My first year. Classes were fun and I was itching to get into some moving water. I looked forward to
the Kanaskis River trip.
We left town around 4 pm on Thursday. This got us to CanoeMeadows around midnight, where we
set up camp and prepared for an early morning. Large groups are able to reserve CanoeMeadows. It
is a really nice big site with lots of grass. And it is right next to the technical section of the
whitewater, making access easy, both for paddlers and "Kayak Bunnies", the tongue in cheek
reference to the poor non-paddlers that get dragged to these events.
The Kananaskis River is dam-controlled. But not by us! It provides power for Calgary, and is usually
turned on around 7 or 8 in the morning and off again around 7 or 8 pm. These hours can vary greatly.
When in flood, it always turned on. When water supplies are limited, it may only be turned on for a
few hours. We have seen both ends of the spectrum.
It is eerily strange when a river is "turned off". You can walk along the river bed andsee
the whitewater behave the way it does. Very educational. I will have to take more photos.
It also gave the whitewater community a chance to do something to make this river a lot more fun for
paddlers. When the river was off, they sent down a bulldozer or two, and a few dump trucks with
gravel and rocks and rebuilt the river. The technical section is man-made. It was also designed to be
fun and safe. That is, as safe as white water can made to be. There are no keepers (holes which
don't let things out!). The fire department trains their water rescue crews here. Fun to watch.
Sympathy for them in the cold water too! It is good to watch them and learn how difficult the current
can make things.
A good paddler can eddy hop up the whole thing. I have done the whole thing, except for the
GreenTongue at the top. It is a lot of work. A normal paddler carries his boat back up instead.
But when you are playing in a section and you get washed downstream, it usually isn't too hard to
get back up to rejoin your group. A big plus.
I got up early the next morning, just as the river was being turned on. Brian and I went down to
paddle at bottom of the technical section. None of the other first timers went out. I had done a
fair amount of whitewater canoeing, and found the transition to whitewater kayaking an easy and
natural progression. So, we struggled upstream (by eddy hopping) and got into some of the
Eventually the rest of the beginners joined us again at the bottom of the technical section, and we
had the usual flurry of people tipping and swimming. Interesting to watch people. Kayaking is
one of those sports where it really helps to be relaxed. Then you can let the kayak tilt and wriggle
underneath you and learn to feel the currents. It is a big plus to have a good brace. It is also a big
plus to understand what the current is going to do to you, so that you can be prepared for it.
Leaning the right way makes life a lot easier.
That afternoon we loaded up the kayaks and drove up to WidowMaker. People can put it
above WindowMaker or in the lagoon below it. Then it is an easy run down the river and then
through the technical section. Some of the beginners elected not to do the run at all, or to take
out above the technical course. No-one minds because then you have more people on the shore
to take photos!
Kayaks loaded up for trip to WidowMaker
Most of the beginners do not run WidowMaker. Running it isn't that bad, but you have to have a
solid eddy turn and ferry to get into position to run it. It would be no fun to run WidowMaker
upside down. At this stage, I had had an easy time with both eddying in and out and ferries, so
decided to go for it. It is a rush, although mostly in the build up. Most times going down
WidowMaker you scream down and then just skim across the lagoon at the bottom.
My first run down WidowMaker
You then trundle on down the river a way until Good Humour. This is an excellent spot for
Enders. Being a wimp (and possibly a whitewater canoeist), I didn't feel any great urge to drop
into this hole just yet. I hung around the eddies and watched.
Dick enders his Crossfire
Next you drift and bounce on down the current, looking for places to eddy in/out, eventually
coming to the top of the technical course. The CreenTongueOf Death is the rather dramatic name
for the best surfing wave on the river.
My first surf on the Green Tongue
Of course, the weather was not as good as it could be. It rained much of the day. Luckily, you
don't really notice it much when you are paddling. It can make camp a little gloomy and damp
It was cool all night. And rainy. Didn't realize it until we drove up to put the kayaks in the next
day just how cool!
A wet suit in the snow. Ready to paddle?
We paddled a bunch again this day. But many people were not as well prepared as I was for
wet weather. A vote was taken, and most people retreated to friends cabins (where they could
dry things out) and decided not to paddle the next day. We decided that there was no point in
hanging around and drove back to Saskatoon, arriving at 2 or 3 in the morning.
A great time.