Day 9 – Columbia Icefields   Leave a comment

Leaving Rocky Mountain House, we had a beautiful drive, exposing the Canadian Rockies.

As we went over the Big Horn River, I just kept snapping, not knowing what I was capturing with the camera.

While flooding was happening in Southern Alberta, Canada, as we got closer to the Columbia Icefields, we found some areas with the water level very low.

Such a beautiful drive

The overlook below was probably the most beautiful of the day.

We arrived at the Columbia Icefields just in time to visit Athabasca Glacier. Below left is the Athabasca Glacier and below right is the Dome Glacier at late afternoon, night, and morning.

The mountains were originally formed on the floor of an ancient sea. 200 million years ago, the northwest drifting North American continent collided with another plate moving northeast. The sedimentary rock layers that had formed on the bottom of the oceans were warped, twisted, piled upon one another and broken along fault lines. This mountain building phase continued until around 25 million years ago.

The mountains were subsequently carved by glaciers. At the height of the last ice age (150,000 to 10,000 years ago) the northern glaciers and mountain glaciers flowed together to form an ice sheet that stretched across Canada. During that period the mountain glaciers carved out the valley and shaped the mountain peaks. While mountain building has ended, the glaciers continue to sculpt the mountains, especially in this area.

Glaciers form where more snow falls in winter than melts in the summer. Over time and under pressure, the snow compacts and metamorphoses into dense glacial ice. It is a mass of ice that moves under the force of gravity (downhill).

Just as rivers flow out from lakes, glaciers flow out from an icefield. An icefield is a sheet of glacial ice that is trapped by higher surrounding land which feeds more than one glacier. These peaks, Mt. Columbia, Mt. Andromeda and Mt. Kitchener feeds 6 glaciers. We stood on the Athabasca glacier, one of the most accessible glaciers in the world.

Bill and Mike still can’t get it that this is NOT short season!

We took the opportunity to drink thousands of year old PURE water.

It tasted WAY BETTER than the iceberg we melted and drank in Newfoundland.

Getting to the glacier was an experience. We hopped aboard a bus that took us to the monsterous machine

that drove us onto the glacier.

Driving on the glacier, WAS AN EXPERIENCE! We first started on a downgrade of 38%!!!!!

Then over the glacier to a flatter surface

Coming down off the glacier, we could see where the water carved out and ran under the glacier.

This area is one of the most unique places ever because it is an area where the Columbia River is a hydrological apex, the meeting point of 3 continent-wide watersheds (the Snow Dome).

On the western side, the meltwaters flow into the Columbia River and on to the Pacific Ocean; Eastern side the meltwaters flow into the North Saskatchewan River, then to the Hudson Bay and on to the Atlantic Ocean AND also into the Athabasca-McKenzie system, which empties to the Arctic Ocean.

Ice in the Athabasca Glacier takes 150 years to flow from the icefield to the glacier’s toe. Between 1870 and today, the Athabasca Glacier has lost more than 2/3 of its volume and more than ½ of its surface area. It “used” to stretch all the way down, across the road, as pictured below,

and covered the parking lot where we drycamped for the night. What a great stop!

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Posted June 30, 2013 by carolnbill in Adventure Caravans, RV, Travel, Uncategorized

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