Thousands gaze in wonder at the Athabasca Falls each year, making this waterfall one of the can’t miss sights for any visit to the Rocky Mountains.
The Athabasca River is the largest river in Jasper National Park, with the Athabasca Glacier as its source and the mighty Fraser River as its end destination. The name Athabasca is taken from the Wood Cree word that means “there are plants one after another”. It is along this river that the Athabasca Falls are located. Athabasca Falls, a Class 5 waterfall (on a scale of 0.0 to 10.0), is not known for its’ height (in fact, the waterfall itself is not very high, standing at 23 m tall), but is known for the force of the falls. The quantity of the water falling down Athabasca Falls into the gorge is huge, making the force of the falls very powerful. What is really interesting about Athabasca Falls is that the colour of the waterfalls change according to the season. As the season changes, so does the amount and type of “rock flour” in the water, which results in the water changing colour (for more information on why the colour changes, see our blog post “How the Lakes in the Rockies Get Their Special Colour”). In the winter, the falls actually freeze, resulting in unique and amazing natural ice formations.
The water in Athabasca Falls cascades over a layer of hard quartzite and softer limestone – as a result of hundreds of years of pressure, some areas of limestone have been carved away leaving an interesting pattern of pits and dips in the surface of the falls. But be careful where you step! There are numerous walking trails so you can explore the area and observation platforms where you can view the Falls up close – be sure to stay within these marked areas. Over the years, several have crossed the barrier to try to get closer to the falls, underestimating the slippery ground, and falling to their deaths. So when you visit, be sure to stay behind the barriers as you enjoy the Falls!
If you want to visit Athabasca Falls, check out our Key West Travel tour packages as they include a stop at this natural wonder!