Historic Photos of Glaciers from the Canadian Rockies

At their most basic, glaciers are concentrations of fallen snow that are compressed over many years into large masses of ice. Glaciers form when more snow accumulates in an area than can melt in a season, which then transforms into ice as more and more snow falls on top of it. They are unique in that they are constantly moving under the weight of gravity, almost like a very slow river. Glaciers cover more than 200,000 square-kilometres in Canada alone, but that number appears to be decreasing. Due to the effects of climate change, scientists predict that by the year 2100 the glaciers in Alberta and British Columbia will have lost 70 percent of their 2005 volumes.

Glaciers are stunningly beautiful and incredibly dangerous at the same time. Without the proper expertise and equipment travel upon their surfaces poses a number of risks, such as crevasses, ice falls, avalanches, and even rock falls. When done under the proper circumstances glacier exploration can be both exhilarating and enjoyable. To learn more about the modern-day explorers, known as mountaineers, who traverse both rock and ice, please read this Wild Jobs story. After, scroll through this post featuring historical photos of different glaciers from across Alberta and the Continental Divide. How many of these glaciers have you seen in person? Can you notice a difference in their appearance between now and back then? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Search party on Victoria Glacier, Alberta, 1896
Toe of glacier in the Rocky Mountains, Alberta, 1902
Lyell Glacier, Alberta, 1902
Freshfield Glacier, Alberta, 1902
Members of mountain expedition on Freshfield Glacier, Alberta, 1902
Members of mountain expedition on Freshfield Glacier, Alberta, 1902
Freshfield Glacier, Alberta, 1902
Victoria Glacier and Lake Louise, Alberta, 1889
Lake Louise from Victoria Glacier, Alberta, 1905-1906
Ice cave in Victoria Glacier, Alberta, 1905-1906
Hikers at the summit of Opabin Pass on Opabin Glacier, on border of Alberta and British Columbia, 1910
Three of Masonic party by glacier on Cascade Mountain, Alberta, 1907
Surveyor at outlet stream from Peyto Glacier, Banff National Park, Alberta, 1915
Surveyor at Peyto Glacier, Banff National Park, Alberta, 1915
Snowbird Glacier, with Mount Patterson in view, Banff National Park, Alberta, 1915
Crowfoot glacier, Banff National Park, Alberta, 1912-1915
Mr. Thomas B. Moffat examining a crevasse on the Victoria Glacier, Alberta, 1921
Tumbling Glacier, Berg Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta, 1920-1929
Glacier, Mount Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park, Alberta, 1920-1929
Crevasse in Lefroy Glacier, Alberta, 1905-1906
Mountain, glacier, and lake, Alberta, 1910-1919
Surveyor standing in ice cave, probably at Peyto Glacier, Banff National Park, Alberta, 1915
Saskatchewan Glacier in the Columbia Icefields area, Alberta, 1924
Pack horses and rider on Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefields area, Alberta, 1924
Riders at toe of Athabasca Glacier in Columbia Icefields area, Alberta, 1924

The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives. Additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on each photo. There is also the option to purchase a high-resolution copy. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from across Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.

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About Tyler Dixon 119 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.