From jauntily rocking in middling waves that splash up a taste of a thrill, to raucously bouncing and shrieking with excitement on a riotous whitewater extravaganza, rafting in southern Alberta offers wet and wild thrills for every desire and body soaking limit.
A favourite whitewater adventure I’ve shared with friends who are keen to try a moderate rafting thrill has been on the Kananaskis River with Canadian Rockies Rafting. They’ll pick you up with their shuttle bus in Banff or Canmore and deliver you to the Kananaskis River that flows where the rolling foothills meet the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies.
Outfitting us in life jackets, helmets and river gear, their professional guides share all we need to know to have fun safely before sliding the boat into the aqua green water. Right away the raft moves with the current as bushes and trees and small shoreline cliffs drift by.
Then with a swooping dip and a rise, the raft slides into the first Class II rapid. Without fail, everyone lets out an excited laugh as the sturdy rubber craft bounces playfully from one wave to the next. With every splash of chilly water, the laughter grows until we’re all grinning from ear to ear.
I’ve also had lots of fun on hot summer days enjoying an exhilarating romp down the Horseshoe Canyon section of the Bow River. As if the spectacular alpine scenery wasn’t thrill enough, the big waves of the Class III and IV rapids really elevate the excitement factor. Watching osprey diving for their dinner from shale cliffs adds true wilderness spice, while anyone keen on getting fully wet can join in on a cliff jump!
Kicking Horse River
For a memorable adventure you can’t help but boast about to your friends, riding the Kicking Horse River with Banff Adventures is the ultimate whitewater escapade. One of Canada’s most scenic rivers, the Kicking Horse was named in 1858 when geologist and explorer James Hector was kicked in the chest by his horse and knocked unconscious. He suddenly came to as his companions were digging his grave.
The stunning scenery on the 90-minute shuttle drive from Canmore to the western boundary of Yoho National Park’s is just a warm up for what you experience on the 20 km (12 mi) river trip. After slipping into supplied gear, listening to the guides’ safety talk and practicing your paddle strokes and commands, you’re on your way.
Like a roller coaster, the ride begins gently before propelling you into rowdy rapids. As you bounce along, the waves grow bigger and your shrieks get louder as your boat nose dives, collides with the surging swell and bursts forcefully through the frothy crest.
Raft, Ride and Relax
While you haven’t really experienced Canada’s Rockies until you’ve been rafting, even frequent fliers like me have wish lists. Next time I’ll join Banff Adventures’ Raft, Ride & Relax package for a full day of Kicking Horse rafting, followed by an evening horseback ride, steak barbecue and finishing up with a soak at the Upper Banff Hot Springs. I’ll have earned the relax part.