Vermilion Lakes Title

Quick Summary

Summary: A short paddle up a creek, to the first of three small lakes (or marsh) just outside Banff Townsite. Distance of trip: 3 km ?
Date: May 26, 2003
How to get to the set in point: Right in the Banff town site, drive to the river, and north to the canoe rental place.
River Grade: I (is there a 0, if so it would be that)
Rapids: None (few strainers though)
Paddleiing partners: Me Myself and I
Level of experince of group: Novice
Level of experince of the trip author: Novice
Weather Conditions: Broken Clouds, 18Deg C, occasionalvery light rain
Trip rating, and some justification of the rating: Good, easy, very relaxing, but to short.
Good points / Bad points: put in is right on the edge of Banff townsite touristy, but logistics for lunch was easy. It also saved my dumbass butt, for not grabbing my paddle
There was a fair bit of Hwy noise, as Hwy 1 runs right past the lake. Boat style used: Sea Kayak, my Hybrid Guillemot
Map of Vermilion Lakes

"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

About the paddle

This started off as a 'I got to get out of here' kind of day... finally at 2:00pm I 'snapped' and hurriedly packed my gear, and kayak and headed for the hills. (after getting the okay from the wife of course). Today's destination, the Vermilion Lakes just outside the Banff town site, an hour to an hour and a 1/2 drive from home in Calgary.

Vermilion lakes are a chain of three small lakes, within a fen land in the mountains. I've been wondering what they would be like to canoe in amongst. Today I hope to find out. This is prime habitat for Moose, except with the town site, and Hwy 1 being so near, I'm not sure if any have made this area their home.

On the way out of town I picked up a hitchiker, going to Banff, from a distance I thought it was an old man, complete with a white beard. Turns out the white beard was a scarff, and the 'old man' was actually a pretty lady, a tourist in from Austraila. She had a very simillar out look to life to me, execept she we walking the talk. It made for good conversation on the way down... a good start to the trip. She was great company for the hour long drive to the put in point.

After dropping off my ride, I parked the car in the lot at the town park, and walked over to McD's and had a quick bite. Walking back to my car, I was daydreaming already about the paddle. I've been waiting along time to get out on the water it seems since my last float. Right then I realized, in my haste to get out the door, I left my paddle at home. Argh. typical, I guess that is right up there with dumb things to do. It took my 1/2 an hour of walking around looking for a place to buy a paddle, when I finally broke down and started asking for directions to a sports shop that would sell one. Asking directsions, told you I was desperate to get on the water.

Anyways, with a 45 minute delay, and my VISA $90 heavier, I set off to get my car and go to the put in. (yes I needed a spare paddle anyways) Banff is not the cheapest place in western Canada to buy stuff like that. Tossing the paddle into the car and heading off for the set-in seemed easy enough, should have brough a map, I was going to go strait to the lake, but ended up on the wrong road.

 On Bow River at set in Point, Banff townsite The Bow river was running high, but is nice and slow here, so I pull in at the local canoe rental spot. This is right where the (forget the name, I think it is 40 mile creek) creek and the bow join. After talking to the renter guy for a while I set off. He told me that to follow up stream and take a left at the fork in the stream. With that I was unloading, and getting ready to set off. At this point I noticed my seat had blown out of my kayak...hmph... I really liked that seat (home made following instructions from Nick Schades book), I had it velcroed to the bottom, the velcro held, but the glue side of the vlecro strips let go. Oh well, I'm here for a short paddle, and not having the seat is not going to stop me. To the Right is a picture the Canoe rental guy took for me, My first picture with me in my kayak.

The first part of the stream flows past some of the houses of banff, Still it is very nice, the left bank (my left, not river left) is undeveloped. The bank is not tall, and it is easy to see off into the trees. Very nice, usually I'm used to not really being able to see anything when close to the bank. the creek is about 30 ft accross, moving slow, and a very pleasant paddle. I'm pretty happy with how my kayak and I are handeling this light current.

The end of town, is marked by the rail road tracks which I quietly glide under. The going under the bridge is a bit of a throw back to when I was a pre-teen. I used to climb under the tressel in St. Albert, always hopeing to be in the 'secret' compartment just under the metal portion that spaned the Sturgeon river. Hmm, thinking back this is onthe of the things that had people wondering if I'd make it to the teens.... balancing walking on the 10x10s that made the tressel, up around 2 or 3 stories. Still it is a pleseant fealing being taken back to the bad old days.

 Lazy Creek, sweeper Not far past the bridge I snap the second picture, in the picture to the left. You can see that this is a slow flowing, no waves kind of paddle. There is a sweeper just a head (The tree laying across part of the river). However the current is slow enough that they are very easy to avoid. Although I'd still not want to accidently get caught up on one, while swimming.

 Elk, hidden in trees Continuing up the creek, of to the right, on the bank between the fens and the creek, is a lone elk. Asked if I could take her picture, she did not run away, so I did. She is hidden pretty good in the picture, right in plain sight, center of the shot. She'd been collered, must be part of the big elk study going on in Banff right now.

The creek is runing high, infact so high that it is flowing backwards into the vermillion lakes just now. I'm not there yet, still paddling up stream. Who knew, this is almost like exersise. The creek is just wide enough that few small trees that have fallen over do not quite span it, and I can go around them.

