Places to Go Guided Whitewater Rafting in Alberta

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Credit: Wild Blue Yonder, Grande Cache

The province of Alberta is full of opportunities to hop onto a body of water or a river, so the fact that there is an amazing number of places to enjoy some rafting is not a surprise. The river systems that run throughout the province offer rafters of all abilities chances to get out and enjoy some white waters, or simply do some floating.

 

With some of the best rafting in Canada, Alberta is the perfect destination to get into the sport. No matter what you choose, be aware of the dangers if you are rafting on your own. Do your research, get a map, carry the proper equipment and have the right experience. If you are not an experienced rafter, or even if you are but want to try a new route, it’s better to enjoy the water with a qualified and experienced company.

The Bow River and Horseshoe Canyon

The Bow River runs through the magnificent Rockies down through Calgary and beyond, making it a perfect river to experience in a variety of areas. Within Calgary, of course, you can float on the Bow without putting in much effort, but if you want a little more adventure and some white waters, take a rafting trip through the part of the river that runs through Banff National Park. You will hit Class III and IV rapids and a whole lot of beauty, not to mention wildlife and birdlife. One of the highlights of this trip is being able to jump into the glacial river waters!

This is a popular rafting trip out and there are many companies that provide services, such as Canadian Rockies Rafting, or White Wolf Rafting.

Companies Offering Guided Whitewater Rafting at Bow River and Horseshoe Canyon:

 

Highwood River

Located in Kananaskis, this tributary eventually meets up with the Bow River and offers an experience of Class III and IV rapids. Providing good action for both beginner and intermediate rafters, the river winds its way through shale canyons and beautiful scenery. With only being a short hour and a half from Calgary, this is a perfect day trip for those who are wanting an experience but can’t get out camping, or book with the company to use their private camping area for a multi-day adventure.

Guided Whitewater Rafting Offered by:

 

Kananaskis River

The Kananaskis River runs through, well, Kananaskis. This is a fantastic starting rafting adventure for families and those who don’t have any experience on the water at all and want a bit of a calmer ride. With the incredible views of the nearby Rocky Mountains, Kananaskis River offers white water rafters a Class II and III experience. With the gentler flow of this river, there is ample opportunities to enjoy the scenery and keep a watch out for wildlife as well. You can raft here well into the fall as well, not just in early summer months. There are quite a few companies that offer tours here, mostly located in Canmore or Banff, such as Chinook Rafting, Hydra River Guides, and Kananaskis Whitewater Rafting.


Guided Whitewater Rafting Offered by:

 

The Bow River from Canmore

More of a float than a white-water adventure, you can easily raft down this river from Canmore, enjoying the phenomenal mountain views and keeping an eye out for the local wildlife, such as bears, elk, deer, beavers and birdlife such as eagles and osprey. Perfect for families with smaller children or those who just want to get their feet wet!

Guided Rafting Offered by:

 

Kicking Horse River

One of the most renowned rivers for white water rafting in the area, if you are looking for a wild ride near Banff, this is it.

The Kicking Horse River is in B.C. but most companies from Banff offer this incredible adventure as a day trip, since it is so close.

 

Tucked right into the mountains, with shale canyons to provide rapids and combined with wide-open areas to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery and wildlife, this river offers a perfect mixture of excitement and relaxation. Don’t be fooled though, this is a Class II to IV+ river and the most famous rapids in the area, the mile-long “Portage” and “Shotgun” rapids are full of continuous, fast-paced white water. This section is Class IV to IV+, and is a true heart-racing adventure.

Guided Whitewater Rafting Offered by:

Golden is located 90 minutes drive from Banff or ~ 3 hours from Calgary.

Athabasca River Mile 5 and Athabasca Falls

If you are heading off to Jasper National Park to explore the area and want to try something special for the first time, the Athabasca River is a must-do.

Not as well known as the rivers in the Banff area, Jasper still has a lot to offer those who want an experience on the water, perhaps with a more remote feel. Not to mention the fact that you will be travelling one of the most historically significant rivers in the area.

The Mile 5 area of the Athabasca River is a calm place to start your rafting life, as there are plenty of places to just sit back and watch the gorgeous scene passing by along the stretch of Class I waters. You are likely to see wildlife and lots of birdlife here as well. A perfect soft adventure for all ages. A second section of the river starts just at the base of Athabasca Falls and continues through some Class II rapids into the Athabasca River Valley.

Check out Jasper Raft Tours, Jasper Rafting Adventures or Maligne Adventures for the easier Mile 5 route.

Jasper Rafting Adventures and Maligne Adventures also offer the more slightly more challenging Athabasca Falls route.

Guided Whitewater Rafting Offered by:

Sunwapta River

Another adventure offered by Jasper Rafting Adventure, as well as Maligne Adventures, this slightly more challenging river will provide rafters with a Class II and III experience. The excitement of the rapids combined with the fantastic views of the area, including the Endless Chain mountain range, give you an excellent step up in experience. In fact, ‘Sunwapta’ is the Stoney Indian term for ‘turbulent river,’ and once you do it, you will see why. High waters are usually mid-June to late July, which provide the best experience. These are the only Class III river rapids within Jasper National Park.

Guided Whitewater Rafting Offered by:

 

The Upper Red Deer River

Just over an hour away from Red Deer, you will find a unique opportunity to hop on the upper Red Deer River for a rafting experience amid some breathtaking scenery. With rapids ranging from Class II to IV, there is something for every level. Rafting companies such as Mukwah Tours, and Hunter Valley Adventures offer opportunities for half day, full day and multi-day journeys with fantastic guides and all the quality equipment you need.

Guided Whitewater Rafting Offered by:

Grande Cache Area

One of the most extreme rafting trips in the province, this out-of-the way destination is perfect for those who are looking for something a bit more wild and wet.

 

 

Grande Cache is considered one of the best wilderness destinations in Alberta. Those with little experience who want to ride, can choose Class I/II can enjoy Smoky River, while those who want a bit more adventure can raft on Class II/III on Sulphur or Muskeg River, Class III/IV on the Kakwa River; or Class IV/V on Sheep Creek.

 

Guided Whitewater Rafting Offered by:

South Ram River

This is more of an expedition than a tour, because the opportunity is to spend three or four days on this challenging river. Of course, you are surrounded by absolutely stunning scenery, and the chance to see wildlife is great. Campouts are in unique spots and everything you need is included. This odyssey will take you through the canyons and through waterfalls. Rappels, fishing and more are all included in this fantastic trip through Class II, III, IV and V rapids. You don’t necessarily need any experience but certainly need some adventurous spirit and a good fitness level.

Guided Whitewater Rafting Offered by:

St. Mary’s River

Located in the southern part of the province, the lower part St. Mary’s River is classified as an area for “river running” and has amazing Class III and IV rapids, and the upper part of the river has some great Class II rapids for everyone to enjoy. This part of the river is perfect for families with small children or beginners who would like to try rafting for the first time. If you are heading out on your own to do this river, make sure you do your research before putting in. The run into Kimball and Highway #501 provides some good intermediate white-water rapids. Below Highway #501 is a pleasant, fast river paddle through scenic cottonwood flats and open southern Alberta rangelands.

You can also book your adventure with Incept Adventure Co.

 

Guided Whitewater Rafting Offered by:

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