Whether you’re planning to take a trip there, or are just plain curious about the famous Abraham Lake in Alberta, Canada, this tour guide will attempt to answer all your questions about the water body, from it’s origins to the lesser-known and the well-known facts.
History of the Abraham Lake
A lot of travelers like to take a history crash course specifically on the place that they are about to plan their next vacation to. If you’re the type of person that relates to it, then read on ahead to find out more about the past of Abraham Lake.
Abraham Lake was created in 1972 by the Calgary Power Company, which is now known as TransAlta.The lake was formed when the Bighorn dam was constructed on the North Saskatchewan River. The lake is now Alberta’s most significant natural reservoir.
It was named after a local guide who used to show people around in the rough backdrop of the Canadian Rockies. Silas Abraham lived around the North Saskatchewan River Valley and used to work around the latter half of the nineteenth century. Interestingly, the Canadian government had organized a contest for naming the newly formed lake. People were asked to submit names that had some historical significance and which had something to do with the place as well.
It only seems fitting that the lake was named after somebody who used to make explorer’s lives easier by showing them around the valley.
How to Get There
Now, if you live far away and are planning to catch a flight, the closest airports to the lake are Edmonton and Calgary, the two big cities of the state of Alberta. From both of the big cities, it is a three and a half-hour drive to the lake. In case you find yourself in Calgary, you’ll be heading up north-west to see the lake. Whereas from Edmonton, it is a similar three and a half-hour drive, but in this case, you’ll be heading down south-west.
Whichever place you pick to fly to, you’re going to have to take the H11, also known as the David Thompson Highway. If you’re not a resident of Canada and have to rent a car, make sure that it is full of fuel and that you stock up on edibles and other essential supplies as well. Without fail. The reason why it’s so important is the fact that the area around the highway is quite isolated. The last gas station can be found at Nordegg, after which you’re on your own.
Should you not be confident in your driving abilities, then you can hire a driver or a local tour guide who can drive you around the place without hassle. You can’t rely on Google Maps because there’s probably not going to be any cell phone reception along the highway. So keep that in mind while traveling.
The most popular entry for the lake is called the Preacher’s Point. The Preacher’s Point is located on the western coast of the lake. A lot of people use the spacious parking lot to keep their cars while they visit the lake.
The good thing is that if you do actually find yourself in a worst-case scenario (which in this case looks like a snowstorm, no cell reception, and no fuel), the highway patrol is there to save you. Just make sure you have the essential supplies like food, water, and something to keep you warm handy.
Best Time to Travel to Abraham Lake
The biggest attraction towards Abraham Lake is the frozen bubbles. That is undisputed. Photographs of this ‘bubble lake’ have circulated online through social media, and have made this lake an international sensation for tourism enthusiasts. (Which really seem like people with “wanderlust” on their Instagram bio.)
You won’t find the lake frozen during the summer (obviously). And the lake is usually just open water at this point.
The best time to go and see Abraham Lake and get those awesome pictures is during the winter months of December to somewhere around March to April. You’ll be caught in a pinch if it snows, so try and avoid going to see the lake on a particularly snowy day as it makes traversing the region very, very difficult.
The warm Canadian winds, locally known as the chinooks, can also render the lake opaque and prevent the formation of the frozen bubbles. If you really want to play it safe, go during February.
Accommodation Around Abraham Lake
It is an isolated place, as mentioned above. But you still have a few reliable options for lodging. The HI-Nordegg Hostel is the most affordable of the lot. It’s around half an hour away from the lake and is open all year round. There are a communal kitchen and a terrace where you can have a barbecue night in case it gets warm or you find a chinook blowing your way.
A little further away from the lake, you can find HI Rampart Creek. A small downside is that there are no streetlights. So you’re going to have to try and see it in the dark, only lit by the occasional fire here and there. If you make it to the place before dark, without a lot of hassle, it’s a joy to stay here. The rooms are heated so you can make yourself comfy. The hotel also provides its guests with snowshoes.
If money really isn’t a problem for you, then you should consider the Aurum Lodge, no questions asked. Although it’s on the higher side of the expenses, a stay at Aurum Lodge promises to be a memorable one. It isn’t very far from the lake. In fact, you can actually see the lake from your room.
The lodge is run by an older man who knows more about the lake than any other person out there. It’s well worth the money and you can enjoy a pleasant stay at this place.
The Phenomenon of the Frozen Bubbles
Abraham Lake is primarily a human-made glacial lake. The brilliant blue color of the waters and the frozen lake is because of the icy rock flour particles that have combined with the water due to the immense changes in solubility levels of the water. The solubility, of course, changes due to the massive fluctuation in temperature of the water from summer to winter.
