Saturday, October 06, 2012

Glacial Lakes

Glacial lakes and glacial geology are rare here in the East and pretty much absent from even the highest summits of the South. You have to hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire or in the very tallest peaks of Maine to see glacial forms such as hanging valleys, tarns, terminal moraines, and the like.

However, in Colorado that stuff is everywhere! The really high peaks are packed with such formations; especially glacial lakes. There are even a few fading bits of actual glaciers on some of the higher mountains. Not many of those are left--and they'll soon be gone, thanks to human-cased global warming--but you can spot what are left beneath some of the very tallest summits of Colorado.

Glacial lake on the Glacier Gorge Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The three amigos at a glacial lake, big peaks surrounding us.
The remains of an old glacier. Now nothing but a melting permanent snowfield. Soon to be not even that.
Looking back down at a glacial lake.

A smaller tarn located below Chasm Lake on Longs Peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park. The falls on the right are the outflow of Chasm Lake.

Chasm Lake. (I was suffering miserably from altitude sickness when I shot this video. I only made it to the lake out of sheer stubbornness.)

One of the most famous glacial lakes, Maroon Lake, with the equally famous Maroon Bells reflected in its surface.

You can even see the old glacial flow pattern leading down to Lower Blue Lake. The lake is still brilliant blue from the suspended clays in the water left by the once-flowing glacier.

Glacial headwall at Upper Blue Lake. This is textbook image of a glacial headwall, where (once upon a colder time) a glacier was birthed at this high point and flowed down the mountain, carving out a big U-shaped valley. When the glacier melted, the valley was revealed, along with pools of water that are now glacial lakes.
Video of the headwall at Upper Blue Lake.


MarkGelbart said...

Those are some really nice and interesting photos.

Did you drink the water from the glacial lakes?

HemlockMan said...

No. Although some of the lakes had water as clear as glass, I wouldn't drink any water these days that wasn't filtered or otherwise treated against viruses and bacteria. One huge problem with our dwindling wildlands and parklands is that so many humans use them. Thus, there is always the danger of contamination by human feces. Climbers go up into the tundra to scale the sheer walls of granite and end up crapping where they will. Hikers, too. So I would strongly recommend not drinking any untreated water in our various backcountry areas.

Things were different when I was a kid. I would often drink out of springs and free-running cataracts in the mountains. Doing so now is inviting illness.

Kirk G said...

May I suggest that you plan a visit to BC and Bampf, Alberta to see the glacial lakes there? Holiday Vacations can hook you up with a package tour that I would endorce. See me or their website for details.

HemlockMan said...

Alberta is high on my list of must-see places before I croak.