lake Provincial Park), 4403 Lakeshore Drive.



Downtown Sylvan Lake has specialty and boutique shops. A variety of shopping including gift shops, clothing stores, and craft stores.



  • Undercurrent Brewing, 5003 Lakeshore Drive. Summer hours: M-Th 3-9PM, F SA noon-10PM, Su noon-7PM. Microbrewery with tasting room and patio overlooking Sylvan Lake. Menu: locally inspired gourmet grilled cheese, tapas, small bites and desserts.



Hotels and motels[edit]


Go next[edit]

Routes through Sylvan Lake
ENDS at N Alberta Highway 93.svg SRocky Mountain House  W Alberta Highway 11.svg E  Red DeerStettler via Alberta Highway 12.svg

This city travel guide to Sylvan Lake is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.