Athabasca River Attractions
The Athabasca River (Indian for "where reeds grow") rises in the Rocky Mountains near the Columbia Icefield at about 2200 m (7220 ft) above sea level. It runs through Jasper National Park, plunges down on to a shelf some 150 km (90 mi.) above the Grand Rapids and after a further 1225 km (760 mi.) flows into Lake Athabaska in the North-east of Alberta; this lake covers an area of some 8000 sq. km 3100 sq. mi.) and is 320 km (200 mi.) long and up to 60 m (200 ft) deep. Above it, where the Peace River and Stone River also enter the lake, stands Fort Chipewyan, built in 1788 and one of the oldest fur-trading posts in the whole of Canada.Along the Athabasca, between the settlement of the same name and the town of Fort McMurray, rich deposits of crude oil and oil-sands were discovered and eventually exploited at great expense.The Athabasca was an important trade route in the past, used to transport not only furs but also seed and corn.The Athabasca River, over 1200 km (745 mi.) in length, is one of the few rivers in North America to remain clean and it therefore attracts anglers and canoeists in particular.
The rural township of Athabasca lies some 150 km (90 mi.) north of Edmonton. It is home to Athabasca University. Known until 1926 as Athabasca's Landing, it was the main trading center for the Hudson's Bay Company in northern Canada. The Athabasca, most of which is navigable, offered good access upstream via Little Slave Lake to the Peace River region, and downstream by way of Fort McMurray to the Mackenzie River and thence to Alaska. In 1887 the first steamship to be built here was launched. In 1912 the railroad ceased transporting freight along the troublesome 150 km (90 mi.) long Athabasca Landing Trail from Fort Edmonton. For more than 40 years - until the Northern Alberta Railroad to Waterways and Fort McMurray was completed - steamships on the river were the very life-blood of the town.Today the townscape has a number of corn warehouses so typical of the Canadian prairies. Athabasca is also a favorite point from which to set out on tours and excursions into the largely undeveloped forest and lake regions of Northern Alberta.