The ice at Abraham Lake showing frozen bubbles of methane

The ice at Abraham Lake showing frozen bubbles of methane

Abraham Lake’s frozen bubbles beautiful but deadly

A winter phenomenon that is attracting sightseers and photographers to Abraham Lake comes with a caution from an experienced outdoorsman.

A winter phenomenon that is attracting sightseers and photographers to Abraham Lake comes with a caution from an experienced outdoorsman.

The artificial lake, which is a reservoir for the Bighorn Dam on the North Saskatchewan River, is located 211 km west of Red Deer on Hwy 11. It has been a popular destination in winter because of large frozen bubbles in the ice.

The bubbles are caused by methane gas released by decaying organic matter in the water. The gas freezes in the ice during winter, making for some interesting photos.

However, because water is drawn down from the reservoir, it can create conditions where there is air, not water, right below the ice surface.

Bary Shellian, from Rocky Mountain House, recently went out to the lake, in the vicinity known as Windy Point, about 40 km west of Nordegg. He had gone out to the area to ride his fat-tire bike, made for riding in winter conditions, because he had heard about the bubbles.

It’s not a lake, it’s a reservoir, which means it’s constantly being drained, said Shellian.

“It’s not safe at all actually because if it was a normal lake and you fell through the ice, the water would be right there. You might have a hope of getting back up.

“But boy, the reservoir, if the ice broke, you could drop several feet through space before you hit the water.” The ice doesn’t drop as the water is depleted.

His advice is to stay off the lake.

“I have a pretty high tolerance for risk. I’ve been through the ice before and pulled myself up.” But if someone were to fall through the ice, they may not be able to reach up high enough from the water to pull themselves out.

Shellian was riding along on his bike on the ice when he suddenly realized there was air, rather than water, under it. “It wasn’t normal ice.” He immediately headed to shore.

People can still see the bubbles in ice that has been pushed upwards along the shore.

But there’s a bit of a slope down to the lake and because it’s icy, some people who had gone to look at the bubbles when he was there were unable to get back up the grade. Shellian said they faced a several kilometre walk.

“The bubbles are cool for sure. It’s beautiful. It’s like a lava lamp. … but be cautious because it is not a normal lake.”

“It’s a cool thing to see, but I’ve never wanted to caution people so much. … People don’t realize they could be in danger.”

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