Rivers of the Alberta foothills

The Rocky Mountain Parks (Banff and Jasper) are a famous destination in Alberta, but if you are looking for something a little different and out of the way, there are some real gems in the foothills.  The strong structural controls from the tilted sedimentary layers makes for some absolutely incredible rivers and waterfalls draining the foothills.  Resistant layers of rock can impose ‘knickpoints’ on rivers and cause waterfalls and steps in the bed, and the foothills of Alberta are rife with wonderful examples. Living on the West Coast now with its metamorphic rocks (hey, no value judgments), I really notice what a different quality the rivers in Alberta take on from their sedimentary origin.  The many provincial parks in the foothills get overshadowed by their mountainous neighbours, but the rivers and waterfalls there are second to none.

I suggest driving Highway  11 from Saskatchewan River Crossing to Nordegg and then South down the Forestry Trunk Road to do a tour of some truly incredible rivers and waterfalls.  The campgrounds and roads are also less busy than the Mountain Parks, and if you are interested in hiking you can really lose yourself in the protected areas along the David Thompson.


Crescent Falls on the Bighorn River.  Downstream of here there is a pretty impressive gorge as well – I just didn’t have the skills to get a decent picture of it.


Incredible lithological controls on the Siffleur River in the Kootenay Plains Provincial Recreation Area.  Really one of the most incredible examples I have ever seen! Run, don’t walk to check it out!

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Ram Falls on the Ram River.  There is a virtually empty campground here all the time.  I hear there are trout too, although I can’t testify first hand (and not for lack of trying).  Ram Falls looks similar to Crescent Falls above, but they are in completely different areas.  They just share a formative process.


Ram River south of the falls.  Notice how there is a knickpoint that cuts across the channel at the top and the bottom of the tilted resistant sedimentary layer.  Wowser!


One thought on “Rivers of the Alberta foothills

  1. These are stunning rivers, and great photos. Great that they are so accessible as well. Easy uncrowded hikes to incredible views. Glad you identified some of the geologic processes.

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