RCMP in Hinton, Alta., are shaking their heads after rescuing a group of tourists from he surging Athabasca River on Wednesday.

Police said they received an emergency distress signal from a GPS device belonging to an adventure tour company shortly after noon.

The company was on the river north of Hinton in five canoes with a group of 10 tourists.

RCMP, with the help of Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers, managed to locate the group on a remote stretch of the river and discovered two of their canoes had capsized, leaving one tourist stranded on an island and two more washed downstream one kilometre away.

Officers rescued the stranded tourists with a jet boat, eventually taking them to Edson 12 hours after the rescue effort began.

The RCMP called it miraculous that nobody was hurt or killed as the river was extremely high at the time due to recent heavy rains.

"They were extremely lucky that they were able to come out the other side and not get hung up in the debris and drown," said Cpl. Dan Koozenetsoff from the Hinton RCMP.

Police said river conditions were severe with "very strong and unpredictable currents" as well as large amounts of floating debris.

The trip was led by Edmonton-area company Timberwolf Tours.

"We've been doing those tours for about twenty years now and we didn't really have a situation like this when the river came up that really fast and violent," owner Mike Kuhnert said.

Flood watches have been issued for the Athabasca River and a low-lying RV park near Whitecourt had to be evacuated Wednesday.