Paddle: kananaskis River, Canoe medow to Sebee

Quick Summary

Summary: Intermediate 1.5hr paddle, Just inside the foot hills.
Distance of trip: 8 km
Paddeling time: 1.5 hrs on water, 4 hrs total from Clagary
How to get to the set in point: West from Calgary, turn south on Hwy 40, follow unitl canoe medows turn out. How to get to the take out point: West from Calgary on Hwy 1, a few km after hwy 40, just after you cross the Kananaskis river turn right into Bow Parkway provincial park the take out is to the right just after crossing a bridge.
Paddleiing partners: Richard B.
Level of experince of group: Novice-Intermediate
Level of experince of the trip author: Novice-Intermediate
Camp sites used: NA
Weather Conditions: Partial sunny, one snow flurry, sheltered from most wind, 4 Deg C
Trip rating, and some justification of the rating: good. this triped was a bit of a push on our confort zone. Very nice scenary
Boat style used: Huron Cruiser Strip canoe (Bear mountain boats design)

kananaskis river, Barrier lake to Bow river map

"Map is Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, Department of Natural Resources. All rights reserved."
map from the website http://toporama.cits.rncan.gc.ca/toporama_en.html

Get your paddle in the water

It's getting late in the season now. Starting to get a bit desperate to get out paddling at any opertunity. Not long now, and the kayak and canoe will be put away for the winter. I'd be out of town for the last week. When Rich called on friday it was like he was receiving a mental SOS. I really wanted to get out on the water.

Yesterday Rich tasked me with picking today's trip. I only have a half day to get out, but all the intown paddles are getting a bit old. I wonder about the Kananaskis river, from Canoe Medows down to Sebee. This stretch of river is grade II- according to the Bow Waters Canoe summary. I've been down it earlier this summer, I remember it as pretty fast, with some standing waves and the like, very fun.

However, it is just Rich and I today, so not support canoe. It is a pretty remote section of water right now, few people will be out here. It is pretty cold about +4 today, and the river is the highest grade Rich and I will have paddeled together. However, in favour of the this paddle. Rich and I are doing pretty good together in terms of skill development, highway 40 is never more than a few km from the river, so it is not really remote . So it does seem to be reasonable. I give reica a call back, Rich agrees it is a go.

Just of Hwy 40 is a place called canoe medows. It is the enterence to a picknik area, that boasts a man made white water kayak course. (you can reserve it for camping to I think). Taking the canoe down to the river involves walking down to a bit of a canyon, the path covered in snow. My very old running shoes have been warn flat, and rich ends up holding the back of the canoe, and preventing me from sliding down totally out of control. In the parking lotc

The set in for this run is just below a man made white water river course Just as we have all our gear cliped in the canoe, three kayakers come down through the course. the play in the last two drops, then come back up in the eddies. The last of which we are setting our canoe into.

One of the kayakers comments on our dress, as "being braver than I am". Rich in his jeans, me in my rain pants, and a fleese. Good for him being so candid in his assesment. However, both of us in fact we have our wet suits underneath. He or one of his buddies is right beside us as we set off, with a bit of an eddie turn into the current, he give us a doubious sounding "good luck". After that we are gone. Both of us later express that we were releived we do not tip right at the start, man that would have been imbarrasing.

Just after our set-in point is 40 Boat eddie. Usually full of people out practicing. today it is empty. We do not see another soul until we get to the take out. There is a wave train at this eddie , it is our first test. We plow through, not feeling like we will tip, but the waves are bigger than I remember, big enough that we end up shipping a little bit of water in the canoe. I'm a bit heavier than Rich, and in the stern so I end up kneeling in it for most of the trip, toes get a bit cold but that's it.

There is no question I'm nervous on this trip. In truth I always seem to be nervous when I'm in the boats, but today it is enough so that Rich comments on it. I really do not want to go swimming today (and I never do). This river is never warm, a large deep lake just up stream. Today it is being fed by the slowly melting snow, but then it is usually being fed by some snow. My fear of tipping, is hightened by the fact that the first tip of the summer for me occured on this stretch of river.

The river seems to be a bit higher than last time down. One of the rocks I remember really distinctly from the first trip (it was just below where I tipped) has water rushing over it today. Last time it was 6 inches above the water. With the extra flow, the river is faster too.

I'm sad to say I get no pictures during the first part of the trip. The fun factor was just to high to get the camera out. Lots of short bursts of waves, with the river running fast between wave sets. Today we seem to really be flying down the river. The truth is I just did not seem to have time to set down the paddle and take some pictures. I did stop to take off my sunglasses, and managed to loose the paddle as I'd just left it across the gunwales. After that I kept it in hand, and in use.

