"Cold Lake - Air Combat Fighter Training Area" Cold Lake by Bwana_Brown

Cold Lake Travel Guide: 31 reviews and 49 photos

Born during the Korean War and in the midst of the Cold War, construction of the fighter base at Cold Lake, Alberta was begun in 1952 and finished two years later. The idea was to have a vast training area where live-firing, bombing and air-to-air combat exercises could be held. Unlike the desert terrain of the US training area in Nevada, the forests and lakes of northern Alberta and Saskatchewan more closely resembled European terrain where it was felt the 'flashpoint' for war would be located.

As a result, the Base at Cold Lake was built to service the aircraft using the 138 x 45 mile live-firing range as well as its low level flying area of the same size as France (please see my General tip for a map of its location). Regular major exercises involving up to 300 aircraft from the United States, Canada and Europe are held here.

My son-in-law, an Air Force Search & Rescue Technician, had been re-posted here from Greenwood, Nova Scotia on the Atlantic coast. That was good enough for us, two and a half months later, in September 2004, we arrived to check out their new surroundings!

This CF-5A Freedom Fighter is one of the static displays along the road that leads from the town centre onto the Base itself. Canada purchased 240 of these mid-performance fighters between 1968-1975 as the backbone of its NATO reinforcement committment, with the task of helping the defense of Norway.

I was not sure what to expect in the wilds of Alberta, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The town of Cold Lake is an amalgamation of three separate communities and has beautiful streets, roads, stores and scenery. Almost half of the population of 12,000 people are directly associated with the Base.

We were long overdue for a second visit, so in June/July, 2006 my wife and I returned for a look at Cold Lake in the summer. The weather was fantastic, with temperatures of 25-27 C and sunshine every day for a week! As chance would have it, our next trip there was in December, 2007 as we celebrated New Year's Eve with our oldest and youngest daughters. The problem was, the weather was in the reverse direction, at -23 C, but at least the area was beautifully snow-covered!!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Lot's of outdoor activities close at hand
  • Cons:A long drive from anywhere else!
  • In a nutshell:Quite a nice little town
  • Last visit to Cold Lake: Dec 2007
  • Intro Updated Jan 4, 2008
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Reviews (22)

Comments (19)

  • JLBG's Profile Photo
    Aug 1, 2009 at 9:31 PM

    Apparently Cold Lake can be rather warm! An amazing page! + Aug 09 : wow, -23°C in the morning! That is about what can be expected at my (long time away) ancestor's place, on the Haut Plateaux of the French Jura mountains!

  • kokoryko's Profile Photo
    Dec 18, 2008 at 1:57 PM

    Cold lake deserves it’s name, but in summer, when the thunderstorm strikes . . . better be far. I grew up not far from a military airbase and I liked the jets as a kid, but not anymore, later. I prefer to wander along the lakeshore for birdwatching . . .

  • mircaskirca's Profile Photo
    Mar 15, 2008 at 4:29 PM

    As for your frequent long-distance travels, things are more clear now :) Provincial Park looks like a great place to observe birds. I liked the winter idyll - but only on the picture :) You had the best accommodation in the neighbourhood, including BBQ :)

  • tiabunna's Profile Photo
    Jan 10, 2008 at 6:19 PM

    Interesting OTBP page , Glenn. Great to see the seasonal differences. Didn't have the F104s here, but I remember them well from magazines when I was younger.

  • Nov 1, 2007 at 11:28 AM

    its called Tricity Mall because before it was all cold lake, it was grand center, cold lake noth and cold lake south..and when they joined as cold lake, they claled it that..so yeah l

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo
    Oct 28, 2006 at 2:48 PM

    Very interesting tips. I didn't know that Canada produced famous Starfighter, I thought it was American (Lockheed) supersonic interceptor aircraft, not a high-speed fighter-bomber.

  • madamx's Profile Photo
    Jul 30, 2005 at 3:49 PM

    Cold Lake appears a lot different than I thought it would; they even have a shopping centre! I don't care too much for Panago myself :o) Nice page, Glenn ~ Helen

  • Luchonda's Profile Photo
    Mar 29, 2005 at 4:05 PM

    A "Top Gun" page !! But a Honda is better than a Toyota (lol) - see you Glen

  • jenniferhen's Profile Photo
    Feb 2, 2005 at 2:01 PM

    Never thought I would ever see a page on Cold Lake! :) Nice work!

  • jamiesno's Profile Photo
    Dec 27, 2004 at 7:12 AM

    We hear a lot about SarTechs and Cold Lake here in Happy Valley - Goose Bay. Cold Lake always seems to be considered the nemisis and my wife works at the MFRC so we prey the 444 squadron stays put for her jobs sake!!!

Bwana_Brown

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