Icefields Parkway and Jasper Alberta

After leaving BC we and headed to Canmore, Alberta staying at the Spring Creek RV Park for three days. Early Monday morning we left at 6:30am to drive to the Columbia Icefields about 2 1/2 hour drive from Canmore. The whole way there it rained really hard and we were afraid that we wouldn’t be able to see the Icefields, however, when we arrived at 9am the sun came out and we went on the 9:30 tour in the Athabasca Glacier snow coach. A snow coach is a specialized vehicle, designed to operate over snow or ice, it weighs 33 tons, top speed is 25 mph but only 18 mph on the Athabasca Glacier, and it can transport 56 passengers, with six extra-large, low pressure tires. The Columbia Icefield is the largest ice field in the Rocky Mts of North America, astride the Continental Divide, it is about 125 sq mi in area, 330 ft to 1,198 ft in depth and receives up to 280 in of snowfall per year. The ice fields feeds 8 major glaciers, we could see 5 of them, North Face, Andromeda, Dome and Athabasca Glacier, which is the one we drove up onto in the snow coach. This glacier is approximately 3.7 mi long, covers an area of 2.3 sq mi and is measured to be 300-980 ft thick. However, it recedes at a rate of about 16 ft per year, when I was here in the 60’s it was massive compared to what I am standing upon today. We were excited to be able to see and experience the thrill of the glacier, without a mass of humanity.

Athabasca Icefields

Click on thumbnail to view images

Icefields Parkway

We continued along the Icefields Parkway, which links Lake Louise with Jasper, it is 140 miles long and was completed in 1940. After leaving the Columbia Icefields we stopped at the Athabasca Falls just off the highway located in Jasper NP. It is a class 5 waterfall, with a drop of 80 ft and a width of 60 ft, we walked along the various viewing platforms and trails around the falls. The large quantity of water falling into the gorge was very impressive and to see how it cut through the tall rock cliffs. The river “falls” over a layer of hard quartzite and through the softer limestone below carving the short gorge and a number of potholes. There were a lot of people walking around so we continued on the road to Jasper, where we stopped at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. I worked here the summer of 1967 as a waitress and I was excited to go back and reminisce, as it was one of the best jobs I had when I was attending college. The views across Lake Beauvert to Mount Edith Cavell still were as magnificent as before and the the hotel has had many modification since 1967, but still very luxurious. We enjoyed a nice cold beer and snacks on the deck overlooking the large pool and the blue-green lake. We would love to return here again and be guests in the Lodge.

Click on thumbnail to view images

After leaving Jasper we drove back to visit Peyto Lake in Banff NP, it is just a short walking trail from the Icefields Parkway to view the Lake. It is a glacier-fed lake, and during the summer the significant amounts of glacial rock flour flow into the lake, and these suspended rock particles give the lake a bright, beautiful turquoise colour. This lake is still as wonderful as it was back in 1967 except for the number of tourists everywhere!!!