A Grizzly Experience on the Icefields Parkway

We didn’t get the sunshine we’d expected for our drive up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper on Days 38 and 39 of this journey – Tuesday, May 31st, and Wednesday, June 1st – but we did get the best experience either Cathy or I have ever had with a grizzly bear.

Meeting the grizzly was made possible because the only level spot at the Peyto Lake parking lot was taken, so we moved back to Bow Lake for Wednesday night. None of the campgrounds along the Parkway were open for the season yet, so our choices were very limited, but there are few other places along the highway that have a view like this.

RV at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
I had parked in front of a sign warning about a grizzly frequenting an area that the map showed we were right in the middle of, and at 7:20 pm, I saw a bit of a traffic jam down the highway. The cause of it showed its head shortly – the grizzly, and it was coming our way.

A traffic jam at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta, caused by a grizzly
The bear was walking along the grassy bank of the highway eating grass and flowers non-stop, which is how they get their digestive systems back in order after the long winter. About 10 minutes after I first saw the bear, it was right behind our motorhome. By the rather small size and general look I think it was a 2-year-old sow. Her silver-tip coat was particularly beautiful, and she was in very good condition.

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
The traffic jam had moved down to the parking lot that we had been the only vehicle on, and at 8:00, the bear walked across the highway, between the vehicles, to start eating on the lake side of the road.

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
The bear-jam at 8:07 – she can barely be seen just to the left of the garbage cans. Over the next few hours I saw some of the stupidest behaviour around wildlife that I’ve ever seen. A woman from the tan car with the backup lights got too close to the bear, and when she rushed back to the closest door (I assume the bear moved towards her, though I didn’t see it), it was locked, and it took a very long time for the driver to figure out how to unlock it.

Cars watching a grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
By 8:25, we could have rented out viewing windows in the RV! I ended up taking 184 photos of her. Some, like this one of her with the bear warning sign, are rather funny πŸ™‚

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
I’d never had a vantage point like this for bear-viewing before. Opening the window beside the driver’s seat for many shots, I could hear her munching the grass.

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
She was about 10 feet away for some of the shots like the next two.

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
That’s snow behind the bear, and there was a lot of garbage around the parking lot, including an appalling amount of used toilet paper.

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
This candidate for the Darwin Awards was actually charged by the bear, though she didn’t charge directly towards him, and broke it off quickly. Even at the point show in the photo, though, she could have easily gotten to him before he reached his car.

Grizzly bear charges man at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
One of several “Selfie with Grizzly” photos we saw being taken, some of them far too close to the bear.

Shooting a selfie with a Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
We went to bed at about 10:00 pm with the bear action still going on. The dogs didn’t get their usual before-bed walk. When I got up at 05:45, the lake was calm and stunningly beautiful – perfect to get out and take a bunch of photos.

Dawn at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
Well, it was a perfect morning for photos except for the grizzly 60 feet from the door πŸ™‚

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
This is my favourite of all the photos I shot, with the lake reflection as the background. What a magnificent animal.

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
With no traffic and nobody getting in her space, the bear wandered freely across the highway and back again. I took advantage of her time on the far side of the road to get the Tracker ready to be towed again (just putting the key in the ignition and turning it to Acc – everything else needed was still in place).

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
Molly watched the grizzly for a while the night she arrived and again the next morning. There was no reaction from her except obvious curiosity – pretty cool to see my little Adventure Cat in a situation like that.

Grizzly bear at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
At about 07:30, we had to leave, mostly because the dogs hadn’t had a walk for more than 12 hours! We returned to the Peyto Lake parking lot, where a fairly heavy rain started, but we got the kids walked, and then made breakfast. A tour bus arrived a few minutes after 8. There’s a brutal schedule to be way out here at that time of the morning – a 05:00 wakeup call in Jasper? And then to see the most beautiful lake in the Rockies on a day like this πŸ™

RV in heavy rain at Peyto Lake in the Canadian Rockies
Back on the road, we stopped at a “Viewpoint” that actually had no special view.

RV at a viewpoint on the Icefields Parkway
I found a rough trail that led down from the “viewpoint” to a road and perhaps picnic area that were abandoned decades ago, and this lake, which might be Mistaya Lake. It’s probably lovely on a nice day – with rain and clouds, not so much.

Lake along the Icefields Parkway

We went back to bed, with the excuse that the rain might stop or at least that there might be some improvement in our views – the “nap” lasted almost 3 hours! πŸ™‚ And when we got back on the road at 11:40, nothing had changed.

A small band of sheep was on the highway near Saskatchewan Crossing.

Sheep on the Icefields Parkway
We stopped for a few minutes near the summit of Sunwapta Pass, at about 1,900 meters elevation (6,234 feet).

Near the summit of Sunwapta Pass on the Icefields Parkway

Snow in June - near the summit of Sunwapta Pass on the Icefields Parkway
We’re always looking for hints about which breeds went into making Tucker – there’s apparently some dashhound in there πŸ™‚

Our little dog Tucker on the dash of the RV
Our draft plan had me going for a steep high-country hike in the sunshine at Parker Ridge at Sunwapta Pass – with the weather we got, a brief photo stop was it.

The Icefields Parkway at Sunwapta Pass

Just before 2:00, we arrived at Whistlers Campground in Jasper, where we had a full-hookup site booked for 2 nights. We began our Jasper exploring with an early diinner at the D’ed Dog Pub – I love their Wild Game burger.



Comments

A Grizzly Experience on the Icefields Parkway — 9 Comments

  1. WOW! Those are some winning grizzly photos! People pay big money to see them and others are stupid enough to get close to them on the road. Makes me mad because if the bear charged she would be at fault and likely put down. She was lucky that day. Happy travels.

    • Thanks, Barb – I’m pretty pleased with quite a few of the shots I got. As the years go on, I get less and less patience with stupid people, especially when their stupidity threatens animals.

  2. What a great experience! Bear stories and bear pictures are my favorites. I also have no patience with ignorant people who want to get wild animal selfies and then scream when the animal attacks.

  3. Amazing your telling of the journey is like being there thank you Murray is fun an interesting to tag along πŸ™‚

  4. wow, what a great and thrilling experience that must have been from the safety of the motorhome. A yawner from the furry kids, eh?

    People with their poorly thought out selfies…time to thin the herd!

  5. I did the 5am wakeup too last time I was in Jasper. It was both brutal and fantastic at the same time (all this coming from someone who isn’t a morning person!).

  6. Awesome pictures!!! As you know we went all the way to Alaska to see a grizzly and saw not a one whereas you got to have breakfast with one, you lucky guys! That woman could have been that bears breakfast, I guess he wasn’t that hungry, stupid people!

    • LOL – yes, Sharon, you apparently just had a lousy guide on your trip!

      For my other readers, Sharon and her hubby joined us for an Alaska cruise and land trip in 2012, and we had some wonderful moose encounters but even in Denali, no grizzlies.