CAUTION: The terrain is not difficult (paved walkways and stairs), but please stay on the marked trails and walkways. The falls are dangerous; the mist from the waterfalls can create very slippery conditions in any season.
The Athabasca Falls are part of the Athabasca River, a major Canadian river system with its headwaters located about 70km south at the Columbia Icefield. The Columbia Icefield is renowned for containing a hydrological apex or triple continental divide, where the waters flow to the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The Athabasca River, which flows to the Arctic Ocean, starts from Columbia Glacier which is on the Northwest side of the Columbia Icefield.
The Athabasca River flows for 1,538 km through central and northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories, passing through the towns of Jasper, Hinton, Whitecourt, Athabasca and Fort McMurray. Its waters flow into Lake Athabasca, down the Slave River into Great Slave Lake, and ultimately through the Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean. Historically, this area was used for hunting and fishing by the Sekani, Shuswap, Kootenay, Salish, Stoney and Cree tribes, and the upper valley of the Athabasca River played a major role in the fur trade in the 1800s. The section of the river located within Jasper National Park has been nominated as a Canadian Heritage River for natural beauty and historical significance.
The Athabasca Falls are a class 5 cascade waterfall, with a drop of 23m and a width of 18m. While not the tallest or the largest waterfalls in the Rockies, they are renowned for their aggressiveness and power, as well as their impact on the landscape. The cap-rock of the falls is composed of hard gog quartzite, which has allowed the falls to carve out a dramatic gorge and a number of potholes from the softer limestone and sandstone. The Falls have been a popular attraction for over a century; before the completion of the Icefields Parkway in 1940, visitors came via horseback to see the spectacular display.
In order to log this cache please email the cache owner the answers to the following questions, and post a photo of yourself and/or your GPSr and the falls in the background. All the answers can be found on the signs along the walkways, without going down into the canyon itself.
1) How much colder can the canyon be relative to the observation area?
2) Approximately how much of the rock continues to be eroded every year?
3) What colour was the river water when you were there? What caused this colour to appear?
4) Other than the water, what material is needed to create the potholes?
5) Remember to post your photo!