Abraham Lake outing


Who knew that Abraham Lake, west of Rocky Mountain House, was famous for its unique methane bubbles preserved in ice? Who would guess that at sunrise you would find twenty photographers out on the bare ice, which is polished and exposed in the howling winds– capturing the bubbles and fractures in the ice as well as spectacular sunrises over Mount Michener with their cameras?

Well it seems our Club President, Pat, knew of this place. Six members took up his mid-winter challenge to drive up to Rocky, overnight there, and convoy out to the Lake in the dark to set up their tripods and catch those first rays of morning light!

Tom and Dennis went up early on Friday and pre-scouted locations for the rest of the gang, which had made plans to come up a bit later. The most popular places were waypointed with GPS—as popular as this is, there are no signs, no picnic tables, parking lots or pit toilets although we encountered a tour van and a tour bus in these locations with Asian tourists taking part in this rare and odd photo shoot. Wendi loaded up her truck with winter gear and brought along Jo-Ann and Jacquie, taking their time coming North, photographing on the way. Pat came up after work in his vehicle a bit later.

We checked into our motels and met up later for dinner and beers at the Walking Eagle restaurant. Tom and Dennis briefed everyone on what had been discovered. Next morning we all arrived at Hoodoo Creek for our first shoot. The ice was buffed clean. Sunrise was through the mountain peaks. The bubbles were everywhere, accented by large fractures in the ice. The result was a very photo rich environment. We six were certainly not alone out there, but the area is huge so everyone could find their own favorite bubbles to photograph.

After a bit we moved west up the lake to aptly named “Windy Point”—again, unmarked, local knowledge and people on the ice guide you there. We were all suitably dressed in heavy winter gear, and were all wearing the most critical gear of all, steel spiked boot crampons for grip on this very polished ice. Without those you could not stand up. All our cameras worked in this cold and wind, and we all managed great photos of this odd phenomenon.

We moved onward to the head of the Lake to Preacher Point, which overlooks the Saskatchewan River delta that feeds the Lake. The ice had collapsed in a fractured but bubbled pattern, resulting in crazy geometries, all with mountain vistas for background. The results are a natural Modern Art pattern.

It was blowing and snowing so some of us decided to head back to Calgary. Tom and Dennis left early and the ladies pointed their truck south soon after. Pat lingered on a bit to revisit and re-think some of our locations.

The bubbles exist because of a unique combination of things at Abraham Lake: firstly, as a flooded reservoir it covers vegetation which is rotting and giving off methane gas. Secondly, lowering the water level causes a massive fracture system in the ice, which is 5 or 6 inches thick. And finally—perhaps most importantly—the winds funnelling out of Saskatchewan River Crossing keep huge areas of the ice surface bare and clean, so you can actually see the bubbles and the fractures.

This was a fun trip with those who braved the challenges rewarded with absolutely unique photographs.

We look forward to our next winter outing to Vermillion Lakes and Johnson Canyon in February—and encourage our fellow members to leave the couch behind for a day and take part in Alberta’s winter wonderlands!

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