We come to an old Bridge, or Dam. Beaware that there are old steal re-bar or Giant bolts sticking out of the pile of rocks in the center of the river. This pile is just above water surface level today, it would be bad to hit one of these.j

We practice manouvering, cutting in between a set of rocks. nearly hitting one, missing by inches. The clasic mistake where the bow paddler pulls away from the rock, turning the canoe sideways a bit, then causing the stern to twist into it. However I get enough of a pry in and, we missed, by inches. Talking to Rich (who is sitting in the Bow), he is suprised that it was so close. Next time if we make the same move, he'll cut in behind the rock with a a draw to help straitin out the canoe.

We deliberatly try and skirt most of the standing wave trains. Still it is pretty exciting. The river really twists and turns and we have to cut accross the channel several times. Initially we are taking the aproach of turning and paddling well above the hazard. It works well enough. There are several bends that where the water flows hard into the banks that are some what undercut, or so they look. We avoid these cliffs with water rushing by right at their base, staying out in the slower current in the inside of the bends for the most part. Looking upstream 
from the tip of the island Looking down stream, over
smaller right channel, Yamniska in background

We pull over and stop at an Island. Rich donns his touque, I collect someones paddling shoe from the rocks. The river gives up a fantastic views of Mount Yamniska. As it basically flows down the valley stait towards it. Today it is cloudy out, and earlier it looks to be snowing between us and the mountain. Sure enough a while later we get a quick flurry of snow. Which soon passes, leaving a much clearer view of the mountains. first pic

The first picture I took once we were in a slow section is to the left. You can see there is a little speed to the river, but it is nice and flat. That's Rich in the foreground. He is in most of the pictures, I guess that's the probem with being in the stern. Just above his head is Mt. Yamniska.

We come up to one such bend, however there is a fallen tree in the water, on the outside of the bend. The classic sweeper. The majority of the water going right under it. I instantly think "why were we not practicing our back ferry earlier?". We push hard, come accross the eddie line due to the turn in the river, and swing around onto the bank oposite the fallen tree, landing just down river of the sweeper. The water looks pretty challanging (for us) beyond the sweeper, a hundred meters below there is another sharp bend, this time to the right. There is the fallen of a tree laying on the soft bank, However It has fallin in towards shore. the current has cut away the bank and the worn roots are out in the water, but only the stub of the stump remain.

We get out and scout the section, and the bit below. I remember that earlier this summer just below this point one of the other canoes in my group capsized. The river continues in it's mad rush around a couple more bends after this. Rich and I work out what we want to do. We'll be practicing out back ferry in this rush of current for the first time today.

We pull the Canoe back up stream just past the sweeper. This will put us in the current line to take us closer to the right bank, but below the sweeper. This will get us accross the river. As it bends to the right, we have to stay abit out in the center to avoid some rocks on the shore just before the turn, the ferry out of the current back in to the right to avoid the water rushing under the stump further up. There is not much time to react. We do not get the angle set just right, we miss the mad rush of water on the far side as it plows over some rocks, but we are out in the current line that runs strait for the stump. The back ferry works for us, works in that we do not tip, and we miss the far shore by a few feet. after that the river takes another bend left and right, over the next few hundered meters. These 4 bends are probably the most exciting section of the river. Hwy 1 bridges looking up stream
from the stop point

We come to Hwy 1, and stop and take a few pics. Usually I'm impressed with the size of bridges. These two bridges seem almost delicate. they do not seem to have the girth of a bridge used on the trans Canada highway. perhaps it is because there are two and not one with all 4 lanes. The area just prior to this looks to be a nice take out. I'm not sure how to get the cars down here, but someone has, as there is a bit of a track down here. The first picture is looking back upstream from out stop point. Bow park board trails

After the bridges, the river seems to take on a bit of a different character. We are now in Bow Valley provicial park. there is a boardwalk on the one side of the river. The river seems to be in a little bit of a canyon. However the canyon does not last long. as the water start to slow. We are comming to the junction of the Bow River, which has been Damned just down stream, so it starts to takes the form of a lake. However when we try to turn and paddle back to a water fall to get some pictures, the current takes us by surprise, and we are unable to get back. There is definatly a channel under us, it wynds just below the surface of the widening river. An old Bleached tree sits in the center of the water way, in only few inches, where just infront of it the bottom is out of sight.

coming into the canyon bleached tree

We come to the train bridge, just as a train comes roaring down the tracks above our heads. I'm to slow to get the camera out in time to catch the locomotive, but do get a short of it going over. The noise is pretty impressive. Just after this bridge is an old car bridge, and out take out. Mt. Yamniska is the one right behind the bridge. The second picture is looking back upstream from this point.  The train  back up stream.

Todays trip seemed to be over very fast.

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Copyright Myrl Tanton 2004


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