After spending the night at a campground in Cochrane, we set out into the Canadian Rockies, taking a secondary route through the Stone Indian Reserve and then on to the Trans Canada Highway. There I found the wildlife overpasses rather fascinating. These overpasses are designed to allow wildlife to cross the highway without endangering either themselves or motorists. These overpasses maintain a natural-appearing corridor across the highway and studies have shown that the wildlife in the region have adapted to these routes quite readily.
Having visited before, we bypassed both Banff and Lake Louise on our way northwest on the Icefields Parkway toward Jasper. The Canadian Rockies are incredibly beautiful. We found ourselves stopping frequently for photos. Mountains, lakes (some still ice-covered), glaciers, and waterfalls all demanded attention.
Crowfoot Glacier Waterfowl Lake with Green Ice
The Columbia Icefield is a national park and a United Nations World Heritage Site. Glaciers are different from the icefields that usually form them. An icefield is an upland area of snow accumulation that feeds two or more glaciers. A glacier is a lobe of highly compressed crystalline ice that sometimes flows downward from the icefield that forms it.
There are six major glacier outflows from the Columbia Icefield. Even though not the largest, the best known of these is the Athabasca Glacier. It is the only one accessible by road. It is a classic valley glacier and the Icefields Centre is located strategically across the road with an unobstructed view. Unobstructed, that is, except by the rain and fog which seems to be nearly ever-present.
There are three great rivers which have their origins in the Columbia Icefield – the Athabasca which flows to the Arctic Ocean, the North Saskatchewan which flows into the Saskatchewan and to the Atlantic Ocean and the Wood River which flows into the Columbia and to the Pacific. Three rivers going to three different oceans.
After leaving the Icefields Centre, we stopped time and again to view the gorgeous scenery. Tangle Creek Falls was a roadside photo op and Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls were only short hikes from the highway. They were great “stretch your legs” breaks from driving.
Tangle Creek Falls Sunwapta Falls
We also saw Bear Number 1, a black bear – the first of many on this trip.
We chose the Whistler Campground to stay the night. It’s on the edge of the town of Jasper, is a national park campground and is huge. With over 700 campsites, one would expect them to be tiny and crowded on top of each other but that was not the case, so it was quite pleasant. The rain even held off so we could take a long walk around the campground. Of course the further north we went, the later it was before dark.