The internationally famous ‘bubble lake’ is also one of nature’s most beautiful phenomena. Abraham Lake’s base has a lot of decaying organic matter. This is dined on by bacteria. When the bacteria is done decomposing the organic matter at the bed of the lake, methane gas is released as a result, which causes the bubbles to come up. Due to the temperature being shallow during winter, the bubbles freeze while rising up.
Since the ice is not of uniform thickness throughout the top, many cracks form due to the daily fluctuation in temperature. During the day, the ice expands when heated and at night, contracts due to the cooling and absence of a heat source. This takes a toll on the stability of the ice sheet, and hence, cracks develop on the surface of the glacial lake.
Safety Tips for Abraham Lake
The ice cover conditions are really unpredictable. The ice might be really thick in some places, but not so much in others. So you should really be careful while walking around the frozen lake. A tour guide is an absolute must if you have never been on a solo adventure trip before. There are subtle essential things about the places that the guides know, which will really come in handy for your expedition.
Carry all your cameras and other valuables at your own risk. The weather is highly unpredictable around the lake, and winds might whip up at any moment. Some are even strong enough to carry people away with them. Also, if you have been to remote adventurous places before, do seriously consider going with friends or at least a tour group so that you have people around to help you in case things go wrong. Make sure that you keep yourself warm and that you carry all the necessary equipment for your own safety.
Abraham Lake is in the middle of nowhere, to be very honest. And it can be tough to find your way in difficult circumstances like snowy or windy weather.
It is also essential that you do not light any flames on and around Abraham Lake. This is because, beneath the ice sheet, the water is brimming with methane gas, which is highly combustible. A silly mistake might blow the entire lake to bits. Despite this safety concern, people still go to feast their eyes on the bubble lake in plenty.
Things You Can Do at Abraham Lake
Although fishing is an everyday activity that is found around any water body, Abraham Lake is not a very good spot for fishing in the winter. It’s a different story during the summer, however, as the lake is just open water during that time. You can get lucky with your fishing rod in hand. During winter, locals discourage fishing due to the sheer instability of the seas. Skiing is also not a very good idea for the inconsistent thickness of the ice.
All that said, people who go to Abraham Lake do enjoy rock climbing, camping, and mountain hiking along with the hilly areas around the lake. Moreover, there is also a heliport which can be found along the western coast of the lake. The purpose of having a helipad in such a remote section of the world is so that people can have a bird’s eye view of Abraham Lake.
The nearby mountainous spots of Banff and Jasper, which also offer two brilliant sceneries, are over a two-hour drive from the Abraham Lake but are worth the hassle, the time and the investment. People are discouraged from fishing during the winter because of the instability of the weather conditions and the temperature fluctuation between day and night that causes complications.
It is also a great place to let your pets have fun. Get your dog or cat along and play with them near the lake, or on it if you’re feeling brave.
Try and cross the lake. The idea behind this is to experience and see all the different views that the lake has to offer. Each picture has something different to offer. You can also try and choose tour plans that involve a lot of other activities at the lake. They usually cost between 300-400 Canadian dollars, and some even include the helicopter ride that I mentioned earlier.
As a side note: You might also want to consider taking a flight to the North Pole to see the aurora lights during the right time of the year. Do consider this once you’re done with checking out the Abraham Lake thoroughly.
Growing Concern For Scientists
A rather interesting fact to know about the lake, if you’re truly curious about it, is the effect that the lake has on climate change.
Yes, that’s right. Abraham Lake is a significant contributor to climate change, otherwise known as global warming. The methane gas produced by the decomposition of the dead plants at the bed of the lake is the cause for one of the most beautiful natural phenomena that can be viewed by the human eye. It is also the cause of the release of greenhouse gas, methane, which causes global warming.
How it happens is quite simple. The methane gas emitted by the bacteria at the bottom of the lake is frozen still by the formation of ice; this phenomenon is known as permafrost.
The gas that is stuck in the ice is released when the ice melts in summer when the temperature gets warmer. This humongous release of the greenhouse gas methane is a severe cause of concern for scientists. This is because the emission has already started taking its toll on the environment.
Scientists, as of yet, have not been able to figure out a solution to the problem again. This is causing a lot of tension amongst environmentalists and geologists of the world and activists towards climate change, of course.
Read on, here about the other brilliant scenic offerings that Canada has for you to see: https://icycanada.com/top-25-reasons-to-visit-canada/