The unique frozen bubbles of Abraham Lake (photo: Caitlyn Giorgio/Travel Alberta)

The Frozen Bubbles of Abraham Lake Make International Waves

By AMA Staff

Move over, Nathan Fillion. There’s another Alberta upstart making waves in Hollywood.

Remember this name: Abraham Lake. Also affectionately known as Bubble Lake. Every winter, it fills with millions of frozen methane bubbles, attracting tourists, Instagram stars, journalists, TV shows, and now, film crews, from around the world. This magical (and man-made) reservoir is the backdrop to Disney’s new film, Togo, starring Willem Defoe. The lake doubles as the Bering Sea, which his team of sled dogs must cross to save an Alaska town from an epidemic.

In reality, Abraham Lake is located on Highway 11, or the David Thompson Highway, in central Alberta—about 10 minutes south of Nordegg, two hours northwest of Banff. Fifty years ago, the reservoir didn’t even exist; it was only created during the construction of the Bighorn Dam in 1972. Not that you’d ever guess. If you visit in summer, Abraham Lake’s turquoise waters give it the look of just “another” one of the Rockies’ gorgeous mountain lakes.

As breathtaking as it is in July, the lake really, well, springs to life in winter. January and February are the best months for the bubbles, but make sure to visit with a professional tour guide. They know when and where the ice is thick enough to get the safest and most dazzling views—of the bubbles and the surrounding mountains.

Fat biking in the Rockies: your new favourite winter sport

Make sure to wear lots of warm layers, too. Abraham Lake can get windy, blowing the snow off the ice and allowing for better views of the bubbles. Dress properly and you can gaze at them for hours, forgetting it might be -25 C. Some bubbles look like stacks of frozen pancakes. Some look like flocks of ghostly amoebas. Others sparkle like blindingly brilliant gems.

Abraham Lake
The lake is spectacularly surrounded by mountains (photo: Sarah Lyndsay/Travel Alberta)

Pursuit Adventures, owned by Danielle Fortin and her husband JP, offers half- and full-day trips from Red Deer, Rocky Mountain House, Nordegg and Lake Louise to Abraham Lake. Some of their tours include snowshoe treks to nearby icefalls, including one along Cline River Canyon. Equipment, including ice cleats, and lunch from Pursuit’s Basecamp + Cafe in Red Deer are provided for the full-day tours.

International enthusiasm for Abraham Lake began bubbling about six years ago, thanks in part to Instagram and travel sites. While Disney’s Togo might encourage even more tourists to visit, Fortin says the lake and its frozen bubbles offer more than just a pretty photograph.

“It’s magical,” she says. “You can walk on the ice for hours and feel lost in the landscape. With the clarity of the ice, the snow, the mountains, it’s just a great way to feel connected.”