The Icefield Parkway

Trip Start Sep 30, 2006
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Trip End Jan 16, 2010


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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

We visit several aquamarine colored lakes, the most famous of which is Lake Louise. These lakes get their color from suspended glacial sediment ground from the movement of ice over rock, known as rock flour. We visit the spectacular Columbia Icefield, which is so bright I get a headache from the blinding reflection of the sun on the ice. This icefield is one of the largest accumulations of ice in the world south of the arctic, made up of six glaciers covering 125 square miles and up to 1000 feet deep. Waters from the icefield flow into 3 oceans - the Pacific, the Arctic and the Hudson Bay to the Atlantic. It is one of only 2 hydrological apexes in the world - the other in Siberia. On this trip we've traveled through 4 very different, incredible parks - Glacier, Yoho, Jasper and Banff National Parks. It is clear when we travel outside the parks, as clearcuts are evident. After time, deciduous trees grow in the gaps, coloring the mountainsides with yellow and orange foliage fill where the forest green once thrived. We see bighorn sheep eating by the sides of the road, and hope for another glimpse of elk or even a bear. Today, we are rewarded with more sheep, moms with little ones in tow. We can see that their back feet spread wide so that they are able to grip the rocky slopes with grace and ease. We also learn that a collaboration between Parks Canada and Montana State University, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation and other partners funded the construction of wildlife passages, crossings under and over the highway so wildlife can get safely across the roads. Studies have shown that these crossings are used 9000 times a year by various wildlife, an integral part to protecting wildlife in the parks. However, the predators like wolves and cougars have learned these crossings are a great opportunity for prey, so more studies will be conducted.
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