What Made the Sunset Cruise to Crean Lake So Memorable!

People inside a small aluminum fishing boat on a calm lake that reflects the green trees next to the lake and a blue sky with a few white fluffy clouds

Fishing Boat on First of the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

One of the largest and most stunning lakes in Canada is Crean Lake.  It has crystal clear blue waters with several tiny islands in the middle of it and around it, along with an exquisite backdrop of blue sky and greenery.  The lake and sky both seem to go on and on, which is quite awe-inspiring.  In order to reach Crean Lake, you must first go through the three Hanging Heart Lakes, all of which are also of remarkable beauty and surrounded by/filled with an abundance of flora and fauna (plants and animals).  These lakes are all located in Prince Albert National Park, which is close to the geographic centre of Saskatchewan, Canada.  The park is 60 km (37.3 miles) north of the city of Prince Albert.

Prince Albert National Park is a transition of Aspen parkland to boreal forest.  This national park is home to the only fully protected white pelican nesting colony in Canada, offers the opportunity to see Canada’s only free ranging bison within their historic range, and protects a significant portion of Canada’s remaining fescue grasslands (a type of grass with wide flat leaves usually cultivated in North America and Europe for permanent pasture and hay, as well as for lawns).  Moreover, the park has a rich Aboriginal history dating back over 7 800 years.  It is also where Grey Owl’s cabin is situated (a famed conservationist).  Additionally, Prince Albert National park has numerous lakes and over 150 km (93.2 miles) of hiking trails, therefore making it Saskatchewan’s premiere hiking destination.

Together, the Hanging Heart Lakes and Crean Lake demonstrate well the transition of the south (which is Aspen parkland) to the north (which consists of boreal forest).  The Hanging Heart Lakes represent southern lakes as they are shallow with a soft, muddy bottom and about 7.3 metres (24 feet) deep.  Crean Lake is a northern lake and therefore has a hard, gravelly/rocky bottom.  The trench (deepest part) on Crean Lake is about 54.5 metres (180 feet) deep.
 
 

Small marina with boats with tall trees behind it and a blue sky with a few fluffy white clouds reflected on the water

Hanging Heart Lakes Marina on First of the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

The sunset boat cruise to Crean Lake is available from the Hanging Heart Lakes Marina (there are a total of three marinas in Prince Albert National Park).  The interpretive tour is on a 7.3 meter (24 foot) pontoon boat and runs at about 6:30/7 pm every day, usually from Victoria Day to Labour Day, with advanced booking (the booking can be made the same day that you would like to go on the cruise, but before 5 pm).  It is approximately a 2 hour boat tour which goes through the three Hanging Heart Lakes to Crean Lake, before returning along the same route back to the marina.  The guide was extremely knowledgeable and taught us about some of the natural, historical, and cultural features of the area, which both enhanced our experience and increased our appreciation of the park.
 
 

Sun shining high in the sky and its light reflecting on the blue rippling water with shadowed trees in the background and blue sky with a few low-lying fluffy white clouds

Sun Shining on the Second Lake of the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

The Hanging Heart Lakes were sparkling from the sun as the light danced liked diamonds off of the water.  It was simply gorgeous. Unfortunately, its essence could not be fully captured in a photograph and has to be experienced. The boat cruise, in addition, offered a welcome relief from the mosquitoes as they were not noticeable on the water. The mosquitoes were higher in number than usual during our visit due to a lot of rain in the previous weeks.
 
 

The grassy shore lined with trees and blue sky with large fluffy white clouds all reflected on the rippled water

Trees Reflecting on the Third Lake of the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

The name of the Hanging Heart Lakes may sound romantic, but “legend” states otherwise. According to legend, when the national park was first surveyed in 1928-29 the surveyors saw something hanging from the trees that looked like a piece of meat.  Aboriginals, when they hunt, will hang a piece of the heart of the animal they killed from a tree as an offering to the Creator to give thanks for presenting the animal to them, as well as to ensure a successful hunt next time.  It is believed that this is what the surveyors saw and hence how the name “Hanging Heart Lakes” came about.
 

