People come from all over the world to spend time in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and have their hearts set on seeing the turquoise coloured water of Lake Louise. Many visitors try to plan their trip around when the Rocky Mountain lakes thaw and get their beautiful turquoise colour but are surprised to find out that the many of the lakes don’t completely clear of ice until the first week of June or later. Lake Louise has beauty at anytime of year, but if you are set on seeing the famous blue-green water the best time to visit is from late June to early September.
In the spring tourists are often shocked to arrive to an ice-covered lake. Especially if they show up in April or May. Springtime in the Rockies is not comparable to many other parts of Canada. The spring season starts later in the higher elevations of the mountains. Lake Louise is one of those places, sitting at approximately 5740 feet or 1750 meters.
Thaw times of other lakes in the Rocky Mountains vary depending on their elevation. Spring comes sooner to the lower valley areas. Lakes at these lower elevations such as around the town sites of Banff and Jasper will be clear of ice much sooner.
The Lake Louise Thawing Process
The ice starts to become thinner and break up during the month of May. It creates some interesting patterns that can make for great photography.
The lake finally clears of ice in a rather quick action. It’s possible that it is full of broken up ice in the morning and totally clear that same afternoon. Once the ice gets starts to be pushed by the glacier flow it is quickly carried to the front end of the lake and drained into the fast flowing Lake Louise Creek.
Place Your Bets
Each year the thawing of the lake is a highly anticipated event. Many of the employees of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise participate in a lake thawing lottery. In early May a calendar board is drawn up that spans a month period starting from the last week of May and includes the first three weeks of June. Each day on the calendar is split into am and pm due to the fast nature of the ice clearing. For a small bet an employee picks the day and the am or pm choice that he or she thinks the lake will clear of ice. Winner takes all!
The staff feel they can predict how soon or long the lake may take to clear based on the temperature trend of the past winter. Often long-term employees feel they have an advantage through their experience of knowing the seasonal trends. They are often fooled, only mother nature knows what will happen in the unpredictable weather patterns of the Rocky Mountains.
In 2014 the final ice cleared from the lake on June 12th, and in the years previous to that there was a date as late as June 17th and an unusually early date of May 30th during a warm spring.
The Seasonal Changes Of Lake Louise
Each year the seasonal changes of the Rockies can be completely different. This makes it difficult to give accurate details about the lake. Generally it thaws in the first week of June. If winter decides to hang on in the mountains it can push the thaw ahead by another week or longer.
Once the ice is thawed the lake may not have the beautiful turquoise colour for a week or more. The rock flour needs to have time to run down from the glaciers in the mountains. The reflection of light off these silt particles suspended in the water give the lake its famous blue-green colour. The months of July and August are when you can be guaranteed to see this. During September the silt starts to settle to a point where these reflective properties are lost and the colour begins to diminish. The lake usually begins to freeze again in November and then is covered in many feet of snow until the thawing cycle begins again in the late spring.
Once the ice clears on the lake you can experience canoeing on the turquoise water of Lake Louise.