Where To Whitewater Raft this Summer
Cool off on a hut summer’s day with a whitewater rafting adventure in Jasper and Golden
The Sunwapta River in Jasper makes for a wild ride.
Photograph courtesy of Jasper Tourism
The dripping wetsuits draped over the clothesline at the whitewater adventure outfitters say it all: you are going to get soaked. But still, you instinctively squeal and avoid that initial splash as the raft plunges over the first foaming rapid. After that, your attitude is “Bring it on!” and you aim for the big rollers. By the end of the adventure, you are drenched and cold. Your blue lips try to hide your chattering teeth, but the adrenaline surging through your body bursts out in uncontrolled giggle fits. Whitewater rafting is definitely an adventure you’ll want to do again.
There is plenty of action offered by rafting companies in Jasper or in Golden, B.C., on the Kicking Horse River.
The Sunwapta River (meaning turbulent waters) in Jasper National Park has daunting stretches of Class III rapids for thrill-seekers. There are outfitters in the town of Jasper ready to take you for a roll along 10 km of the river. The first half is rather lazy, but don’t be fooled – the rest of the ride is a bumpy one.
Designated a Canadian Heritage River because of its importance to the explorers making their way to the West Coast, the silt-laden Athabasca River meanders across its flood plain at a relaxing pace. Families that want to experience the river without the fear of tumbling in will like this part of the river. If you want to challenge the rapids that tossed out a few fur traders and their fortunes, there are sections to test your fortitude.
Check the listing on the Jasper tourism website for rafting guides that will take the family on a mild adventure – or you and your buddies on a wild-and-wet one.
Kicking Horse River
Named in honour of the horse in 1858 that kicked James Hector into next week, the Kicking Horse River is like a bucking horse, except this ride lasts longer than eight seconds. Rolling rapids crowded by steep canyon walls and tight bends around submerged boulders create a non-stop howling adventure. Due to the high classification on some of the rapids, an age restriction is enforced when the water level increases the challenge. Equally great outfitters in Golden eagerly wait to hear from you.
Rapids Class Structure
Consider the challenge level you are seeking before signing up for a rafting adventure.
Is easy and means self-rescue is relatively easy. Think the Bow River through Calgary to the zoo.
Is novice, with straightforward rapids and wild, clear channels. Trained paddlers can manoeuvre it easily. Athabasca River on the flood plains.
Is intermediate and a bit of a challenge for most people. Irregular waves and ledges may swamp an open canoe. Sunwapta, Athabasca and Kicking Horse rivers.
Is for the advanced paddlers. Intense and powerful rapids that demand respect line the usually narrow passage. Some rapids in the Kicking Horse River fall into this category.
Classes V and VI
These are too dangerous to attempt, like Bow Falls in Banff.