View topic - Athabasca bewteen Hinton and Whitecourt recent experience?

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PostPosted: August 4th, 2020, 8:50 am 
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My partner and I are intermediate river trippers interested in running the Hinton-Whitecourt stretch of the Athabasca. Mark's guide suggests an upper limit of 450 cm/s for "good paddling". It's presently running at 600cm/s. Has anyone either recently run this section, or have experience at these flow rates, and able to comment on water and camping conditions? Any guidance greatly appreciated.


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PostPosted: August 7th, 2020, 5:18 am 
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Joined: August 8th, 2016, 10:37 am
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Location: Northern Alberta
JB,

I've paddled the Athabasca many times, most recently the section Jasper to Hinton last June for the inauguration of a new access at Brule and a paddle park in Hinton. Picture below taken at the Hwy 40 bridge.

Right now all rivers are running high in Alberta due to large amount of rainfall this summer and the late snowmelt.
While Mark's Guide is a good indication of when to paddle placid waters, l reached out to a buddy living in Hinton today. His Report :

Bruce I looked at the Athabasca yesterday. It’s running a little high but nothing remotely dangerous. It’s bluish due to the glacier melt with our higher temperatures. Camping. Anywhere, just find a nice spot. With a creek would be nice for drinking water. Near Whitecourt there could be some long jams/ sweepers as the River gets windier.

Sounds like its a go!

Bruce


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PostPosted: August 8th, 2020, 8:25 am 
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Thanks Bruce! Greatly appreciate the advice. Will report back if we find anything unusual: UFO landing sites, teddy bear picnics, etc.

Naturally there now may be a delay for other reasons. Such is life.


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PostPosted: August 18th, 2020, 8:10 am 
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Did get out a week later than planned. Water levels were in the more seasonal 300 cm/sec range rather than the 500-600 range. Took three days and one hour. The one hour being that we didn't want to camp at the Whitecourt boat launch as our ride was scheduled for day four. Water conditions were fun rather than challenging. Pressure waves no more than 0.7 to 1 metre were common enough to keep one happy. Mostly avoidable for those who wish to but not always. The one exception being the truly vicious cross current created by the erosion berms just a 100 metres before the Whitecourt boat launch. It would be very easy indeed to get into trouble there.

The biggest challenge is way finding. I'm pretty good at spotting bridges and sharp 90° corners but my map reading skills drop off dramatically after that. One island looks pretty much like another to me. At times we found ourselves well ahead of the game, sometimes behind. Picking the correct channel is key of course. We only had to step out and drag two or three times. Once we were perched up with a 4 metre drop over the next 100 metres. That was fun as there was a narrow passage with just about enough water and with a 90° turn in the middle. Very cool.

Wow, floods really move things around on the Athabasca, especially in the heavily braided area approaching Whitecourt. The new, not-recommended, channel is now massive and you really have to be on your toes to dodge it. Where the paddling map suggests you stop and scout is now simply gone: trees galore piled on sheer banks and no place to land until you are actually around the corner and fully committed.

The Ministry of Funny Walks seems to be in charge of the few signs we saw. Alarming rather than helpful, "Submerged Hazard 200m Ahead" read one sign. No info on where in the river it might be. We actually stopped and looked closely at that one as it was right under a bridge. Nothing we could see. Surely a keep right, left or middle indiction would be more useful.

A simply beautiful trip otherwise. Cheers!


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PostPosted: August 18th, 2020, 9:00 am 
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Joined: August 8th, 2016, 10:37 am
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Location: Northern Alberta
So glad you got on the river and enjoyed the trip.
Yes, until I paddled mountain rivers i don't realize how much stuff comes down annually- water, trees and everything in between- and how much the water levels change over the season.
What was paddle-able a couple of weeks earlier is now a long drag and straight clear rivers become braided, tree strewn passages.

Always fun when there is a good flow, too!

Bruce


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PostPosted: August 19th, 2020, 7:47 am 
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Joined: May 25th, 2017, 3:02 pm
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Location: Guelph, Ontario
Just paddle the North Saskatchewan R. last week, Nordegg to Rocky Mountain House (my first mountain river). With the current and a tail wind we covered 50 km the first afternoon... but that’s another story. We saw a sign on the N Sask about submerged objects in Rocky. It was right beside the water treatment plant (thus assume it was an intake) and It wasn’t submerged at the flow rate we paddled. I believe it was more intended as a warning for those using Jet Boats on the river.


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