Enveloped by boreal wilderness, the Summer Village of Island Lake (est. 1957) hugs the west shore of its namesake. Free of the algae blooms that plague nearby lakes, eight sq. km Island Lake—181 km north of Edmonton and 29 km northwest of Athabasca, the nearest town, on Hwy. 2—has a paddler’s bounty of islets, secluded coves, and narrow passages. There’s an eclectic mix of cottagers and residents, rookies and old timers; properties range from humble backlot cabins to million-dollar waterfront mansions. All cabins have road access. The lake’s 67 islands (some just weedy mounds) are Crown land and cottage-free.
Cottagers swim, wakeboard, show off on two waterski courses, and socialize around three public docks. Hikers, ATVers, and snowmobilers delve into the boreal forest on a network of trails and backroads that stretches across northern Alberta to the Swan Hills and beyond. Everyone turns out in July for Lake Days for softball games, a golf tournament, and a wet and wild cannonball contest. Winners and losers celebrate afterward at a giant barbecue.
Wildlife is abundant, with beavers, muskrats, great blue herons; nesting loons in summer, migrating waterbirds like Canada geese and mallards in fall; and, occasionally, elk, black bears, and wolves. It’s almost impossible not to catch a northern pike. The real prizes, though, are the great-tasting wild perch.