We woke up to a gorgeous day with company, two elk cows, having their breakfast 30 feet (10 meters) outside our door. That experience served to remind us of where we are. Jasper National Park is home to a large variety of animals, some of them dangerous. Warning signs are everywhere reminding campers that this is bear country. The campground literature warns of other animals that can be a threat to humans such Cougars, Coyotes and Elk (which will charge when they feel threatened). As if to emphasize this point, you cannot miss the bear trap that sits at the entrance to the park.

We drove 60 miles (100 Km) south to the Columbia Icefield Center. The Columbia Icefield is the largest body of ice in the Rocky Mountains (130 square miles/325 square Km). From it flow several glaciers, including the Athabasca. The icefield is unique in that its meltwaters drain to three oceans. Some of the water, such as the Athabasca Glacier's, flows through the Athabasca River to the McKenzie River system to the Arctic Ocean. Other water flows through the Saskatchewan River system to Hudson's Bay and the Atlantic. The third drainage flows through the Columbia to the Pacific.

We followed that Athabasca River back to Jasper, stopping for lunch overlooking the drainage channels that form the Athabasca River. Our second encounter with animals came when we spotted Mountain Goats (two females and two kids). This is not a common occurrence, as these animals are usually found on higher elevations. The goats were licking the minerals on the ground adjacent to the Icefields Parkway. About 19 miles (30 Km) south of Jasper are the Athabasca Falls where the river drops over into a narrow canyon. Finally, we went to Maligne Canyon, 6 miles (11 Km) northeast of Jasper. Here the Maligne River runs through a deep slot canyon on its way to the Athabasca River.

Unfortunately the day did not end as it started, rain came in this evening and it looks like tomorrow will be wet. This turn in the weather was forecast and is the reason we tried to pack so much into our first day in the area.

Two elk cows foraged for food within 30 feet of our door (that is our awning at the top of the picture at left)
Mountain goats licking minerals along the Icefields Parkway. The adult is still shedding last year's winter coat. She will start to grow a new coat shortly.

Columbia Icefield/Athabasca Glacier

Athabasca Glacier flowing from the Columbia Icefield
Snowcoaches on the Athabasca Glacier. The meltwater flow is intentionally allowed to pool so that the tires are rinsed as they pass through. Dirt on the tires would increase the melting rate of the glacier. Note the size of the tires, at right.
Lateral Moraine, rock and gravel left by the receding Athabasca Glacier is seem in the lower left. At the top, the Columbia Icefield can be seen as a cap on the mountains.

Athabasca Falls

Maligne Canyon

Viewed from second bridge. Deepest part of the canyon.
Second Bridge
View from third Bridge