Alberta has so many fantastic natural wonders that change with the seasons. Abraham Lake has bubbles caused by the methane gas that rises from the bottom of the lake. In the summer, this manmade lake is an elegant blue colour and in the winter, these bubbles turn into beautiful frozen science. Before we went, I did a bunch of research about the area and safety considerations. Read on to discover where to find the bubbles, important safety notes, when to go, what you should bring, where to find fuel and a bathroom, and learn where we stayed. Come with me to experience frozen bubble lake.
Location: About an hour west of Rocky Mountain House. We drove 3.5 hours southwest from Edmonton. If you are in the Banff area, it is a 1 hour and 40 minute drive north of Lake Louise.
Where to find the bubbles
The best spot to find them varies depending on the year. However, there are two key areas to check, Preachers Point and the belly of Abraham. Following the David Thompson Highway West from Nordegg, it takes approximately 20 minutes to reach the northern most point on the lake. From there, it’s another 20 minutes to Preachers Point, the Southern tip of the lake. The full drive is beautiful and worth doing.
This is typically the most popular spot for spotting bubbles. It’s located at the southern end of the lake, just watch for the large sign. You can drive in and park beside the lake. When we went, the lake levels had been low for a while and this area was steep to walk down. We decided against walking down but other tourists had carefully gotten down and were on the ice.
This area is approximately 12 minutes North of Preachers Point and has two spots to check out. One (our favourite when we visited) is down a side road that leads to a rocky beach where we parked and walked to the ice. There is another spot closer to the road; we found it by seeing all the other cars parked on the side of the road. The Belly of Abraham area is right about where Google takes you when imputing Abraham Lake into Google maps.
Important please note
Lake Levels Change & Ice can be Unstable
TransAlta made Lake Abraham as a large water reservoir. If water levels have recently lowered, watch out for ice with large air gaps under them. If the water levels have raised recently, the ice many not have re frozen over yet. If you notice water levels changing quickly while you are on the ice, it is advised to leave the ice as quickly and safely as possible.
Lake Ice Safety
If the lake water levels have been stable for a while with cold temperatures, the lake should be relatively safe. When walking out on any frozen lake, please ensure the ice is at least 4 inches thick (holds one person) and 5 to 6 inches is generally safe for a few more people. Avoid walking on ice near river entrances. Click here to see TransAlta’s instructions on checking water levels. Click here for a map of Alberta’s river system and current water levels.
Tip: Wear ice cleats they help with your traction. Because of the fluctuations in the ice throughout the winter, some areas have little ice hills. It might be easy to go down, but then you will have to get back up. Do not go anywhere you are not sure how you will get out. (We used Korkers Ultra Ice Cleats – Amazing! They had great traction and were adjustable)
With any winter traveling, ensure that your car has a winter safety kit. Bring things to keep you warm and items to help you if your vehicle is stuck in the snow. Cell service is very limited and is non-existent in some areas.
What to bring
After deciding when you want to visit the lake and for how long, pack some food, water, ice cleats, extra batteries for your camera and phones (the cold weather may affect your battery life), and warm clothes (it is very windy and can be very cold). If you’re going at sunset, be sure to bring a flashlight!
When to go
The best time to go is early January to early February. You need to give the lake enough time for the ice to freeze and ice bubbles to form. If you go too late, the ice will be walked on by others and not as clear. Popular times during the day to go are sunrise and sunset.
Tip: If you want to take a guided tour of the lake there are two companies you can check out. Aurum Lodge offers a photography tour of the lake and its bubbles. Pursuit Adventures offers a half-day tour with hot chocolate. I looked at their tour dates to determine when we should visit the lake.
Gas station & Bathroom
There is a nice Shell Station in Nordegg with a good bathroom. It is roughly 25 minutes north from the belly of Abraham and 36 minutes from Preachers Point.
Where we stayed
We decided to stay overnight at Prairie Creek Inn, just South of Rocky Mountain House. It is about 1.5 hours from the lake. Our stay include a large delicious breakfast in our room with a fireplace and private deck. Read about our experience (posting here soon)