The Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff is not only one of the most scenic highways in the world, but will also take you to a breathtaking natural wonder!
The Columbia Icefield lies along the border between the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. One of the largest ice fields south of the Arctic Circle, it stretches to 230 square kilometers and feeds eight major glaciers, including the Athabasca glacier – the most visited glacier in North America and a highlight of any trip to the Rockies.
You can almost think of the Columbia Icefield as a time capsule. Initially formed between 240,000 to 128,000 B.C., the Icefield underwent several cycles of expanding and shrinking. The latest major advancement took place between 1200 and 1900 A.D., with the Athabasca Glacier at its largest around 1800 A.D. If you’ve ever wondered what an Ice Age landscape might have looked like, this destination will give you the perfect snapshot – ice masses like the Columbia Icefield blanketed most of North America many ages ago! Today, the area is dubbed the “mother of rivers,” because it serves as the North America’s water distribution center. Melting waters flow from the Columbia Icefield through its major glaciers and into the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans. This is a unique system – the only other of its kind is located in northern Siberia.
When you visit the Icefield, you will stand on a plateau at an elevation of 2,800 meters, encircled by some of the most majestic peaks in the Canadian Rockies. The Columbia Icefield has a maximum depth of 365 meters (1,197 feet) – about the same as some of the world’s most recognizable man-made landmarks! By comparison, New York’s Empire State Building reaches a height of 381 meters (1,250 feet); the Eiffel Tower in Paris reaches 324 meters (1063 feet); and the Q1 building on Australia’s Gold Coast reaches 322.5 meters (1,058 feet).
The Columbia Icefields is definitely a must-see site for any trip to the Rocky Mountains! Click here for more information about our Key West Travel tour packages, all of which visit this amazing site.
*Photos courtesy of Tourism Jasper (Parks Canada).