Columbia Icefield Centre is one of the biggest attractions in the Icefield Parkway in Banff National Park. It lies in the northwestern tip of the park and provides the most popular views of the Columbia Icefield. The icefield is approximately 325 square kilometers in area and up to 365 metres in depth. On annual, the area receives up to 7 metres on snow.
8 glaciers make up the Columbia Icefield which include some of the glaciers named below:
- Athabasca Glacier
- Castleguard Glacier
- Columbia Glacier
- Dome Glacier
- Stufield Glacier
- Saskatchewan Glacier
The Athabasca Glacier is the one most visible from the parkway and has been significantly receded. It was first reported in 1898 by Hermann Wooley and J. Norman Collie. The pair had done the first ascent of Mount Athabasca, one of the highest mountains in the area, when stumbling upon the Columbia Icefield. Since then, you can see the signs along the walk to the edge of the glacier of where the glacier's edge used to be. It is incredible to walk along and see how much the glacier has receded.
Both the North Saskatchewan River and Athabasca River originate in the Columbia Icefield. The waters of the Continental Divide that the icefield lays on, also feed the Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean.
The Icefield Parkway centre includes trips on ?snowcoaches? during the summer months to an area of the glacier on which you can travel on. Another unique attraction that you can do when visiting is taking a tour on the Ice Explorer which looks like a massive snowmobile/truck and we can imagine is not only fun to drive but to be driven in!
The Icefield Centre also provides more information on the glacier with interpretive displays and interactions inside along with a gift shop and a restaurant.
With the significant rate the Athabasca Glacier is receding at, we definitely recommend a visit to the Columbia Icefields and the centre. It is an experience you won't likely forget. Just imagine Earth once covered by these glacier sheets. Hard to envision when they are disappearing so quickly!
For up-to-date hours and pricing, check out the Banff & Lake Louise's official website.
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