Rafting Athabasca River

You know how glaciers are comprised of ice? And how cold ice is? The Athabasca River is glacier-fed and as cold as ice.

Athabasca River, Alberta, Canada

The glacier-fed Athabasca River in Alberta, Canada

The Sevylor Four-Man Raft

In 1986, as Mark and I rambled around the U.S. and Canada in our small Chinook, we would stop at beautiful places, and sometimes we’d spend the day hiking. When we were in Oregon we discovered rafting on the McKenzie River and enjoyed it so much, we went into a local K-Mart and purchased a “four-man” Sevylor raft. When they say four, I think they really mean two adults. The folded raft fit neatly into the shower stall of the Chinook along with some other sundries. We never used the shower because the water would have been too cold; we’d stop at RV parks and shower for 50 cents or a dollar.

kern river rafting Athabasca River Rafting

The Sevylor four-person raft took us down the Athabasca without a hitch, 1986

Our Rafting Adventures

That raft ended up paying for itself by the sheer number of adventures we took aboard her. We used her to go fishing on Siltcoos Lake in Oregon, and on a lagoon near Cascade Head, Oregon. We must have had 30 rides up on this white-watery stretch of the Yukon River in Whitehorse, Canada with some of the locals who had a truck. Three or four of us would jump on the raft, and go blazing through the white water, and then down the river half a mile where we’d pile everybody and the raft back into the truck, and drive back to the “put-in” spot, and do it all over again. Apparently (surprise, surprise), we were the first people brave (or foolish) enough to do it. Pioneers!

Athabasca River

When we reached Saskatchewan, Canada, home of the gorgeous surroundings of Jasper, we decided we’d take a spin on the Athabasca River. So we left our Chinook parked at the spot where we wanted to land, then hitchhiked with the raft to the spot where we wanted to put in. Everybody in Canada has a truck, ya know.

Athabasca RiverIf you have not been rafting before, you should try it before you leave this Earth. It’s so much fun. The water of the Athabasca was furiously cold, as mentioned before, and anybody who took a dip in it for too long could suffer and perhaps even die with hypothermia.

But still we forged on, along with a bottle of BV cabernet. It was a very Lewis and Clark thing to do, as we had never been on this river before. There was nobody to take our hand and guide us. This was pure adrenaline adventure. At one point the river split and we decided to go left, hoping it wouldn’t be the side that led to a large waterfall drop or something.

Taking the Plunge

Then at one point Mark started shaking our little raft. He can really be an imp at times, and I remember that the spot where I plunged into the river was relatively shallow. Brrrrrrrrrrr! If that hadn’t happened, it wouldn’t have made for such a great adventure (and Mark knew it.)

All too soon we reached the spot where our camper was parked. We pulled out the raft, dried it off, stowed it into our camper, and then headed to Sunwapta Lodge for a delicious gourmet dinner. I can still remember the roasted garlic with sourdough bread.

Athabasca River Bank

Patty reclining on the bank of the Athabasca River

“Retire Now, Work Later”

We were in our late 20’s at the time, and many times people we encountered told us, “You’re doing the right thing; retire now, work later.”

They were right. Too many people wait until they “retire” to go on adventures and then never make it. The previous owner of our Chinook had wanted to go on a road trip when he retired. But he had a heart attack and never did. Instead, he had to sell his dream to a young, intrepid couple.

Don’t wait too long to make your dreams come true. Now is the only time you have.


Patty Mooney is a VP, Video Producer, Sound Technician, Teleprompter Operator and Video Editor at San Diego’s award-winning video production company, Crystal Pyramid Productions.