Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Sunwapta Falls: looking upstream and downstream

with 39 comments

On September 6th we spent a little time at Sunwapta Falls in Jasper National Park, Alberta. The first picture may give you the impression that the roaring river was carrying the roughly spherical boulder over the falls. Not so: it stayed put. The dead tree trunk lodged against the boulder was also stable, at least for the duration of our visit. Sooner or later, of course, the river will sweep each one downstream.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 15, 2017 at 4:46 AM

39 Responses

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  1. It is quite an experience to stand along a powerful river like this as it pounds along, isn’t it? I remember being mesmerized by the sight and sound of it, and even the vibrations coming up through my feet.


    December 15, 2017 at 8:57 AM

    • This is just one of the many places in the Canadian Rockies where a river pounds its way through a defile. We visited several. You’re right about the noise and the vibrations that are an integral part of the experience. (Hordes of tourists were unfortunately also an unavoidable part of the experience; judicious framing kept them out of the pictures.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2017 at 9:17 AM

      • I’m sorry to hear that hordes of humans continues to be a part of your traveling experience. I feel so spoiled that most of my traveling was over 4 decades ago before the hordes arrived. I’m not sure I even want to revisit any of those places now. I am reading a book about socio-geography and the author makes a compelling argument for population control….hopefully people will wake up before draconian measures have to be taken such as in China. Otherwise, I guess, disease and famine and war will take care of it 😦


        December 16, 2017 at 9:16 AM

        • We flew into Calgary on August 24th, still the height of the tourist season before summer vacation ended for many people. As we approached our departure on September 14th, we were still encountering a fair number of visitors, especially at the best-known sites, but noticeably fewer. If you return to the Canadian Rockies, you’ll probably want to do so before or after the tourist season. Although that’ll mean cooler or even cold temperatures, I have the strong impression it’d be worth it to you to avoid the crowds. In addition, you can visit some of the less-frequented places, of which there are a great many. All of the national parks we visited have a slew of trails that would make it easy for you to find solitude.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 16, 2017 at 9:40 AM

  2. It does look very much like you snapped the shot, just as the boulder was going over.
    When a falls is powerful enough to shake the ground under you, that’s part of what makes the experience indelible. Although I usually think of “indelible” as a visual thing, so maybe “indissoluble” would be better for a waterfall experience?

    Robert Parker

    December 15, 2017 at 10:07 AM

    • You’ve made me think I should’ve taken a short video so people could not only see the flowing of the river but also hear it thundering as it plunged over the falls. “Indissoluble” leaves open the possibility for a pun about things dissolved (or not) in the river.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2017 at 10:20 AM

      • We’d need something like the “vibrate” setting on cellphones.

        Robert Parker

        December 15, 2017 at 10:28 AM

        • Coincidentally, a short while ago I was looking at a description of the new iMac Pro (which can set a heart vibrating) and noticed that its speakers deliver deeper bass than previous models.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 15, 2017 at 10:41 AM

          • I’ve had my iMac for 7 years I think, and still functioning well. I use headphones, but a deeper bass would certainly be nice sometimes.

            Robert Parker

            December 15, 2017 at 10:48 AM

            • Then that’s another coincidence: I’ve had my MacPro for 7 years. Editing photographs on a new, much faster computer with a finer monitor would certainly be a welcome change.

              Steve Schwartzman

              December 15, 2017 at 10:56 AM

      • “Peerless” would also work, since the river doesn’t look navigable.

        Robert Parker

        December 15, 2017 at 10:38 AM

  3. Another place we visited and enjoyed. Wonderful falls.

    Anabel Marsh

    December 15, 2017 at 4:25 PM

  4. The first photo suggests that someone tried to move that boulder along with a lever, but gave it up. I think Omar Kayak might have a word to say about that:

    A too-weak hand doth try, and, having tried,
    Moves on: nor all thy hopeful pleadings
    Shall lure it back to stir the waters more,
    Nor all thy Tears wash out a stone of it.

    Not only that, the color of the water in the second photo is the prettiest pale blue-green I remember seeing.


    December 15, 2017 at 10:06 PM

    • That’s an excellent and appropriate-to-the-first-picture take-off you’ve done of probably the most famous quatrain in FitzGerald’s popular Victorian translation of Omar Khayyam. I don’t think any kayaker would be foolhardy enough to approach these falls.

      The second photograph is just the latest one you’ve seen here highlighting the wonderful colors of so many lakes and rivers in the Canadian Rockies. They outdo anything I’ve encountered in the American Rockies.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2017 at 10:36 PM

  5. Upstream, downstream, and even a little cross-stream. All ways are beautiful but I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of any of them.


    December 18, 2017 at 4:06 AM

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