South to the town of Jasper, Alberta, after a long hike amidst scenic nature and serene sounds, you will find yourself looking at a huge waterfall, with enormous amounts of water gushing out from it at high speed.
The journey to get there might make you feel that the waterfall is hidden in a nook, but once you see it in all its glory, you’ll realize how massive it actually is. You can get easy access to the waterfall from Hwy 93A, west of Icefields Parkway.
Athabasca Falls is a gift of nature, which makes you stop and look at it in mesmerization. There is a meditating charm to it, and even if you hate hiking, this destination will make the journey feel worth it.
It lies within the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. This waterfall is indeed the chief jewel in the crown of the Canadian Rockies.
Facts About The Amazing Athabasca Falls
Here are 12 attractive facts about Athabasca Falls which will make you want to drop everything and go there right this instant:
1. Experience The Icefields Parkway On Your Way To The Athabasca Falls
There are several ways to get to Athabasca Falls. One of the best, most scenic routes to get there is through the Icefield Parkway, which is a culmination of roads running through mountains and connecting Banff and Jasper National Park.
Around 33 km from the town of Jasper, and 200 km from Lake Louise if you’re coming the other way, you’ll find Hwy 93A, west to Icefields Parkway.
Once you are there, you have to find your way to the parking area, a location that is usually crowded with tourists. It is tough to find an empty parking area.
But the parking area is huge and adequate on most days. What follows is a 1km hike. Now, hike in the southwest direction, following the footpath.
Right off the bat, stunning mountains come in view. You’ll also come across dense pine trees, contrasting the blue of the water and sky perfectly.
You will find Lake Athabasca, bubbling through the trail. There are some tricky slopes, canyons, steps, and paths that you need to hike with caution.
2. You Can Do Many Things At Athabasca Falls
There are many platforms and trails around the waterfall for easy access. You can take a short walk or hike your way up the most challenging trail.
The waterfall can be safely viewed and photographed from these. If you’re one of those people who get bored of standing in one spot, don’t worry, Athabasca Falls can keep you occupied.
There are some things to do at, near and around the falls, especially if you’re up for a little adventure.
Firstly, the trail will keep you busy, with a lot of photos and picnic spots. There are also guided tours available, which will keep you informed of the wildlife, nature, and science behind everything if you’re interested.
But make sure you maintain your distance so that the waterfall can be safely viewed and photographed. During the hike, you also get to witness Athabasca Lake, along with a lot of wildlife and plants.
If you look closely, you can spot mosses and plants in the crevices of rocks. If you stick to the trail, you will also find a bridge, which you can cross to witness the waterfall nearby.
For people interested in adventure sports, there is a cross country that begins near the falls area. The Athabasca River also facilitates whitewater rafting, starting at the foot of the waterfalls to Jasper.
Whitewater rafting begins below the falls and heads north to the town of Jasper. Whitewater rafting proceeds downstream the Abasca river.
In the winter, you can also indulge in skiing. If you’re interested in staying near the area and relishing in the serene nature for a few days, you can find accommodation in the Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel, which is closed only in November.
The lake can be safely viewed and photographed from the shore. The shore provides easy access to the view of the lake.
3. The Canyon Offers Unique Rock Formations
The hiking trail involves crossing narrow paths lined by the Canyon. Because of the strong force of the water of the falls over the years, the surface of the Canyon looks whittled away.
The water has eroded the rock walls to create unique designs that are still there. The water’s force has also resulted in the formation of potholes. There are narrow gorges and caves formed by the Canyon, which seem unreal when you stand inside them.
The surface of the Canyon is two-layered, with a hard quartzite on the upper layer, and a softer limestone underneath it. What adds to the richness and rustic beauty of these rocks is that they have been millions of years in the making.
4. Athabasca Falls Are Famous For Their Sheer Force
These falls are included in the list of some of the most robust waterfalls in the Rocky Mountains. The water falling is more abundant in quantity than most waterfalls.
Waterfalls in such large volumes that it appears majestic even during the fall season when there are comparatively low levels of water.
What adds to the mightiness of the water, is that the hard quartzite canyon restricts it.
While the falls are short in height, they are booming and roaring to the eyes and ears. As you are making your way to the falls, you’ll see skirting paths all made by the waterfall’s force in the past. Watch this video to find out the amazing strength of the falls:
5. Athabasca Falls Is Under The Category Of Class 5 Waterfall
Waterfalls are divided into ten categories based on their height and width, depth, volume of water, and average flow, through a logarithmic scale.
