The Columbia Icefield is an enormous icefield comprised of six large glaciers: Athabasca, Castleguard Columbia, Dome, Stutfield and Saskatchewan Glacier. From these glaciers, through the Columbia Icefield, fresh water flows to three different oceans: Atlantic, Pacific and the Artic Oceans. Icefields, by definition, are colossal elongated areas of multiple glaciers that wrap around mountains to form a glacial valley leaving only the peaks of mountains showing. These peaks are called nunatak. The area of the Columbia Icefield is about 170,000 miles; it ranges from 328 ft. to 1,197 ft. in depth, and gets up to 275 inches of snowfall per year.
Located in the Canadian Rockies it spans the continental divide of North America, fringing on the borders of two national parks; Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. The Columbia Icefield is one of the last reminders of the thick ice mass that once covered most of Western Canada’s mountains. From afar that glacier looks like a frozen river but there is movement from this glacier as it slowly melts. The ice is in constant motion moving forward at a rate of about 3 cm per day. Over the last 125 years the glacier has receded, melting away half of its initial volume and receding almost one mile. The Athabasca Glacier is the most central glacier to the Columbia Icefield and by far the most visited. Many visitors arrive year round to witness the glory and wonder of the glacial beauty its power is not a forced to be reckoned with. The glacier in spite of its beauty is very considered dangerous.