Sunday, November 17, 2013

Athabasca Falls – Twenty Miles to Jasper Alberta

We continued north on Highway 93 in Jasper National Park… This park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, covering 4,200 square miles.  The park includes the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls and mountains. Wildlife in the park includes elk, caribou, moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, black bears, coyotes, beavers, Rocky Mountain pikas, hoary marmots, grey wolves, mountain lions, and wolverines.

This is the first of many photos we took of the Athabasca Falls on the upper Athabasca River.  This river flows from the Columbia Glacier of the Columbia Icefield.  In Woods Cree, the word ‘aðapaskāw’ means "where there are plants one after another".  This is probably a reference to the spotty vegetation along the river.

Athabasca Falls is located about 20 miles upstream from the town of Jasper.  It is right off the Icefields Parkway. (Turn off Hwy. 93 to Hwy. 93A) Even though the day was a bit gray, there were plenty of tourists gawking at the falls and taking photos.

The river 'falls' over a layer of hard quartzite and through the softer limestone below.  As a result, the river has carved a short but scenic gorge that includes a number of whirlpools and potholes.

I managed to take a couple of photos this time…although Laurie took most of them as usual… This is a Class 5 waterfall, with a drop of 80 feet and a width of 60 feet.

Athabasca Falls can be easily and safely photographed from various walkways, viewing platforms and a bridge, as well as from walking trails around the falls. Access is from the nearby parking lot, which leads off Highway 93A, just northeast of the falls.

If you’d like to view a video of the falls that was made in late August of this year, you can go to The video is good…but I found the accompanying music a bit annoying…

The Athabasca River itself flows 765 miles before draining into the Peace-Athabasca Delta near Lake Athabasca south of Fort Chipewyan.  From there, its waters flow north as Rivière des Rochers, which joins the Peace River to form the Slave River.  In turn the Slave River empties into Great Slave Lake and that lake discharges its waters through the Mackenzie River system into the Arctic Ocean.

The Athabasca River was designated a ‘Canadian Heritage River’ for its importance to the fur trade and its relationship to the construction of railways and roads opening up the Canadian West…as well as for its natural beauty.

North of Athabasca Falls, I decided to follow Highway 93A instead of Highway 93, which is the main road… Hwy. 93A stays closer the mountains to the west and it offered a couple of side trips that couldn’t be accessed from the main road.  Highway 93A starts right at Athabasca Falls…just 20 miles south of Jasper Alberta Canada.   

We drove up the Mt. Edith Cavell Road, taking occasional photos.  That road stretches quite a distance up toward the peak of Mt. Edith Cavell. (The peak is 11,033 feet high) The mountain was named in 1916 for Edith Cavell, an English nurse who was executed by the Germans during World War I for having helped allied soldiers escape from occupied Belgium to the Netherlands.

At the parking lot at the end of the road, Laurie took this photo of a friendly Mountain Jay who was looking for a handout… From the parking lot, one can hike up the mountain to Cavell Meadows and from there the Angel Glacier can be seen overhanging the valley.  At this altitude, we opted out of the 4.8 mile round trip hike which involves another quarter mile increase in altitude.
The Gray Jay known as the Canada Jay or Whiskey Jack, is a member of the crow and jay family.  The Gray Jay is a native bird found ranging from northern Alaska east to Newfoundland and Labrador and south to northern California, Idaho, Utah, east-central Arizona, north-central New Mexico, central Colorado, and southwestern South Dakota.  These birds cache thousands of food items every day during the summer for use the following winter.

This is Cavell Lake… It’s fed by the glacier and it drains into the Astoria River, which in turn feeds into the Athabasca River.

We also drove on up another road that led to the Marmot Basin Ski area.  Laurie took this photo from along the road… This ski area is only 20 minutes south of Jasper.  FYI…for those who actually enjoy cold weather and like to ski, Marmot Basin operates 86 named runs on 3,000 vertical feet of drop, and it has a lift capacity of close to 12,000 skiers per hour on eight lifts.

I can tell you that nothing at all is happening at the ski area in the summer!  We didn’t even glimpse any marmots so I ‘borrowed’ a photo of one from the Internet.  Bummer!  We love watching marmots.  In the summer time, they are very busy critters indeed... To learn more about marmots, just go to 
Next stop on our trip…a 2 night stop in the town of Jasper Alberta!
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 


  1. Magnificent shots guys. I especially like the gorge.

  2. Oh how I'd love to see that waterfall. Hubby and I are waterfall---lovers for sure!!!! We have photographed over 600 different waterfalls... Crazy!!!! But --that one is AWESOME... Wow!!!!! I wanna go there!!!!


  3. My Goodness Dave!! The drop looks sooooo steep!!! I don't blame you and Laurie for not going another 1/4 of a mile higher in altitude!
    The country is beautiful though.
    Blessings to you and Laurie, Catherine

  4. Siimply gorgeous pictures David! I love waterfalls, the scenery is spectacular!