Date: June 30 - July 2, 2015
Permit Info: Approval should be gained before using the reserve land to access the river
Put in: The west end of 15st, Canmore, AB
Take out: Bowness Park, Calgary, AB
Deer were seen and eddy lines were crossed. Overall, the travel was pretty easy. No real rapids were travelled, but a strong current allowed us to make good time. Prior to heading out we had heard of potential log jams blocking the river; however, luck was on our side and only one turn had a small obstruction that was easily navigated. Along the way we past numerous campgrounds with curious onlookers wondering where we were going. Pleasantries were exchanged with people fishing as we paddled by.
Past one of the campgrounds we found a soccer ball. There is only one obvious solution to finding a soccer ball...a two person kayaking water polo game ensued. Racing along the river we always took the right hand line. This proved successful except for one fork close to Lac des Arcs where the right hand line took us into still water. It was quite obvious, but curiosity got the best of me.
2am I woke to headlights shining on my tent...or at least what I thought was headlights. Mother Nature was a bit annoyed and a huge thunderstorm was passing directly overhead. Flashes of lighting where followed by instant thunder. The tent shuddered with each boom...or maybe that was me shaking?? Luckily I packed ear plugs and as I shimmed down into my sleeping bag slumber soon returned.
From the parking lot we found a trail that ran off into the bushes. At the first fork we stayed high taking us to the power lines and then along the high bank. 5 minutes later we found a gully that could be used to access the water. The seebe dam was open so the current was quick, soon we arrived at the horseshoe dam. Portaging on the right hand side we dragged our boats up the road and to the left. We continued past the pump house and found an over grown trail leading down over the bank. Choice words were chosen when my kayak got away from me and went rocketing down the slope, but we managed to pop out on a dirt road all in one piece. Turning left on the road we were able to launch from the same location that the rafting company uses.
It was now around 11am and we had only travelled ~3km out of our planned 50km. Growing anxious with our slow progress we got back in our boats. Little did I know the fun was yet to be had. Ahead we could see a pourover; however it looked like it was runnable on the left hand side. Paul wanted to get out an scout it, I decided no scouting was needed...lets go for it!
Being fairly novice and only having been on class II+ water once I ended up in over my head (yes, pun intended). I hit the pourover square on but not with enough momentum (maybe because I stopped paddling...oops). The recirculating water brought my boat to a halt, turned me sideways, and flipped me. I found myself pinned upside down and unable to roll back up. Ejecting from my boat I found myself stuck in the hole hanging on to the end of my boat. After what seemed like an eternity the hole finally spit both my boat and I out. Now floating downstream, legs up and my boat in front of me, I realized the ride wasn't over yet. Up ahead was another river wide pourover. Luckily this one was less sticky and I managed to pass right over it. My boat; however, was held. Paul, easily navigating both features, was already downstream collecting my paddle...no paddle, no more trip. It was now time to swim! I consider myself a strong swimmer, but my god, swimming in a river in a dry suit is HARD work! Finally after a failed attempt to pull me ashore with a throw bag I touched land. Sitting down with my head between my knees, I finally caught my breath. Paul was now on a mission to fetch my kayak that bobbed by downstream.
Paul was successful at rescuing my kayak; however, this now meant I had to swim back across the river to get my boat. Walking upstream as close to the pourovers as I dared go, I started across. Swim, swim, swim...yet I wasn't getting any closer to the other side. A thought of giving into the river and floating down flickered across my mind when I heard Paul yell...DON'T GIVE UP...KEEP SWIMMING. Little did I know, there was another feature just down stream. Swim, Swim, Swim, finally ~5m before the next feature I was able to standup and walk to shore. Absolutely spent, I sprawled out on the rocks and closed my eyes. Thank God!
Knowing we still had 45km to go, I sucked it up, got back in the kayak and continued down river. We knew the hardest part was behind us. Finally around ~4pm, head pounding with a headache, I needed a break. Finding a beach along Ghost Lake we scrambled on shore. Laying flat on my back and arms out to the side, I promptly fell asleep. 15 minutes later I woke up to Paul laughing as three teenagers walked by asking if I was alive.
Ghost dam was our final portage for the day, getting around it on the left hand side, we continued down river as I dreamed of my sleeping bag. The rapids were pretty gentle in this section as the dam was closed. Still feeling pretty timid from the mornings shenanigans I was thankful I only had to navigate sections of class II rapids.
After 10hours on the river we finally pulled up on shore for the night. Camping just past the gas plant we were successful at covering our distance, leaving another 50km day for tomorrow. That night images of the day kept replaying through my mind, finally sleep found me and I was out for the rest of the night.
Waking to a train whistle passing by, it was time to get up. Paul was up and packed in a flash...the ultimate motivation was awaiting him...fresh food! In an attempt to keep our weight down we chose to eat bars for the trip. Cochrane was just down stream and all the infrastructure that comes with a town...yum! I, on the other hand, was slow to move. As a result of my swimming escapades my knee was very swollen and difficult to bend.
Gingerly getting into my boat I shoved off and started paddling down stream. My watch read 7am. We reached Cochrane around 8am. With the swollen knee I elected to sit and watch our gear as Paul went on the search for food. When he returned I ate the most delicious breakfast sandwich I've ever eaten...amazing!
In comparison the day ended up being pretty mellow. Conversations were had and splashing wars erupted. Overall, it was pretty easy going. With only one dam to portage, conveniently displaying portage signs, we made good time. As the day progressed, being crammed into my boat became more and more uncomfortable. My knee was officially ticked off. The decision was made and we decided to cut our trip short and take out at bowness park instead of the 10st bridge.
By 3pm we were back in civilization carrying our boats through bowness park. Drawing a bit of attention we had a park staff warn us that we weren't allowed to kayak in the lagoon. Assuring him we had no intention putting our boats in the lagoon, he hesitated, started to walk away, looked back and shook his head at us.
Overall is was a great trip. It was exactly what the adventurer in me needed.
Have any questions about the trip? Feel free to contact me