Lakes /Mountains /Glaciers / Waterfalls, Banff National Park
The Bow Valley Parkway is an alternative route to Lake Louise from Banff. Main attractions on this road include Johnston Canyon and Castle Mountain. The road is generally less crowded than Highway 1 but it is more popular with cyclists.
Being the middle of summer makes it almost impossible to see Crowfoot Glacier how it normally is during the winter months.
It is still a magnificent site, but compared to pictures i had previously looked at, the glacier really just looked like a dot of snow on the mountain side - well.... perhaps a little exageration, but i would have loved to have seen it covered in snow!
Crowfoot Glacier is a 2 minute drive south of Bow Lake (which is the lake you can see in the bottom of the picture opposite). I actually felt you got a better view of it from the Bow Lake viewpoint than the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint - simply because it had melted back so far.
However, it is another beautiful stop on Highway 93 and a nice place to take a break if you have been driving!
One of the most dramatic scenes along the Icefields Parkway. The Crowfoot Glacier is spectacular but it is a glacier bent on a hasty retreat. Fifty years ago the galcier's "claws" extended to the base of the mountain. All of the glaciers in Banff and Jasper are retreating. No one knows when climatic conditions will end the retreat, but they have steadily given ground over the past four hundred years which was when the last mini ice-age ended.
To be honest, and this may be a tad selfish on my part, I'm in no hurry for the next mini ice-age. When I am firmly ensconced in my retirement home in Polynesia--then the next ice age can commence.
This is the view of Emerald lake -on a crisp November day. The lake was so still - perfect for one of my favourite reflection photos. Could have stayed here for ages taking in this magnificent sight but it was cold!
"Without the oxygenating breath of the forests, without the clutch of gravity and the tumbled magic of river rapids, we have no distance from our technologies, no way of assessing their limitations, no way to keep ourselves from turning into them. We need to know the textures, the rhythms and tastes of the bodily world, and to distinguish readily between such tastes and those of our own invention. Direct sensuous reality, in all its more-than-human mystery, remains the sole solid touchstone for an experiential world now inundated with electronically generated vistas and engineered plesures."
David Abram from The Spell of the Sensuous
It really doesn't make much sense to name an entire mountain after a U.S. general who never was associated with Canada or its park system. A nice gesture I suppose, but all in all, I'm glad that Castle Mountain is once again referred to by its historical name. A peak named after Dwight D. Eisenhower will have to suffice.
All the snowmelt and glaciermelt has to runoff somewhere. Most of the year the wide drainage paths are gravelly waste area with fingers of water running ever downhill towards the major rivers. But I bet that they are something to see during the spring thaws.
A surprise just around the corner from Sunset Pass. Bridal Veil Falls originates in an icefield atop the mountain and plummets downwards in a long narrow ribbon of water. If you stop to take a hike to get a better view of the falls, you will also see Panther Falls which has a vertical drop of 180 meters.
Just another ho-hum lake/mountain view. James Hector, you may recall from my Yoho Natl Park page, was the leader of the Palliser Expedition which was the first endeavor by white men in these mountains.
Again the number of interesting and beautiful mountains is overwhelming. It is hard to single out any particular mountain for praise. They are all spectacular. But I do advise taking time to pull over at less frequented spots and enjoying the scene in solitude. Yes there will be more spectacles around the next corner, but don't rush to see them--they will still be there when you arrive. Take the time to enjoy the moment at hand. Herbert Lake was one of those areas where we spent a quiet half hour away from the crowds and the bustle of more popular attractions.
The first turnoff after commencing the Icefields Parkway. This is a classic example of a moraine lake formed as the glaciers retreated after the last ice age. A moraine is a natural dam that forms across a valley. Water then collects behind the dam forming a shallow lake. This is a peaceful spot that is not frequented by many tourists or tour buses that are in too much of a hurry to get to the icefields.
Castle Mountain seems to be a shape shifter. Everytime I looked at it it was different. Sometimes it was dark and mysterious. Other times it reflected the sunlight in brilliant hues of yellow and orange as if it were a rock formation from southern Utah.
It is one of the premiere drives in the world for both scenery and wildlife. We returned again and again to the Bow Valley Parkway as we headed off to places such as Kootenay National Park, Yoho National Park, Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway. In all, we drove the Bow Valley Parkway eleven times. And each time it was a joy.
There are two routes from Banff townsite to Lake Louise. The volume of traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1) can be overwhelming. There are also high fences that keep the wildlife from getting close to the highway (a good thing). But Highway 1A, also known as the Bow Valley Parkway, is a great alternative to the fast moving traffic on the Trans-Canada. You must keep your speed down, generally around 60 km/p/h, but the chances of seeing wildlife are very good and there are many pullouts where you can just marvel at the scenery.
Lake Louise is a good 40 km or so from Banff and it will take a good hour to get to Lake Louise using the Bow Valley Parkway. We traveled this road eleven times and found wildlife ten of those times. A pretty good return on the time spent I'd say.
An early morning view of Castle Mountain from the Trans-Canada Highway turnout about 20 km or so north of Banff townsite. After World War II, the mountain was renamed Mt. Eisenhower. In recent years the name has reverted back to Castle Mountain and Ike's remaining claim to fame is the southernmost point of the mountain which is known as Eisenhower Peak.