Starting from class 5, waterfalls are considered mightier and larger. For instance, Sutherland Falls in New Zealand is a class 5 waterfall.
The Athabasca falls a drop height of 24 meters or 80 ft, and a breadth of 18 meters or 60 ft. This makes it fall under the category of a Class 5 waterfall.
6. The Word Athabasca Has A Special Meaning
The word Athabasca belongs to the Wood Cree language, which is spoken in parts of Canada, particularly in Northern Manitoba and Northern Saskatchewan.
This dialect is rare and is spoken by only a few thousand all over the world. In Wood Cree, the word Athabasca quite literally means that “there are many plants, one after the other.”
This translation is visible in the place surrounding Athabasca falls, because of the lush amounts of flora and fauna. You can spot a lot of beautiful, unique plants in the area if you keep an eye out for it.
7. The Athabasca System Has A Rich History
Take a short walk down the history lane with David Thompson. He was one of the primary map-makers of early Canada, went for a lookout to establish a route for the fur trade, he discovered the Athabasca river.
He followed it and realized that it was the most significant river system in Jasper. In the 1800s, overlanders also spanned this river, which resulted in the construction of a railway and highway, following the river’s route to the park.
Because of the Athabasca river’s rich history, contribution to culture, and tourism attraction, it is now a Canada Heritage River. It earned this title in 1989 and still maintains it.
8. The Athabasca River’s Water Changes Every Season
There is a seasonal change in the Athabasca falls’ water. This is attributed to the type of rock flour that is present in the water in that particular season.
Rock flour, also known as glacial flour, is the finely grained powder form of rock that is caused due to glacial erosion. Since there is changing rock flour every season, it reflects light wavelengths differently.
Now, the water in the Athabasca Falls comes from the Athabasca River; this makes the entire system undergo a water change every season.
Because the water is the river and falls is originating from glaciers, the color is a distinct deep blue.
9. There Is Interesting Wildlife Around The Athabasca Falls
Firstly, tourists are advised to be careful on the Icefields Parkway, which is the route to be taken to reach Athabasca falls, because there have been instances of wildlife spotting in the road.
In the hike, you will spot many birds and animals, all of which contribute to the pristine natural beauty of the area.
For instance, if you are focused, you can see the bird Canyon, as it whizzes over the gorge. An exciting mystery surrounds the fishes found in the falls.
While there are 12 species of fishes at the foot of the falls, there are only one species of fish, called bull trout, at the top of the falls.
10. The Falls Freeze In Winter
You will witness the Athabasca falls freely flowing during the summer. But during the winter, the water freezes. This creates beautiful ice structures and formations.
But even then, it is worth paying a visit, because of the winter sports available like skiing, cross country, and snowshoe hiking.
You can also stay at a lodge nearby, enjoying the snow-clad mountains and paths. The only thing you will be missing out on is the thunderous roaring of the falls, but that can also be a good thing if you’re not fond of the overpowering noise of waterfalls.
11. The Athabasca Falls Are One Of The Top Things To Do In Alberta
There are a number of amazing things to do at Alberta, like visiting the Jasper National Park, seeing Mount Edith, witnessing the beautiful Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.
Still, visiting the Athabasca falls always falls in the list of top 5 things to do in Alberta, on account of it being a tourist delight.
12. The Hike To The Falls Is Kid And Dog Friendly
Are you worried about a short walk with your dog? Or that your baby will get fussy on the way? That won’t be a problem at all! The hike to Athabasca Falls allows you to bring your dogs, as long as they are put on a leash.
And the hike is wholly kid-friendly and can be a great day out for your family.
If you visit Canada, make sure you visit Athabasca Falls on Hwy 93A the Canadian Rockies! Click here to know more about the falls.
Want to know more fun ways to spend time in Alberta? Click here!
The southernmost portion of the Mackenzie River system is formed by the Athabasca River, which is located in northern Alberta, Canada.
The Columbia River rises at the Continental Divide in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, flows through Jasper National Park, where the breathtaking Athabasca Falls are located, and then continues northeast through Alberta to its mouth and delta on Lake Athabasca.
Rapids break up its 765-mile (1,231-km) flow, making navigation above Fort McMurray difficult (a major rail terminus and port serving the Mackenzie District).