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John Andrew McKiernan

Cold Hard Facts about the Icefields Parkway and Athabasca Glacier

Banff and Jasper National Parks, Alberta

by John McKiernan
Staff Writer

The Icefields Parkway is easily one of the most popular attractions to the visitors of the Canadian Rockies whether it be from Banff or Jasper National Park. You may have read our articles and blogs but for those who want to show off their extreme knowledge before visiting – here are the cold hard facts.

The Canadian Rockies has no shortage of ice and glaciers.

The Canadian Rockies has no shortage of ice and glaciers.

The Icefields:

• It covers 325km squared – making it comfortably the largest body of ice in the Rocky Mountains.

• Its highest point is Mt. Columbia at 3745 m (12,284ft)

• The average elevation is 3000m (10,000 ft)

• The greatest estimated depth is 365m (1200 ft)

• The average snowfall is 7m (23 ft) every year.

• Uniquely it drains into the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.

The Columbia Icefields are considered one of the largest accumulations of ice and snow south of the Arctic Circle, and can reach depths of 2,000 feet. The Columbia Icefields is incredibly important for the northern hemisphere’s water supply as it feeds all three oceans – Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic.

The Ice Explorer takes you right out onto the glacier.

The Ice Explorer takes you right out onto the glacier.

The Athabasca Glacier:

• It is 6 km squared in area.

• It is 6km long.

• Its depth is 90-300m (270 – 1000 feet) – The ice is as thick as the Eiffel Tower is high.

• It has icefall movement of 125m / year (400ft)

• It has turn around movement of 25m/year (80 ft)

• The icefalls elevation is 2700m (8900ft)

Once, the Athabasca Glacier flowed north to the present site of Jasper before joining other glaciers and cruising south east past Calgary. This journey, much like trying to get through Vancouver in rush hour, took many centuries. The Athabasca is slowly flowing downhill from the Columbia Icefields similar to the flow of a river.

There are trips to the Icefields and the Athabasca Glacier that go from both Banff and Jasper National Park. Don’t forget to show off your new information!