Author: Debbie Olsen

Debbie is a writer, researcher, traveller, mom, wife, foodie, gardener, housekeeper, photographer, and occasional hormone-crazed maniac. She has contributed to eight Fodor’s guide books about Alberta and writes regular columns for the Calgary Herald and the Red Deer Advocate.


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Only those who want to get really wet should sit at the front of the boat when you are whitewater rafting in the Canadian Rockies. Sitting in the front of the raft was my idea, going on the rafting trip was my friend Elizabeth’s. During a girls’ getaway weekend in Jasper National Park, she mentioned she had always wanted to try whitewater rafting. I had done it before and was eager to go again, knowing how much fun it is. I just didn’t remember the part about sitting in the front.

Outstanding Scenery

The first part of our trip had been more of a scenic float than a wild water ride. In Jasper, you can choose between the Athabasca, Sunwapta or the Fraser Rivers and we had chosen the tamer two-hour round trip on the Athabasca River, which the brochure said was an excellent introduction to whitewater rafting – and suitable for six-year-olds to seniors.

The fact that the guides are certified professionals increased everyone’s comfort level. Enough so that we were all enthralled by the scenery that surrounded us. I couldn’t help thinking that everyone should see the park the way the early fur traders did. I wonder if they ever felt a sense of awe as they gazed at the snow-capped mountain peaks, deep canyons and thick pine forests of the Canadian Rockies.

Hold on Tight and Dig In

Our guide warned us to brace ourselves and dig in our paddles and as we approached our first set of rapids, I took that advice to heart. I wrapped my fingers around the rope along the sides of the raft and prepared for impact. The raft jumped upwards and then downwards and water was splashing everywhere. In that moment all thoughts of scenery watching were gone. I worried a little that Elizabeth might fall out of the boat, but this was an every-woman-for-herself situation and let’s face it – of the two of us, I’m the painfully uncoordinated one.

When we came out the other side of the rapids, she was laughing uncontrollably. Apparently certain individuals had made funny faces during the intense whitewater moments. I think the part where I got hit with a big wave of water and attempted to plug my nose with my free hand did her in.

The rest of our raft tour pretty much continued on the same way – minus the nose plugging. We’d have a few minutes of scenic floating followed by several wild minutes bouncing over rapids. It was just the right amount of excitement and no one fell out of the boat on our trip. I watched a fellow on another raft fall overboard, but I’m pretty sure he meant to do it. He had a big grin on his face when they pulled him out of the water.

We were all ginning when we pulled into shore at the end of our adventure – Elizabeth most of all. It’s always good to cross something off your bucket list, but somehow I suspect our little rafting adventure won’t be her last.

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  • White-Water Rafting
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