July 1 – 3, 2016
Last weekend my husband Tom and I along with 12 other members of the Bow Waters Canoe Club went on a 3-day canoeing and camping trip along a section of the North Saskatchewan River, located northwest of Calgary and near the border of Alberta and British Colombia. This section is considered to be a premiere white water experience, with Class II+ rapids, mountain views and is very popular with Albertans.
Our convoy with 6 tandem canoes and 2 solo kayaks and one small entertaining dog started the trip near Nordegg, departing a bit later than expected which meant time-wise we couldn’t paddle as long as we had planned to that day. After paddling 16 km, we found a lovely campsite on the river where we pitched our tents. We cooked and ate our meals under Peter’s large group tent, had some good laughs/discussions around the campfire and swatted lots of nasty black ants off our feet.
The next morning we all awoke early and were ready to leave at 9 am – our trip coordinator, Evan was confident that this is a record departure time for the club! It was a beautiful sunny day – not too hot, nor too cold. The water was shimmering green and so clear you could see to the bottom in many places. A stuborn elk refused to budge from the middle of the river so Peter had to blow his whistle to get the elk to move. We paddled though some squirrely water and lots of big frothy white waves. We navigated around a few boulders and through several low water areas. It was quite an enjoyable day but we paddled 60 km to make up the deficit from the day before. My shoulders ached, but I consider this feat quite the achievement for me – a novice paddler – so I am pretty proud of myself and I didn’t even complain too much. I like to believe all the zumba and toning that I’ve been doing since January helped make the paddling a bit easier!
Near the end of our 2nd day we did experience a brief rain storm but luckily it ended fairly soon. We stopped for the night near a section of rapids called Devil’s Elbow.
It was a lovely campsite, without any discernable ants (because they were all at the other campsite!) and best of all I discovered a green throne!
I was so happy to learn about this camper’s convenience. These modern day out-house type conveniences (without the house) have been placed around different Alberta rivers courtesy of Paddling Alberta (Thank you so much!). Such luxury! And it was surrounded by scented wild flowers like delphiniums and tiger lilies
SoI had a beautiful view to entertain me while relaxing.
Our last day was a bit more leisurely. Before we departed camp, several paddlers in our group had fun surfing the Devil’s Elbow rapids. All of us rode several wild rapids throughout the day, but according to Tom they are not are fierce as they once were – the river’s features have changed somewhat. But it was still a thrill to ride through them.
During the course of the weekend we paddled past 100+ different people in various water craft including canoes, kayaks, rafts and a few jet boats. We even came across a small group of young men standing/floating on their homemade raft – like something out of Gilligan’s Island and well equipped with alcoholic beverages – it was some kind of platform structure with only a table in the centre which meant these guys could only stand. Which reminds me – I laughed when we passed a fellow in a yellow sea kayak, who had a small wooden barrel approx. the size of a milk jug – strapped to his boat right behind his back. I asked him what he had in there and he cheerfully replied Rum of course! Hopefully it was well attached as I’m sure he would be upset to lose it in the rapids!
After padding 30 km, we reached the takeout in Rocky Mountain House around 2pm on Sunday, said our goodbyes to everyone with Kayaker Joseph mostly benefiting from all the lady hugs. Apparently not exhausted yet, Tom and I made a brief visit to the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site where I learnt all about the great British explorer David Thompson who mapped great swathes of Canada in the early 1800’s plus I found a few geocaches at the site. To finish the day, we enjoyed some burgers at the Burger Baron and made our way home via the back roads.
Overall the weather was almost perfect, the views stupendous and the company entertaining. We had a pretty fab Canada Day weekend running the North Saskatchewan River.