Bow River Calagary AB

Quick Summary

Location: Canoeing on the Bow River, from Bowness park to the Calgary Zoo.
Distance: 9 mi
Time Taken: trip time 3 hours, from 2:00 - 5:00.
Cool points:
Conditions: Cool temperature, no wind
Date of paddle:Sunday November 17th
partners: Richard
Calgary Trip Map

I've been looking forward to getting my kayak out on the river for months now.

Alas, I finally get my kayak to the finished enough to put on the water state, but I can not find people to go kayaking with me. It is getting a bit cool, below freezing at night, and on Sunday around 8 deg C for a day time high. My wife, and most of my friends think I'm slightly insane (except Richard of course).

Called Rich around 11:00 to see if he was interested in hitting the river on the Canoe. 10 minutes later we had a game plan, by 12:00 the canoe was loaded and I was off to pick him up. We drop his car at the Calgary Zoo, and headed up stream to Bowness park. My heater in my car is broken, we must have looked a bit odd, driving in a car with a home built canoe on top, both wearing toques.

It is a pretty windy day, the river is much lower than the first time we took this trip in the spring. It is obvious with the canoe being blown away by the wind, while sitting on the packed snow in the parking lot, that we really do not want to go for a swim today. With the river being low, and the wind, both of us are a bit worried. we have both packed extra cloths in a dry bags, just in case.

The set in is a bit ugly, as we are in shallow water and have to drag the canoe over the rocks, neither of us wants to soak our runners first thing on the trip.

As we start off, both of us are a bit cool, but we soon realize that we are also over dressed and have to pull over and strip off a few layers of clothing. Only may one hand is cold (because it is wet), but even that quickly warmed up with the exertion of paddling. We are both content, we talk off several things, including how lucky we are to have such a beautiful river valley here. I'm impressed at how fast the rocks are whisking by under our boat, often only 6 inches below us, and rarely more than 3 or 4 feet below us. We only have to dodge a few, and only occasionally scrape bottom. And even then the rocks are well rounded, so my worries for my canoe are small.

One of the things we discover, is that we both prefer canoeing through the river at the City, as it is more interesting to us. with the bridges, buildings and people along the banks to break up the scenery. Several people are out fishing, jogging, but most just walk along the paths, or along the banks enjoying a beautiful fall day. Bright an sunny, very warm (compared to what it could be). It is the highlight of the weekend for both Rich and I. I'm amazed that my wife, and friends think this would be 'crazy', it was both relaxing and invigorating.

It is amazing at how different the river is today compared to earlier in the spring. We canoed it then, the river had waves none stop, Rich was often 'catching air' as we went over standing waves then. Today, it happed only once or twice. Mostly just a fast fairly smooth flow. (1ft chop for stretches). In the spring we were worried for the speed of the current, and it was a bit tense, this time, we are both much more relaxed, and enjoying the ride. Also in the spring was the first time we had canoed together, and was the first time I had my canoe on a river.

The River is a non-stop park system, has several small island during the course. That's nice, it is almost like being in the country as you paddle along, Bowness is up to the river bank, but it is old, the houses are fairly far back from the Bank, and the lots are full of mature trees. Today the air is crystal clear, the view of the City is even nice as you see the building of the core about 4-6 miles away. We spend most of the time trying to stay in the faster channels, it's more fun, and much easier going in terms of effort.

There is the 'ruins' of an old weir on the river, it comes out from one bank about 15 meters or so, it is a perfect eddy to spin in behind and land for a break. I'm a little antsy that it is getting dark, but it is a perfect place to stop. It is not until later that I realize it is much brighter out with the sun glasses off.

By the time we are in around Princes Island Park, near the city center, we are seeing lot of people, we are getting waves from folks, especially the kids. As we go under on pedestrian bridge a father yells to us, make sure you don't tip. True enough, here the current is fast, and fairly deep, and probably less than 1 degree above freezing. Actually it is frozen in the sheltered coves, so I guess it is at 0 Deg C. However by now we've been on the river about 2 hours, and are fairly confident that we will not be tipped by the wind, or hitting ground.

We are now near the zoo, it is starting to get dark for real this time, early dusk, so not really dark, but the sun is setting, somewhere behind a bank of clouds over the Rockies. Here a smaller river called the Elbow river flows into the Bow, we've been wondering if we could paddle up stream against the current. There is a huge flock of geese on the elbow, we decide to try and cross. It is a little upstream from where we are. It is a pretty good pull, we manage to ferry across, and make gain on the water flow. But it is now time for a break again. We stop for a bit. This junction has the fort Calgary historical site on it. We are pulling up into what I call gopher town, lots and lots of gophers here in the summer. The thought enters on how the old traders probably pulled up into the same spot in their canoes, 150 years ago or so.

Well, it is time to go home, you get cold fast when you stop paddling, I'm a little wet, the hands and feet are soaked through, and the leg is damp from drips off the paddle. It's been a great afternoon. we cut strait across the river, risking a capsize if we ground out going perpendicular to the current. a swim now would be a shock, but not all that dangerous, there is lots of people around, and a heater in Rich's car only a 100m away or so.

As we pull out Rich notes flowers in the water, there is a Banana with what looks like incense poked through it and burnt. Reading Robert's posts I wonder about rituals, and the likes from other cultures. Not sure, I do know I have to load the canoe, go get my car from up stream. A great day, considering I almost did not call Rich, as others thought it was crazy.

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Copyright Myrl Tanton 2002-2005

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