- For other places with the same name, see Sylvan Lake (disambiguation).
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'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.
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.
- 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.
- Sylvan Lake Aqua Splash, #1, 5100 Lakeshore Drive, ☏ . Alberta’s first floating water park.
- 1 Meadowlands Golf Club at Sylvan Lake (at the corner of Highway 11 and Highway 781 in Sylvan Lake), ☏ .
- 2 Sylvan Lake Golf & Country Club, 5331 Lakeshore Drive, ☏ .
- Sylvan Lake Marina -- boating facilities, and the Sylvan Lake lighthouse.
Downtown Sylvan Lake has specialty and boutique shops. A variety of shopping including gift shops, clothing stores, and craft stores.
- Lokal Kitchen, 4923 33 St, ☏ . Daily 7AM-9PM. Italian-Korean fusion. Korean barbecue, pasta, risotta, pizza, fried chicken, burgers, gyoza. Mains $12-23.
- Bamboo Hut Southeast Asian Cuisine, 5052 46 Street, ☏ . M-Th 11AM-8PM, F 11AM-9PM, Sa noon-9PM, Su noon-8PM, closed on holidays. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free choices available. Mains $14-19.
- Blondie's Restaurant, 5004 33 St, ☏ . M-Sa 7AM-7PM, Su 7AM-6PM. Diner at the Days Inn.
- 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.
- 1 Jarvis Bay Provincial Park, 115 unserviced sites and 52 powered (15/30 amp) sites. (4 km north of Sylvan Lake on Hwy 20), ☏ .
- Sylvan Lake RV Park, 4305 50 Ave.
Hotels and motels
- Beach Front Resort, 4505 Lakeshore Drive, ☏ .
- Best Western Plus Chateau Inn (Chateau Inn Sylvan Lake), 5027 Lakeshore Drive, ☏ , toll-free: .
- Comfort Inn and Suites, 13 Beju Industrial Drive, ☏ .
- Lost Harbour Inn, 5312 Lakeshore Drive, ☏ .
|Routes through Sylvan Lake|
|ENDS at N S ← Rocky Mountain House ←||W E||→ Red Deer → Stettler via|