The Mighty Maligne Valley

The Maligne Valley is famous around the globe for its lakes, peaks, rivers, canyons, and for an abundance of natural wildlife. Maligne Lake - an epic Rocky Mountain lake protected by towering mountain ranges on all sides - is considered one of the crown jewels of Jasper National Park. The water which flows out of Maligne Lake ends up at another iconic Jasper location: the Maligne Canyon. In the summer, visitors flock to Maligne canyon to witness crashing waterfalls, breathtaking vistas, and fossils in the deepest accessible canyon in the Rocky Mountains. In the winter, cold-loving adventurists venture into the wintery depths of the icy Maligne Canyon to hike, ice-climb, and explore.

In the section of the Maligne Valley between Maligne Lake and Medicine Lake runs the mighty Maligne River. What was once an historic exhilarating descent for rafting adventures in Jasper was preceded by being the setting of the iconic Rose Marie’s Rock.

Rafting on the Maligne River

Rafters going through rapids on the Maligne River

Whitewater Rafting Jasper dates back to 1971 and rafted on the popular Maligne River from 1987-1998. Along with our now legendary Athabasca River and Sunwapter River rafting trips, we were proud to give guests a chance to experience a 3rd river in the Rocky Mountains: the Maligne. Both the 6km express trip and the 10km trip on the Maligne River featured class II and class III rapids, breathtaking views, consistent big water levels and the occasional moose sighting!

So, what happened?

Several decades ago, it was believed that human activity on the Maligne River was making it difficult for Harlequin ducks to thrive and survive. Families of Harlequin Ducks had made homes on the river and they were frightened by the joyous splashing of the rafting trips.

As is always the case in Jasper National Park, we strive to live in harmony with our natural neighbours – the rocks, the rivers, the plants and the wildlife. To this end and to protect the Harlequins, a number of options were proposed. Full closure was selected and the difficult decision was made to close the Maligne River from Maligne Lake to Medicine Lake to all watercraft, including canoes, kayaks, and rafts after the summer of 1998.

Rafters going through rapids on the Maligne River

Every now and then, science comes with a crazy twist. Since 2007, ten years after the Maligne River closure, further research has revealed that the absence of Harlequin ducks from the Maligne River may have little to do with rafting and much to do with the presence of trout. The Harlequin numbers may have diminished, not because of cheery rafters, but due to the Harlequin’s food competition with fish that had been previously introduced to the area. To this day the Maligne River remains closed to all watercraft. Parks Canada is promising a review of river use.

Rafting In Jasper - Present Day

The rafting industry in Jasper today is raging like a Rocky Mountain river in spring time! We're having more fun than ever, giving guests an opportunity to experience Jasper in a completely unique and authentic way. The lessons we learned and the fun we had rafting on the Maligne river will stay with us always. We are grateful we have had the opportunity to showcase this beautiful river to the world through our raft trips.

We continue to offer both class II and class III white water raft trips with 3 different trip options - there is a Jasper rafting adventure for everyone at Jasper’s Whitewater Rafting.

Thank you

Jasper’s Whitewater Rafting would like to thank you for taking the time to read about our history on the Maligne River and encourage you to respect this environment that we call home.

Bonus - The Wicked River

The Maligne River gets its name from a troublesome experience that Father Pierre Jean De Smet had crossing it in 1845.

Father De Smet, a Flemish catholic priest and missionary, named it the "Maligne" after the French for "wicked". He reportedly had such a tough time crossing the river that he named it Maligne out of pure disgust and anguish. Imagine his reaction to finding out that his wicked river and its adjacent lake and canyon are now some of the most beautiful and sought after spots in all of Canada.