It could be that I live under a rock. Adventure is typically my middle name. I am the person seeking cliffs to swoop off with paragliders and  jungle canopies to zip line over. I can sniff out adrenaline-laced opportunities around the world. Apparently I am far less adept close at home in Canada. Last summer we rafted on the Bow River in Calgary. I didn’t know about that either even though it is literally in our backyard. Ryan our rafting guide stated the obvious. “If you write about travel and adventure of course you know about our white water rafting near Calgary.”

Mukwah rafting whitewater Alberta Canada


Pretending to look like I have half a wit I smile, give an ever so slight nod and remain silent.

I have no clue what he is talking about.

“You’ll have to come out next spring and check out the Class IV rapids on the Upper Red Deer River. You’ve heard of Sundre white water rafting right?”

I glance desperately toward Hubby hoping he may launch into everything we know about Alberta white water rafting. By his smiling I-don’t-have-the-slightest-idea silent response we are a clearly a pair of Alberta white water boneheads.

“Oh look there is the Calgary Tower!” My enthusiastic landmark identification an attempt to change the conversation.

Mukwah Rafting Upper Red Deer River

Rafting the upper Red Deer River -Photo credit Mukwah Rafting Tours

White Water Rafting in Alberta

Often we are asked for recommendations for our best trip ever. Almost always we suggest the white water rafting Grand Canyon tour we did more than a decade ago. The glorious scenery, the thrill of the rapids, the complete wilderness; the rafting trip was a true travel gem.

However, to be completely truthful, the Grand Canyon white water rafting trip was very expensive. The rafting gear list required multiple trips to outdoor sports stores. That may be the ring of the cash register still echoing in my ears.

The logistics of arrangements to get to and from the whitewater rafting extravaganza, albeit a trip of a lifetime, made even this travel addict’s head spin.

Mukwah white water rafting

White water rafting action with Mukwah rafting tours

So how is it I could love white water rafting and not know about some of the best white water rafting in Alberta?  Let’s see an adventure travel writer who doesn’t know what adventures are in the backyard. I am embarrassed to say I have no explanation. Other than possibly living under a rock.

Mukwah White Water Rafting Near Calgary

Mukwah, the Ojibway word for bear, is seen as the protector spirit for Indigenous peoples.  Since 1982 Mukwah rafting prides itself on honouring the tradition of their namesake, ensuring safety for each person who chooses this rafting Alberta experience.

Mukwah rafting Sundre base camp

Getting geared up at Mukwah base camp and the white water safety talk

A certified whitewater rafting guide accompanies each raft. Mukwah supplies a wet suit (they gave me two to be sure I wouldn’t get cold), life jacket, fleece jacket, paddling jacket, neoprene boots and gloves. Non swimmers are welcome as well as those with mobility challenges.

What no gear to pack? No logistics to puzzle over? Just river rafting in true Canadian wilderness. The peacefulness only disrupted by the squeals of delight. I confess that would be me doing the squealing.

Arriving to the Mukwah base we are struck by the relaxed atmosphere. Some of our fellow rafters are checking into the campground and we are encouraged to have a look around until lunch is served.

Mukwah rafting base camp

Exploring Mukwah rafting base camp before lunch

Go for a walk by the river? Lunch before rafting? No busloads of people being herded like cattle into lines? Just soaking in the beauty of being nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains of Alberta.

Is the Upper Red Deer River near Red Deer?

When we mention we are going to be rafting the Red Deer River to friends they respond with, ” I didn’t know Red Deer had rafting or rapids.” To be clear you are not driving to the city of Red Deer, which lies north of Calgary and south of Edmonton.

Map to Mukwah Rafting from Calgary

Map to Mukwah Rafting from Calgary

From Calgary the trip to the white water river rafting is approximately 2 hours. You can find full driving instructions here.

Tips for Mukwa White Water Rafting Trip

White water rafting trips can be booked from the May long weekend to the September long weekend. Children ages 12 and up are welcome any time. Ages 6 to 11 are discouraged from participating during the high water season in spring.

You don’t need to be a thrill seeker. Yes we are self admitted adrenaline junkies. Doing the four hour white water rafting tour full of rapids with names like Hidden Ledge, Staircase and Boulder Garden, the whitewater of spring season certainly gave us our fill of adventure. If you prefer more of a floating river experience you can look at the options here.

Bring a waterproof camera only. You will get wet and you will also be busy paddling on the raft. I used a small carabiner to clip the camera to my life jacket. Dave wore a GoPro on his helmet. Some of the Mukwah helmets come equipped with a GoPro mount. We suggest to ask the Mukwah staff for a helmet with a mount as soon as you arrive.

Plan to take your time on the drive to Mukwah base camp.  The road winds through pick-your-jaw-off-the-floor wilderness scenery. Portions of the road are not paved.

There is no cellular service or WiFi at the Mukwah base camp or nearby. Plan to unplug and find the joy of connecting with nature.

The optional cliff jump

Mukwah rafting cliff jump

Cliff jumping with Mukwah Rafting Tours

Approximately mid trip the rafts pull to the side of the river for a break from the action. With the supervision of guides rafters can choose to jump off of a cliff. A totally optional experience.

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Have you tried white water rafting? Now that we know one of the best places to go rafting in Canada we’ll be expecting your visit. It’s in our backyard it turns out.


We were guests of Mukwa Rafting Tours. All squeals and opinions are our own.