Chasing the Aurora Borealis in the Mighty Peace

Gazing up and taking in the Aurora Borealis, which are fondly known as the “Northern Lights”, is an experience that most people can only dream about. No matter how many times they’ve done their mystical dance across the sky, their magic never ceases to amaze viewers.

Thankfully, the Mighty Peace has some of the best sightings that locals and visitors can appreciate and attest to.

Just ask Paul Lavoie, a local photographer of Peace River who captures the Northern Lights’ beauty as much as possible. Paul has become known for seeking out the brightly coloured night skies within the Mighty Peace and sharing his incredible snapshots online.

All photos in this article are credit of Paul Lavoie

His efforts are aimed at inspiring others to do the same and encouraging locals, as well as visitors, to explore the Mighty Peace and enjoy this natural phenomenon year-round.

To him, each experience is amazing in its own way and never gets old.

“Every Northern Lights show is unique and it can almost make you emotional. It’s a really moving experience to see them first hand,” said Paul.

When it comes to witnessing them in the Peace Region, Paul has plenty of suggestions on how to plan the ultimate Northern Lights experience, which starts by finding the perfect location.

Paul’s first piece of advice is to get out of the valley and away from the bright lights of town, no matter which area of the Mighty Peace you are in. Paying special attention to the sky and lunar phase, the most dramatic nights happen when the sky is clear and the moon is minimal.

Some of Paul’s favourite locations to witness the Northern Lights include Figure 8 Lake in the County of Northern Lights, Cummings Lake near the Town of Fairview and Queen Elizabeth Park in the MD of Peace, all for one specific reason.

“Watching near the lakes is better because you’ll see a reflection and it enhances the whole experience. Seeing them double is absolutely incredible,” said Paul.

For visitors planning on checking out these locations, it’s suggested that they stay in either the Town of Grimshaw or Fairview and make a weekend of it.

Grimshaw has the Pomeroy Inn and Suites hotel, plus the Dee-Jay Motel for any out of towners looking for a comfortable night’s stay. For accommodations in Fairview, Dunvegan Inn and Suites is an ideal place to rest after a long night looking at the Northern Lights.

If you’re seeking something even more adventurous, then it is highly recommended to book a stay at the Last Lake Guesthouse or The Rise AirBNB, which sits along the river hills. Both are near Grimshaw, and will allow you to comfortably watch the night skies light up and dance above you.

No matter the location, Paul believes that seeing the Northern Lights is an unforgettable experience that everyone should witness as least once in their lifetime.

“Once you’re out there, it becomes still and the tranquility is amazing. You may be able to hear a static sound as they move through the skies and you’ll realize that you’re not looking at them, you’re in them,” said Paul. “Nothing compares to being in the moment with the Aurora”.

As for Northern Lights locations closer to Peace River, Paul recommends the Sagitawa Lookout or the 12 Foot Davis Gravesite lookout. Here you can witness the many colours and lights with the town as your backdrop and enjoy a truly unique experience that’s only minutes away.

There are many hotel options for staying in Peace River, such as the Chateau Nova, Best Western Plus, Nova Inn, or the Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre.

But, if you’re seeking some solitude away from the bright lights, then the Wild Rose Guest House is ideal. Staying here will provide you with a 360-degree view of the night sky over the Peace River and is bound to show you the brilliant colours of the Aurora.

Once you’ve decided on your location, Paul stresses that it’s imperative to pack appropriately for the season as you seek out the Northern Lights.

“During the summer months, bring bug spray and bear spray. In winter, bring warm clothes, sleeping bags, blankets, anything that will keep you cozy. Headlamps work for both seasons, and always remember to bring your favourite snacks,” said Paul. “Plus, I like to pack my kids! I always encourage people to bring their family or friends with them since it’s an incredible experience to share”.

Overall, Paul states that the best months to seek out the vibrant skies is between September and November in the Mighty Peace and he strongly suggests the Facebook Group, Alberta Aurora Chasers for updates and information.

“My biggest piece of advice though, is to just get outside and look. It’s never a guarantee, but it’s always worth looking,” said Paul. “Plus, any chance to see reds, greens and purples jumping across the night sky is a win in my books.”