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3 Interesting Things You Should Know about the Kicking Horse River

How Did the Kicking Horse River Got its Name

In August of 1858, an expedition led by John Palliser was exploring and surveying potential routes for the Canadian Pacific Railway in the area around Wapta Falls. James Hector, the geologist and surgeon on the expedition, was kicked in the chest by a horse he was gallantly trying to rescue after it jumped in the river because it was spooked by a falling tree. That's why the river and the nearby mountain pass are now known as the Kicking Horse.

The River has Beautiful Waterfalls

The Kicking Horse River has three waterfalls: the Kicking Horse Cascade, Natural Bridge Falls and Wapta Falls.

  • Kicking Horse Cascade: Just off of Highway 1, where the Trans Canada Highway and the Kicking Horse River bisect (outside the spiral tunnels near Field, B.C.) you can find the Kicking Horse Cascade. This is a sloping section of the river creates a peaceful effect with water gently running over rocks and boulders for a calm and relaxing experience.
  • Natural Bridge Falls: To access the Natural Ridge Falls you will need to travel 3.2 km west of Field, B.C. on Highway 1 to Emerald Lake Road. You will follow this road until you reach the access road in 1.6 km. After a short walk from a parking lot, you find a waterfall that spans the entire width of the river. This waterfall was formed by the erosion of the limestone rock.
  • Wapta Falls: Named by the First Nations people who inhabit the area, Wapta Falls is located in Yoho National Park and it's best if you approach from the west. It will take you about a half an hour to hike up to the falls from the Trans Canada Highway. You'll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of an impressive 30 metre high waterfall that spans 150 metres across. It's quite the sight and the walk is suitable for the entire family.

The Kicking Horse River is Fed by Glaciers and Mountain Snowmelt

When spring comes, the glaciers in the Rockies begin to melt. This melt feeds the rivers that originate in the mountains. The Kicking Horse River is supplied by the runoff from the Wapituk and Vulture ice fields. This is why even at the height of summer, the Kicking Horse River is always cold. The water level begins to rise and throughout the summer, but will vary by the temperature and how much the glacier thaws. In some areas, you'll notice that the glacial water is a beautiful turquoise colour that looks fresh and pure.

If you want to learn more fascinating information about the Kicking Horse River, or book your unforgettable rafting trip, call Hydra River Guides at 1 (800) 644-8888. You can also connect with us through e-mail at