Many travelers miss out on the chance to ride on the rivers in Jasper National Park thinking that rafting is an extreme sport. They have thoughts of extreme sport kayakers going over thundering waterfalls. This is a misconception about rafting in Jasper National Park.
In Jasper, rafting is actually slower paced and skill level doesn’t even matter. Rafting trips range from absolute beginner to intermediate, from slower paced guided raft trips to adventurous rides down splashing rapids.
Several outfitters can get would-be rafters on the water, giving travelers a unique perspective of nature. Rafting offers a full sensory experience: see the mountains, river and forest; smell the water and trees; hear the flowing rapids and splashing of oars; and feel the wetness of cold glacier water.
Easy, leisurely paced raft trips for novices are offered by several rafting outfitters (listed below). Maligne Lake Rafting Adventures Ltd, for example, has chosen a few segments of the Athabasca River for raft trips. These trips are considered family-friendly and ideal for beginners. Still, expect to get a little wet. One of the trips, called the Mile 5 Run, is a 2-hour round trip package. The second, the Heritage Run, is 3 hours round trip. Both are rated as Class II rapids.
The International Scale of River Difficulty defines Class II as:
- Class II: Novice. “Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed.”
Jasper Raft Tours is an another outfitter with a raft trip geared to beginners. Their Athabasca River trip is on “specially designed rafts offer a safe, comfortable ride that any first time rafter will enjoy.” Don’t want to leave any family members back at the hotel? Jasper Raft Tours says their Athabasca River rafting trip is “for everyone from toddlers to seniors.”
A guide paddles and steers the boat. Passengers hold on and enjoy being on the water, watching the surrounding Canadian Rockies scenery.
This video by a Jasper traveler shows a guided raft going down the Athabasca River. It should put out any fears of big rocks, rapids and waterfalls.
Want a faster ride?
Maligne Lake Rafting Adventures also offers Class III white water rafting on either the Fraser or Sunwapta River- choosing the river offering the best conditions that day. Be prepared to get really wet on this trip. According to Maligne Lake Rafting Adventures, the Class III trips “do not require any previous experience and are suited for physically active individuals who weigh 90 lbs (41 kgs) or more and are looking for an exhilarating ride.” There will be plenty of paddling and the current is much stronger.
The International Scale of River Difficulty defines Class III as:
- Class III: Intermediate. “Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims.”
Some of the other outfitters also offer Class III trips.
Expect all of the gear to be provided but wear clothes that can get wet. For the novice rides, bringing a disposable water-proof camera is usually allowed. Most of the outfitters provide transportation from their offices in Jasper village.
It is good to reserve ahead even if only the day before. All of the outfitters are located in Jasper townsite and you can stop in their offices to ask questions and make reservations during a walk around town.
List of Jasper National Park Rafting Outfitters