View topic - Athabasca/Sunwapta/Maligne River questions?

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PostPosted: May 3rd, 2014, 3:10 pm 

Joined: September 28th, 2008, 10:00 am
Posts: 18
Hi yall!

I am pondering canoeing from as up far as I can the Sunwapta River into the Athabasa River with a take out in Hinton

I saw the river from the highway years back and it looked doable in a open air-bagged WW canoe with a dry-suit.

I would hug the shore and eddy out as much as possible to bail water


Am I dreaming in color?

Is this feasible?

What time of the year would you suggest?

Where would you suggest a put in on the Sunwapta or Athabasca?

Would going down the Maligne river be a better idea?

How many days do you figure it would take me?

Would I have any problems with the Park Service?

Would I need any special permits?

Thanks in advance!

Richard Morin
Montreal Canada

PostPosted: May 4th, 2014, 10:16 am 
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Joined: December 20th, 2003, 9:27 am
Posts: 1006
Hi, Kanot,
I was hoping a real whitewater paddler would respond but since no one did, I will tell you what I can.
The Sunwapta: starts off at the Columbia Icefields right beside the highway. It might be paddle-able at some water levels from there. I have paddled it from above Beauty Creek Hostel down to a bit below the hostel. Very braided but easy paddling. I have paddled it from below the Jonas Slide for a few kilometers to where the rafters have access. We walked around a difficult (for us) section near the beginning and then were able to paddle the rest. FYI, just above where we put in, the slide has created a dam on the Sunwapta and there is what appears to be a cascade which some expert paddlers might consider. I understand that the reach below where we pulled out is more difficult and then there is Sunwapta Falls. Not too far below Sunwapta Falls, the river flows into the Athabasca River.
I have not paddled this section of the Athabasca. My understanding is that it is Class 3. Then there is Athabasca Falls. Below the falls there is a canyon section that canoes run, usually covered or with full floatation. At Becker's Bungalows and around by Wapati Campground is another difficult section (3-3+?). After Old Fort Point the river flattens out and it is easy paddling almost to Hinton. Above Hinton there are some medium waves.
Both the Sunwapta and the Athabasca are glacier fed so a dry suit is a good choice. Generally, as the weather gets hotter, the rivers go up but they are never warm. Wet weather can cause the rivers to rise also. Time of year - I don't really know but I would guess that August/September would be good but I would recommend getting other opinions.
The Maligne River:
This is interesting. From Maligne Lake to Medicine Lake the river is difficult (Class ??). I have seen kayakers and rafters running it in the past. There was a closure on the river for Harlequin Duck nesting but I'm not sure if that is still in effect or not. At Medicine Lake, much of the water goes underground and reappears at various places along Maligne Canyon. I don't think the river is paddle-able from Medicine Lake to Maligne Canyon. The canyon is not paddle-able. It is a long portage from Medicine Lake to below Maligne Canyon - a number of kilometers - I can't recall for sure but I would say at least 10+ kilometers. The river is paddle-able below the canyon but it is whitewater (Class ??). It is only a few kilometers at most from below the canyon to the Athabasca River.
I don't think you need a permit for the Athabasca or Sunwapta. I'm not sure about the Maligne between Maligne Lake and Medicine Lake.
I hope this helps but please find other sources of information. I am not a whitewater paddler so keep that in mind when reading this.

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