Reeds with trees behind and blue sky with large fluffy clouds all reflected on the calm lake

Reeds and Trees Reflected on the Third Lake of the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

 
One of the first animals we witnessed on the boat cruise was a bald eagle in its nest perched near the top of a large tree.  We also saw the bald eagle leave its nest and fly around the trees, before returning to its nest once again.  This was a remarkable sight.  In addition, we saw a loon, other birds, and dragonflies.  Furthermore, otters may be found in these lakes, but unfortunately we did not see any during our boat tour.
 
Back of eagle in eagle nest on top part of large tree and blue sky

Eagle in Eagle Nest on Tree Next to Second Lake of the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

 
However, one of the main reasons I wanted to visit these lakes was because the pelican nesting area (Lavallée Lake) has restricted access, but was told the pelicans often fly over to the large lakes in the area, so I may be more likely to see pelicans on a large lake.  Indeed, we did see a pelican fly over and land on the third lake of the Hanging Heart Lakes.  This was quite magnificent to see, just as i had expected, as a pelican is extremely large when its wings are spread and its in flight. Our guide stopped the boat for a few minutes in order for us to be able to watch it bobbing for fish.  We then circled the pelican for a better view before taking off to explore more of the lakes.
 
Pelican on large blue lake with green trees in the background and blue sky with several large fluffy white clouds

Pelican on the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

 
Moreover, we saw beaver lodges, beaver canals (beavers often build canals through reeds to float building materials that are difficult to haul over land), the Park Ranger’s cabin, and some back-country cabins that are available for rent.
 
Beaver lodge made with wooden branches on rippled lake next to grassy shore with many large green trees

Beaver Lodge on the Third Lake of the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

Grassy reeds with beaver canals and a few long branches sticking out of the calm water with trees in the background and a blue sky with a few small fluffy white clouds all reflected on the water

Beaver Canals in Reeds on the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

A wooden cabin nestled between trees with a miniature cabin to the right on a grassy shore with a small dock, rippled water, and a blue sky filled with large fluffy white clouds

View of Park Ranger’s Cabin From Hanging Heart Lakes Channel to Crean Lake in Prince Albert National Park

 
Crean Lake was simply breathtaking.  The water was very calm, like glass or a mirror, as the sky and islands were reflected by the water, creating an unending picture of exquisite beauty, much like a painting.  The large fluffy white clouds were like cotton and really added to the atmosphere as they were quite striking. This serenity is not very usual (as told to us by our guide), so we felt lucky to have the opportunity to experience this.  We were also informed that the lake can change from smooth to very rough in a short time, so this is something boaters should be aware of.  Crean Lake is not only one of the biggest and deepest lakes in the park, but it is also one of the biggest and deepest lakes found in any of the Canadian National Parks.  The original aboriginal historic name of Crean Lake was “Big Trout Lake.”  It has a number of sandy beaches and rocky islands around it.
 
Islands with trees and blue sky with large fluffy white clouds all reflected on calm lake

Sky and Islands Reflected on Crean Lake in Prince Albert National Park

Blue sky with large fluffy white clouds on the left-hand side and trees reflected on calm water

Trees and Sky Reflected on Crean Lake in Prince Albert National Park

 
It is interesting to note that all the water from the Hanging Heart Lakes and Crean Lake flow to the north into the Churchill River system, which then flows into the Hudson Bay (which was once used for fur trading and is an important part of Canadian history).

There was a lot of fauna in and around all the lakes, especially on the passages between the lakes, which included trees, plants, and lily pads with small yellow flowers.
 

