Saturday, 4 July 2015

Jasper National Park

Athabasca Glacier flowing from the Columbia Icefield
The Columbia Icefields Parkway is a scenic road linking Jasper with Lake Louise and is consistently voted as one the most scenic drives in the world. We undertook the journey through the rugged Canadian Rockies early to avoid the crowds as we were in the peak visiting season. Our drive started off with a bang with bear and deer sightings! Our destination was The Columbia Icefields Visitor Centre approximately halfway to Lake Louise.

Plenty of wildlife

Including a bear!

Athabasca Falls

Sunwapta Falls
We had pre-purchased our tickets for the Glacier Skywalk, Glacier Adventure as well as the Banff Gondola. The silly thing was that they wouldn't let you book the tour times online despite calling! Once we arrived at the Visitor Centre, we had to line up to get a tour time for both the Skywalk and the Glacier Adventure. Fortunately, despite arriving there at 1045am, we managed to get a Skywalk time of 11am and a Glacier Adventure time of 1230.

From the visitor centre, it was a 5 minute bus ride to the Skywalk - a self guided walkway hugging the cliff-edge including an overhanging glass platform 280m in the air! Free audioguides were provided with educational stops along the way. We learnt all about glaciers and local flora and fauna all the while enjoying spectacular views up, down and into the valley!


Proof that I was actually there...

The cliff side walk

Marine fossils on the walkway. This level was once at the bottom of the water!

View of the Columbia ice-field, just like icing on a cake, except it's a 100m deep icing....

Jonah especially loved the information on the animals

Interactive displays to engage the children

We inhaled our lunch back at the Visitor Centre just in time before our bus left for the Columbia Icefield! The 4 minute shuttle took us to a transfer area onto Ice-Explorers, multi-million dollar vehicles which then took us onto the Athabasca Glacier. Wow! It was definitely an awesome experience. The children were told to think of an Icefield like an ice lake and a glacier like an ice river. This helped immensely! A few quick facts:
  • The average yearly snowfall on the Columbia Icefield is 7m!
  • Although we can only see the edges of it, the massive Icefield is 325km2 and up to 300m thick at its deepest point.
  • Water from the highest point (Mount Snowdome) flows into 3 Oceans! The Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific
  • At the Visitor Centre, you can see 5 glaciers coming off the Icefield!
  • Sadly since 1870, the Athabasca Glacier has lost more than 2/3 of its volume.

By the time we returned to the Visitor Centre, it was mayhem. People were packed in like sardines, either waiting to buy tickets, waiting to buy/eat food, or waiting for their tour buses! If anyone is considering any of the above experiences in July or Auguest, it is well worth walking up early to do it.

We returned to Jasper and stopped at Buck Lake. Our visit was hurried along when we heard a growl and a rustle in the bushes. Some were convinced it was a bear.

Our transport

The terrain we were travelling on!

Glacier melt

Athabasca Glacier. It was cold!

Oops...perhaps not the most appropriate footwear!

Collecting glacier water to try

Forest walk

Buck Lake

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