As I found out this July, a tour of Canada's famous Banff and Jasper National Parks, as well as its less known Kootenay and Yoho National Parks, is a huge and panoramic lesson in glaciation. A drive up the Icefield Highway, which connects Banff and Jasper parks reveals mountaintops gleaming with thick icecaps, such as the Columbia Icefield. The roaring rivers and long lakes are colored a spectacular and strangely tropical opalescent turquoise due to the suspended glacial rock dust or flour. I found three spots, two canyons and one waterfall, to be especially photographic and evocative of glacial lessons. These are Kootenay's Marble Canyon and Jasper's Maligne Canyon and Athabasca Falls.
|Peyto Lake in Banff National Park|
|Glaciated Athabaska Peak seen from Jasper's Icefield Center|
|The huge Athabasca Glacier is one of the smallest ice tongues flowing from the Columbia Icefield|
Back in the Ice Age the courses of all three of these erosional scars were initiated as runoff channels beneath the very thick and moving glaciers. The steep gradient, abundant melted run-off and suspended rocks account for the amazing scouring and giant potholes. Since the glaciers retreat the continuing heavy runoff of ice-cold melt water and the shading of the deep narrow and sinuous canyons account for the presence of alpine plants and heavy moss and lichens usually found at much higher elevations.
Enjoy this photographic essay on these three glacial canyons.
Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park
Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park
|The eroding falls has migrated far upstream leaving a long canyon below|
Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park
|Huge falls spring directly from the canyon walls, evidence of underground channels draining an upslope lake|
|At the bottom of the canyon a rushing river springs directly from the ground|
Happy Trails to You. Peace, Bob