The Frozen Bubbles Under This Alberta Lake Are Absolutely Breathtaking

Photographer Carmen Therriault captures this awe-inspiring winter wonder on camera.

I have lived in Alberta, relatively close to the Rocky Mountains, for most of my life. One of my favourite areas to explore is the often overlooked David Thompson Country, a true gem of the Canadian Rockies. I have enjoyed many drives, picnics, walks, waterfalls, hikes, wildlife sightings and photo opportunities here in the warmer months, and after seeing spectacular photos of Abraham Lake in the winter, I knew I needed to experience it in this season, too.

A cold snap hit Alberta at the start of January last year, as it so often does. By mid-month, Abraham Lake was frozen solid and the ice was thick enough to safely walk on. Not knowing exactly what to expect or where to go, I set my alarm for 5 a.m. in hopes of making it to the lake in time to watch the sun rise. Driving along the David Thompson Highway on the west side of the lake past Hoodoo Creek, we soon noticed a few cars parked on the shoulder of the road in the area known as the “Belly of Abraham.” My friends and I decided to join the other adventurers and soon realized that this spot was exactly what we were looking for.

Lake Abraham SunrisePhoto: Carmen Therriault

Equipped with crampons, we walked over the heaves of ice along the sloped banks to the frozen lake. Even though it was still somewhat dark, I immediately spotted amazing clusters of methane bubbles trapped under the ice. With no time to waste, I chose an interesting bubble formation and set up my tripod and camera. Before long, the clouds began to take on amazing colours as the sun rose behind Mount Michener.

The day was perfect with mild temperatures and very little wind, so once full daylight was upon us, we were able to continue exploring. The frequent high winds in this region help keep the snow off the ice, making it very easy to observe bubbles even close to shore. Since Abraham Lake is actually a reservoir with a dam, there is significant vegetation under the water that releases methane. As the ice forms and thickens, the bubbles get trapped in layers, creating the most interesting stacks and formations. We were lucky enough to witness this process in action through the perfectly clear ice.

Bubbles Under The IcePhoto: Carmen Therriault

Needless to say, I was hooked and returned again a week later, a few hours before sunset. I came prepared this time with my rusty old ice skates. What a thrill to glide over the incredibly smooth ice as the wind pushed me. The return direction required much more effort but gave me time to truly appreciate all that was underneath me.

By the time the sunset colours began to form, the notorious wind had calmed down, allowing us to fully enjoy this experience. Although the sunset view over Lake Abraham is perhaps not as famous as the sunrise view, it was nothing short of breathtaking. As night descended and the other explorers and photographers headed home, we sat on the ice and watched millions of stars gradually appear. I think this was the most peaceful, magical night I have ever experienced under the stars; the only sound was the occasional cracking of the ice. I didn’t want this evening to end, but my fingers and toes were starting to tingle from the cold.

Bubbles Under Frozen LakePhoto: Carmen Therriault

During my visits to Abraham Lake, I met people from all over the province, country and even other parts of the world who came to witness these beautiful bubbles. I am very lucky to live so close to this magical place and I can’t wait until the conditions are right to visit again.

Next, explore 50 photos showcasing the beauty of the Canadian winter.

Originally Published in Our Canada