After about 15 minutes of paddleing I come to the branch in the creek The main current is flowing down from the right, I snap a picture, there are at least two fallen trees up that way. Still it looks so nice I'd love to continue up and see how far I could go. I'm short on time (as always) and want to check out the lakes. I go to the left down the stream (wierd, it should still be going upstream at this point) but it is nice, a bit of a break from paddleing. This protion of the stream is a lot lower, the bank is really just the floating marsh grass with a channel cut through it, and the cannel is only about 10ft across.

The fork in the creek.
It's hard to judge the width of the channel from the picture above, It looks huge. That is just the perspective of the point the picture is being taken, I'm right at the mouth of the fork, close to the small creek, and very low to the water. The stitching of 3 pictures to make this one, also distorts it a bit. Also looking down the main part of the creek there are several more sweepers, the second one may span the entire creek, I was pressed for time, and did not investigate.

Looking West, prior to the lakes

The small and short section of the creek after the fork, is not that long. I'm moving withthe current now, it goes fast. It is nice meandering through the grass. There is one very slight constriction, and the current actually sweeps me along for a dozen meters or so through a bit of a a 'vee'. The picture above is looking west while on the smaller creek.

Geese in the grass After a few minutes from taking the left branch, I'm breaking out onto the lake. There are a few Canada Geese here to welcome me to their little domain. They give me a lazy honk a few times as I float by only 15 ft away or so, none fly off, and none seem really conserned.

As I pass the Geese, I'm now coming to open water, well as open as it can be on these tiny lakes. the are small, and shallow, I almost loose my paddle as it digs into the muck once, and sticks. I jerk it out, there is a bit of a flash of fear, as I wobble a bit, but no swimming today.. whew! From out here you get a pretty nice view of the surounding mountains.

Looking South, Mt Rundle

Okay, I start paddling around the edge of the lake, there is a slight breeze, but not much. It is cloudy, the kind of clouds that could really open up on you, or could by pass you with a nice breeze. Today I get lucky, No real rain, and it is a nice temperature for getting some exersise. I continue paddleing for about 20 minutes, I was going to just go around the first lake, but about 1/4 of the way, I decide I should head back.

I was kinda hoping to see a moose, no luck. The girl I gave the ride to, said she saw a Grizzly bear the previous morning around the lakes. She called the wardens, and the confirmed that it was a big female bear. The wardens chased it out further North of town. I'm not sure if I want to see one or not, mostly because I'm not sure how well they swim. Well I did not see her, even if she had skulked back.

Geese infront of Mt Rundle More geese Coming back, I'm having a little bit of a problem with the kayak turning into the wind. Not alot, but enough to force me to only paddle on one side every few strokes. I've got some bags in the front hatch (about 20lbs), I'm not sure if this is helping (as suggested) or making it worse. Anyways, I'm now back at the backwards flowing stream. There, seem to be a few more Geese now, I guess rumours of this weired floating beast brought them out to take a look, I snap a few pictures hoping one may be half decent.

Going back up the narrow portion of the stream is a bit harder than going down. I think the front of my kayak is a bit low, and acting like the feathers of an arrow, trying to be a the down stream end of the boat. (I'm likeing this 'load the front' theory less now). So it is putting a bit of pressure on my to keep the boat on course. I make it up the 'vee' fine, the have to rudder hard to prevent me from ramming into the side of the creek.

It is about now that it sets in... or gets out... what ever it is, it is the reason 'I had to get out of here'. I'm actually relaxing. As someone said, canoeing cleanses the soul. It really hits home, the double effect of being out of the city, alone, and in a remote (well not really, but close enough) area. I think it helps to, that I was now past the backwards portion of the creek and flowing with the stream, back to the car. It occurs to me that I really want to stay longer but, you know I'll be back another day.

 leaning trees on the stream  Bridge on the foot path next to the stream

Took the last few pictures on the roll, above. One is a small bridge, for the foot path through part of the fens. I make a half hearted attempt to go under it. But there is enough current, to make getting past the shrub blocking part of the runnway, and getting under the low bridge enough that I don't really try it. The sedond is a picture of a leaning tree... a future sweeper, this one looks big enough to block the stream.

I'm now back to within sight of the put in, but I want to try going upsteam against the stronger current in the Bow. The kayak moves through the current easily enough, but again, if I'm not going strait into the current, it does have a slight but noticable attempt to pull me back around. I'll have to try it again with the load more balanced, or more pernounced on the Stern. I'm happy I can fight the current here, it does seem slower than in Calgary, but it gives me hope I can do the same back home.

The ground is fairly soft, but the boat launch as a bit of gravel on it. I land with a little bit of momentum. Not enough to really get me out of the kayak without steping into water. I back up and take a run at it. sliding up the bank to the top of the cockpit. I've put a coating of epoxy/carboxil/carbon on the bottom of the kayak. It handeled that well (no scrach through the single layer of black stuff), but it was still a pretty mild test.

There was a family up form Oregon, I chat with them for a while as I loaded the boat, they are good enough to help me lug the boat up to the car. They were considering renting a canoe the following day (the shop was closed now). They too would be novice paddlers, and recommended the paddle to them. So I guess that sums up my opinion of this nice relaxing trip.

On the drive home I was thinking of this trip, of past hikes, camping trips, and old friends I used to go out with. I was in a very relaxed frame of mind. It was nice to just put all my worries aside for half the day... It made me wish I would do this more often, like I once did, makes me wonder what happened to a few of the gang I lost touch with. It was kind of a bitter sweet mind set, totally relaxed, and refreshed, but somewhat sad in a few ways. But I think, mostly sweet, I know I'll be back soon on the water soon enough... I hope.

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Copyright Myrl Tanton 2004-2005


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