One of the most attractive experiences in the Canadian Rockies, the Columbia Icefield is to be found 105 km South of Jasper or 125 km North of Lake Louise. Eight glaciers are a surviving remnant of the thick ice mass that once coated most of Western Canada's mountains. Since it snows up to 7 meters per year, and the melting process is slower due to the short summers, the snow accumulates, creating the glaciers.
The 325 square km surface of ice can reach in some places a depth of 300-360 meters, in others, the spots of ice can reach 750m thick. As one of the largest accumulations of ice south of the Arctic Circle, the mass of snow supplies with melt-water streams that pour in three different oceans. But this is not saltwater, such as Arctic and Greenland's ice. This is one of the major sources of freshwater for North America, a real hydrological apex. News are not great, since the largest non-polar mass of ice withdraws about 10 meter per year. And for things to get even worst, the pure ice that is presently melting is instantly being damaged once it gets into contact with snow affected by modern pollution.
One of the worlds most scenic mountain routes - The Icefield Parkway, a 230 kilometer highway between Banff and Jasper national parks - gets you to Columbia Icefield. Picnic places, hiking trails, amazing glaciers, emerald lakes and spectacular waterfalls are all visible to man's eye, making the experience of getting there a one-of-a-kind.
The Icefield Visior Center is built on The Athabasca Glacier in Jasper, on a valley that was buried in the glacier a century and a half ago. With half its volume lost and over 1.5 kilometers of retreated ice, the landscapes looks more rocky and lunar than green and terrestrial. This is the most visited glacier on the North American continent, so facilities as 90 minute special balloon-tires-bus trips or guided tours are available into this Narnia land. Also you can go hiking on the glacier's surface in order to get the complete feeling of walking on ice and breathing the cool fresh air.
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