The Columbia Icefield is located on the boundary of Banff and Jasper National Parks. It is one of the largest accumulations of ice and snow south of the Arctic Circle.
Facing the Athabasca Glacier, there's the Columbia Icefield Visitors' Centre where you can haver lunch or dinner.
"Icefields Parkway trivia"
500,000 tourists drive Icefiends Parkway each year
Large trucks are banned from the highway, as it is a tourist route, not a commercial corridor!
Average elevation is 1,550m / 5,100ft makit it the highest road in Canada
The road passes within sight of 25 glaciers
Athabasca, the town, river, mountain and pass
"Grand Rapids of the Athabasca River"
The Grand Rapids are on the Athabasca River between Athabasca and Fort McMurray. The rapids are formed by huge boulders that stretch across the river from bank to bank creating a major transportation hazard and a striking geological feature. During the fur trade, the Athabasca River became the Hudson's Bay Company's main river route to the north and the notorious Grand Rapids were the greatest obstacle on it. The rapids are still remote today and can be approached only by boat or aircraft. Because the isolation of this area and the difficulty of the rapids, a canoe tour should be attempted only by the most experienced canoeists. The Grand Rapids are impassable at any water level and have claimed the lives of a number of unsuspecting and ill-prepared canoeists.
"The other names of Athabasca...the Mountain, Pass"
The name Athabasca is derived from the Cree and means "where there are reeds"...referring to the marshy delta where the river empties into huge Lake Athabasca in northeast Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The name Athabasca is also on the river, the pass in the Rockies south of Jasper, the mountain (11,452 feet) near the headwaters of the river, the glacier and the falls.
The name was also spelled Athapascow on early maps.
Athabasca Pass was for many years the main route by which the fur traders crossed the Continental Divide as they ascended the Athabasca and Whirlpool rivers then descended to Boat Encampment on the Big Bend of the Columbia River from whence they journeyed to the Pacific Coast.
The scenery in Athabasca Pass is unquestionably grand, rugged and wild and impressed early travellers as such. Among these was Ross Cox who crossed the pass in 1817. One of the voyageurs in the party was dumbfounded and exclaimed "I'll take my oath, dear friends, that God Almighty never made such a place!"
The Athabasca River begins as the meltwater of the Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefield. During the summer, tours via large glacier buggies can be taken to the glacier and across it to the foot of the icefall. Travellers are warned to stay off the glacier unless in a supervised travel group. There are many hidden crevasses that can be a death trap to the unwary.