Best time to travel to Banff & Jasper National Parks

Frozen Abraham Lake in Banff & Jasper National Parks 2024-2025

The stunning bubbles under the surface of this frozen man-made lake could be rather dangerous

Best time: December–mid-March

Frozen Abraham Lake
Frozen Abraham Lake

Abraham Lake, located in the province of Alberta, is not far from Banff National Park and is home to a curious winter phenomenon that attracts nature photographers from all over the world. Bubbles of gas rising to the surface create massive columns that are perfectly visible through the ice. Even though the lake seems utterly peaceful and beautiful, this phenomenon can actually be rather dangerous. The bubbles are nothing else than pockets of methane which are created from the decomposition of organic matter like plants and animals. If there is a crack in the ice, the methane is released, meaning you don't want to be holding a match or a lighter at this moment.

Abraham Lake is an artificial water reservoir that was created in 1972. It was built on the upper course of the North Saskatchewan River due to the construction of the Bighorn dam. Even though it's man-made, the lake has spectacular blue waters, resembling the famous lakes of Banff National Park. The phenomenon of frozen methane bubbles occurs in many lakes of the Arctic Region, but Abraham Lake is one of the most famous places where it can be seen.

Practical info

When can visitors see the frozen methane bubbles at Abraham Lake?

Abraham Lake offers a natural phenomenon that can be viewed during winters from December and mid-March. The ice covering the lake acts as a window through which visitors can see the intriguing natural formations of frozen methane bubbles. However, visitors must note that the winters are harsh here, with temperatures dropping below -20 degrees Celsius. Moreover, the ice thickness should be checked before walking on it because it is crucial for visitors' safety. Show more

Where is the location of Abraham Lake concerning Jasper National Park?

Abraham Lake is nestled amidst the picturesque Rockies in the state of Alberta, Canada, at a short distance from Banff National Park. It is situated in the upper course of the North Saskatchewan River and is around two hours from Banff and three from Jasper National Park. Visitors can always reach the lake via the Abraham Lake Road, which remains open throughout the year. But during winters, driving can become challenging due to the snow and ice. Show more

What is the process behind the formation of frozen methane bubbles in Abraham Lake?

Frozen methane bubbles created in Abraham Lake occur naturally. They are formed by the decomposition of organic material consisting of dead plants and animals that sink down to the bottom of the lake. The organic matter emits methane gas that gets trapped under the ice in exclusive formations of bubbles. The bubbles then rise towards the water surface and cluster together. When the temperature drops below zero, the bubbles freeze in an almost surrealistic pattern below the frozen lake's surface. Show more

What are the essential safety concerns that visitors should keep in mind while traversing the frozen lake?

While exploring the frozen lake, visitors must primarily be aware of the ice's thickness to avoid accidents. It is a severe peril to venture out on thin ice, as it can break, putting visitors' lives in danger. Additionally, visitors must wear suitable clothing and shoes with adequate grip to prevent slipping. Moreover, it is best to avoid areas with newly-formed ice, close to the lake's edges or its inlets and outlets. As the name suggests, methane bubbles can be explosive; therefore, no fire must be lit or smoking permitted while traversing the lake. Show more

What led to the creation of Abraham Lake?

Abraham Lake is a human-made reservoir that came into existence when the Bighorn Dam was constructed in 1972. The North Saskatchewan River Valley was subsequently flooded to form the 33 square miles that are now the gorgeous Abraham Lake. The place is famous for summer water activities such as boating and fishing. The lake's sapphire blue color makes it resemble some of the popular lakes in Banff National Park and offers a stunning view year long. Show more

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