Big Whirlpool and Whirlpool Ridge Hike
1 to 3 hours / 5K return
Trailhead: Located next to the David Thompson
A 4.5 hour
3.5 hours from Calgary.
If you're traveling from
the route through the National Parks
is shorter than heading through
House. Park at the roadside pullout
on the west side of the Big Whirlpool.
The Big Whirlpool is a short
walk down to the North Saskatchewan
River. I recommend hiking up
Whirlpool Ridge first then down to
the Big Whirlpool after. To
gain the ridge cross the highway and
work your way straight up the rocky spine
until you reach the crest of a
saddle. Views of the Big
Whirlpool and the North Saskatchewan
River valley are spectacular. There are several trail
braids along the way
created by a large
population of Mountain Sheep. You'll also find
are very unusual coniferous trees with branches that you can bend and twist like
a rope, this is how they survive the gale force winds that frequently blow
across this ridge. Some of the the oldest trees in Alberta were recorded here.
Several may be as old as 1000 years. On your way back continue past your parked
car down towards the Big Whirlpool on the North Saskatchewan River. The
Whirlpool is huge and runs deep. It will not fit in a wide angle lens while
standing near the shore. If you're planning to float it make sure you stop
upstream first to have a good look at things before entering the Whirlpool.
Depending on the time of year and the rivers flow rate it can change from a slow
flat rotation of water to a fast enormous slightly inclined funnel.
Studies have shown that
fish can be found on both sides of the Whirlpool but not in the Whirlpool
itself. That alone is a good indicator of the turbulence under what looks like a
gentle rotating surface. I would love to float this stretch of the North
Saskatchewan River but I'm not sure if two paddlers are strong enough to escape
the wide rotation of the whirlpool. The Government of Canada has placed a water
management research station and cable trolley near the Whirlpool. There are
several hiking trails located in this area.
Local campgrounds include
Two O'clock Creek and
Crescent Falls Campground. Trailheads to
Alexandra's Henry's Trail,
Icefalls Two O'clock Creek,
bolted to a rock face
Two O'clock Ridge,
located near here.
You are in bear country.