Twenty thousand years ago, a massive sheet of ice covered all but the highest Rocky Mountain peaks. As the glaciers moved, the heavy ice pulverized the solid rock underneath, carving the Rockies into the spectacular shapes we see today.

The Columbia Icefield is the largest accumulation of ice south of the Arctic Circle. As it melts, the water flows into three of the globe’s oceans – the Pacific, the North Atlantic and the Arctic. If water were gold, this would be the moderlode of North America.

Up on the Icefield, precipitation from the Pacific falls as snow, up to seven metres a year. Over time, the snow transforms into ice and flows through gaps in the mountains, creating great tongues of ice called glaciers.

But this Icefield is thinning quickly – some scientists estimate that it’ll be gone within a hundred years and so will the water that feeds much of southern Alberta and critically, the oil sands industry.


  • The Columbia Icefield is nearly 325 square kilometres, larger than the area covered by the city of Vancouver.
  • The icefield feeds eight major glaciers, including Athabasca Glacier, Castleguard Glacier, Columbia Glacier, Dome Glacier, Stutfield Glacier, and Saskatchewan Glacier.

  • The Great Lakes
    Discover the roots of a long vanished mountain range, explore the remains of an inland tropical sea and trace the story of a dramatic flood
  • The Rockies
    An ever-changing landmass, geologists are learning how the Rockies were formed and discovering what they will become.
  • The Canadian Shield
    The largest - and one of the oldest - expanses of ancient rock on the planet has riches of gold and diamonds under it's crust.
  • The Appalachians
    These fabled mountains contain a geologic puzzle, a rich legacy, and the scarcely known threat of earthquakes.
  • The Atlantic Coast
    The dramatic story of volcanic outpourings, massive rifting of continents and the bursting forth of a new ocean - the Atlantic.

A five-part series that chronicles the incredible—and surprising—history of Canada's landscape in HD.

Canada Rocks Read an excerpt from Canada Rocks, a new book by the scientific advisor to Geologic Journey, Nick Eyles.

Watch video interviews with some of the scientists featured in Geologic Journey (produced in conjunction with National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada).

Order the Geologic Journey DVD for classroom use and download Teacher Resource Materials.
The Nature of Things with David Suzuki
Glacier: A large, slow moving river of ice, formed from compacted layers of snow, that slowly deforms and flows in response to gravity. Glacier ice is the largest reservoir of fresh water on earth. Icefield: An area less than 50,000 square kilometres of ice often found in the colder climates and higher altitudes of the world.