Athabasca Falls © Adam Zier-Vogel
The 23-metre Athabasca Falls is not very high by Canadian Rockies standards, but the size of the river makes it one of the most powerful falls to be found in the mountain national parks. Pouring over a layer of hard quartzite, the falls have cut into the softer limestone beneath, carving intricate features, including potholes and a short canyon.
Flowing from the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, the Athabasca River is the largest river system in Jasper. In 1810, David Thompson, Canada's premier map-maker and explorer, plied the Athabasca in search of a viable fur trade route to the Pacific Ocean. Discovering Athabasca Pass in early January 1811, David Thompson's route helped establish Canada as a country that spans the North American continent.
In 1862, the Overlanders traveled along the Athabasca River headed for the Cariboo Goldrush, followed 30 years later by two national railways. Today one railway and a transcontinental highway follow parts of the river through the park. Recognized for its historical, natural and recreational values, the Athabasca was designated a Canadian heritage river in 1989.
CAUTION - Mist from the falls covers surrounding rocks with a thin, slippery film of water. For your own safety, do not cross the railings.