Whirlpool River

Alberta. River: Athabasca River drainage
Headwaters at Athabasca Pass, flows into Athabasca River S of Jasper
52.7353 N 117.9547 W — Map 083C12 — GoogleGeoHack
Earliest known reference to this name is 1859 (Hector)
Name officially adopted in 1947
Official in Canada

David Thompson [1770–1857] followed the Whirlpool River when he made the first recorded crossing of the Athabasca Pass in 1811. Working for the North West Company, he was in search of the mouth of the Columbia River.

Thompson makes a score of references to whirlpools in his narrative, but does not give that name to this river. He considered he was ascending to the head of the Athabasca River, whose headwaters actually lead as far as south the Columbia Icefield.

The earliest reference I have found to “Whirlpool River” is in the journal of James Hector [1834–1907] of the Palliser expedition, February 13, 1859:

Tekarra’s foot is so much inflamed with his hunting exertions, that he will not be able to guide us up the valley to the Committee’s Punch Bowl, so changed my plan and followed up the main stream of the Athabasca instead. At noon we reached the mouth of Whirlpool River, which is the stream that descends from the Committee’s Punch Bowl, and I found the latitude 52° 46′ 54″


  • Thompson, David [1770–1857]. David Thompson’s Narrative of his explorations in western America, 1784-1812. Joseph Burr Tyrrell, editor. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1916. University of British Columbia
  • Palliser, John [1817–1887], and Spry, Irene Mary Biss [1907–1998], editor. The papers of the Palliser Expedition 1857-1860. Toronto: Publications of the Champlain Society XLIV, 1968. Internet Archive

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