A grassy shore lined with trees reflected on a calm lake with many lily pads and a light blue sky with the sun starting to go down

Trees and Lily Pads on the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

Close up of Lily Pads Next to Reeds With Trees Reflected on the Water

Close up of Lily Pads on the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

 
This boat cruise is a great alternative to paddling the Hanging Heart Lakes to Crean Lake, which would have taken at least 3 hours one way (upwards of 6-7 hours for the return trip of 18 km or 11.2 miles).  Some people decide to make it an overnight paddle by staying at one of the backcountry sites at night before heading back, therefore making the trip last 2-3 days.  If you do decide to do this, make sure you register at the Visitor Centre before any backcountry overnight stays.  As I am not a strong nor extremely experienced canoer/kayaker, and since I was told that Crean Lake can get quite rough at times, I opted for this boat tour, especially as it would save us a lot of time.
 
Sun starting to set in blue and light orange sky with several large fluffy white clouds all reflected on water which has a wake from a boat and trees shadowed in the background

Wake From the Boat on Second Lake of the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

 
Fishing is allowed in the Hanging Heart Lakes and Crean Lake if you purchase a Prince Albert National Park fishing license before fishing. In these waters you may find northern pike, walleye, perch, and white fish. Conveniently, there is a fish filleting station at the Hanging Heart Lakes Marina.

Small fishing boat in rippled water close to grassy shore lined with tall green trees and a blue sky with several large white fluffy clouds

Fishing Boat on Second Lake of the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

 
The boat cruise was too early to see the full sunset as it was July 1 (shortly after summer solstice) and the sun set at 9:33 pm.  However, the boat tour was awesome nonetheless due to the beautiful scenery and great location for bird watching.  It was a unique and enriching experience as we learned a lot about the area from our guide, which deepened our appreciation and admiration for it.  The sunset cruise to Crean Lake was definitely the highlight of our trip to Prince Albert National Park!
 
Low-lying sun in blue and light orange sky with several large fluffy white clouds all reflected on rippled water with shadowed trees in the background

Sun Starting to Set on the Second Lake of the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

Sun starting to set in blue and light orange sky with a few fluffy white clouds and shadowed trees all reflected on the lake which also has a wake pattern from the boat

Sunset and Wake Pattern From the Boat on the First Lake of the Hanging Heart Lakes in Prince Albert National Park

 
Check Out the Video Log of My Experience!
 

 
 
 
Map of Hanging Heart Lakes and Crean Lake
 
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Hanging Heart Lakes Marina

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Hanging Heart Lakes Marina 53.986780, -106.167755
 
 
Where was your favourite boat cruise?  What did you see and/or learn?
 
 
This was a complimentary tour courtesy of Waskesiu & Area Wilderness Region. Entry to Prince Alberta National Park was with a complimentary Discovery Pass courtesy of Parks Canada. As always, all opinions are 100% my own. 
 
Information compiled from Waskesiu Marina Adventure Centre and Parks Canada.

(Photos 6 and 14 courtesy of Randy Smith).
 

4 thoughts on “What Made the Sunset Cruise to Crean Lake So Memorable!

  1. Chris

    Loved the post, fully enjoyed the pictures and the video compliments the presentation beautifully. What a wonderful place to visit to enjoy the beauty and serenity of nature. 🙂

    1. Meli Post author

      Glad you enjoyed it. Yes, the boat cruise on the Hanging Heart Lakes and Crean Lake was a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors and get in touch with nature. 🙂

  2. Dale

    Some great pics of the area. Really well done. Good advice to use extreme caution on Crean Lake, I was on calm water this year, and it turned into 4 foot waves in about five minutes. The trip from the marina to the Ranger station can be done in four hours return, if you have kayaking experience.

    1. Meli Post author

      Thank you! 🙂 Yes, the trip can be done faster in a kayak rather than a canoe, especially if you are a very experienced kayaker. It is important to note that the Ranger station is at the entrance of Crean Lake so that time would not include wandering around Crean Lake. The full experience may be lost going at a faster pace and not venturing into more of Crean Lake as it is so awe-inspiring.

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