Rafting in Alberta
Rafting in Alberta came about through the creation of clubs for recreational paddlers in the late 1960’s. Rafting caught on quickly with the interest they generated. Initially, these clubs were mainly composed of and for canoeists. The traditional vessel for paddling first used in the Fur Trade.
The enthusiasm for canoeing that emerged in the 1960s grew even more in the 1970s. It was during this decade that the organizational foundations of the sport began. The sport and business of white water paddling and Rafting in Alberta were developed.
The Alberta Whitewater Association was by far the most active of the groups in the 1970s. It was originally formed in 1971 to coordinate the 1972 National Slalom and Wildwater Races on the Upper Red Deer River. This was the first paddling competition in Alberta. The rapids that the Canadian National Kayaking Championships were held on still retain the name “The Nationals” 44 years later.
The excitement of national races got many new members interested in whitewater paddling. In 1974, a provincial championship series began. Volunteers from the Association would travel around the province. Throughout the summer,they set up race courses on rivers. This system brought whitewater paddling and rafting in Alberta to all corners of the province.
Commercial Rafting in Alberta
Rafting started many years ago in the states – probably, (lol) with Huck Finn. Rafting in Alberta started on the Red Deer in 1971 by Joe Pacenka. Joe was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia who missed his passion for paddling in Europe. One of his very early paying guests, Leslie Munns, told me about one of her day trips with Joe and paying $7 for the day of rafting. Things have really changed since then.
Rafting in Alberta is now a full-fledged industry that supports many companies and guides in Alberta.