Paddle: Bow River Ghost Dam to Cochrane April 2004

Quick Summary

Summary: Distance of trip: 18 km
How to get to the set in point: Base of Ghost dam, Drive west from Calgary on Hwyh 1A, through cochrane, and another 18 km or so. Turn left at the sign. If you get to they lake you've gone to far.
How to get to the take out point: Bridge in Cochrane
River Grade: I+ Above Wildcat Island, I below
Rapids: 1) rolling waves at: "Wave Train (I+)"
2) partial Ledge at: "Gas Plant (I+, II- low water)
(Several Riffles, and a couple Class I's not marked)
Paddling partners: Richard B, Peter O. in a Old town tripper
James F, Debbie in old Fiberglass lake canoe
Jason G, myself in ceder strip Huron Cruiser
Level of experince of group: Novice
Level of experince of the trip author: Novice
Weather Conditions: 4 to 16 Deg as day progressed, light overcast clouds to start, to party sunny
Good points / Bad points: Had more than one canoe for once.
Holed James/Debbies Canoe,
Jason and I went for a cold water swim

Map: Ghost resivour to Cochrane

"Map is Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, Department of Natural Resources. All rights reserved."
map from the website

Ramble on about the hike

This is the second time I've run this streatch of river. Earlier in the week I'd half jokingly suggested to the guys at work we should take a day off and go for a canoe paddle. I was plesently surprised when the whole group, except the boss, and one guys who's wife was expecting agreed.

during the logistics of the car setup Once again the water level increased. I wonder if the workers at the dam saw our canoes sitting there and brought the water level up just for us? We ended up with a put in time of between 10:30 and 11:00 AM.

This was a real group of novices, we split up the normal team of Rich and I, so we could have an experinced person in each boat. Rich and I being considered the more experinced of the group is a bit spooky.

Rich and Pete are in one boat. Pete is our co-op student. Very keen in the work place, and very keen out on the river. I think this is his first time on moving water (I could be wrong) He and rich are the first in the water and are off to the races.  looking back at dam

On this trip I had Jason in my boat, he is around 40-50 lbs heavier than normal (Rich being my normal Bow partner). I've worked with Jason in the past, but he recently joined our group, and now work directly with him. The first picture to the right is of Jason, looking back to the Hydro-electric dam. James and Deb are just getting under way. If you look close at the dam, you can see that there is still ice on the over flow chutes.

In the final boat is James, James is new to our company. His partner is his wife, at least I assume they are married. She was the more experinced of the two in their canoe. She bossed him around like she knew what she was doing, and had the rite to do so. Group photo

So you can see this promises to be a bit of a team building exercise. The picture to the left is of our group not long after settign off. We stop to take a break, and get a group picture. From Left to right: Rich, Deb, Pete, Jason, and James.

The canoe seems to be diving into the waves abit today. Jason is getting wet in the small (1ft) waves we are going through. He comments on that the water is "holy crap" cold. But he is not really getting soaked and is having fun with it. The canoe does seem a little more tippy than I'm used to with Rich, but things are going well.

First set of rapids we actually stopped and scouted them out. They are really not much, just the rolling waves as the river turns and constricts. The waves are about 2ft, maybe a bit more. Rich an Pete go first, in their new (rented) boat. Rich is really liking this big boat, with its solid stability, they decide to try and run right down the biggest of the waves. That means getting to the other side of the river from where we are stopped.

In their effort to get over there they ended up running right into the shore... pretty funny, but not a great place to swim. They back off, the current grabs the stern, and they do a nice backwards eddie turn. They are now appraching the river backwards as they failed to hold thier angle backing into the current. Luckily they keep spinning, bounce the Stern into the shore and paddle off. They get a nice run down strait the rapids. I could hear Rich and his encouragement to Pete to "paddle", as the bounce through the waves. Looks like fun.

first real wave set first real wave set
Running first real wave set

James and Deb go next, taking a more cautious run through, staying on river left and missing the waves. Then it is Jason and my turn, we decide to skirt the waves. Jay is already soaked from much smaller waves. We are worried about swamping the canoe. For us the run provides a lot of excitement, and helps to build our confidence. Unfotunatly the photo kinda went off early, that is the problemw with the old digital cameras we have, it takes a second to actually snap the shot after the button is pushed, and you have to guess. Oh well.

Sometime after this, but not much, maybe 10 minutes we are still trailing the gang. We've spread out a bit. The River Careens off an outcroping of rock, narrows and runs a fairly exciting looking but short bit of rapids. Basically a drop with a couple standing waves after it. Rich and Pete are through before we are anywheres near it, in fact we miss seeing them go through. I'm conserned about the out croping and want to ensure we miss it. Looks to be under cut some what. Yuck.

Deb and James are up front ahead, maybe 100m ahead of us. their line looks good, from what little we see. We decide to follow them in. Mistake. last year, Rich and I ran this staying well to river Right. no problem. This year, we went right over a big rock/ledge. The standing wave behind, right in the constriction, looked like it was going to swallow Jason. He was drenched from head down. As the Stern came down I just caught the rock of the ledge. Just caught it, as in if the canoe was 2 inches shorter we would have missed it. It did catch it hard, removeing two layers of fiberglass off my stripper, and gouging out the stem. James and Deb's Hit exactly the same only they put a small hole right through the keel line.

For the shortest second we were tetter/tottering, Our air braces as ususal were just not working, and over we went. Whew... cold... ... where's up... cold... swim to shore... cold... no get the canoe... cold.. to late, get to shore. Neither of us grabed the throw ropes from the canoe. Rich and Pete saw the whole thing, they waited for the canoe and then chased it out around the bend. Jay and I made it to shore in fairly short order. James and Deb come to shore with us, and together we watch my canoe float down the bend with Rich and Pete trying to bring it under control in the current.

After warming up a bit, standing in our wet cloths, we mooched some dry cloths from James, and were then all loaded in to James' freighter... I mean canoe and went on down. As I was sitting on the bottom I noticed that we were taking on more and more water. It was now that we discoverd the dime sized hole in the canoe.

Rich and Pete had not only retrived the canoe when we caught up, they were in it, they had all our gear, even the foam we were using a knee pads, and all three paddles. Good job guys. Jay and I finished changing in to warm cloths and were off again. This time with a bit more trepidation as we came to waves, but it soon wore off. The rest of the trip was uneventfull... Wild Cat, ductaping Deb and Jame's canoe.

stopped at wild cat island picnic area again. A nice picnic, and camping area. complete with fire pits, and tables. A great spot for lunch today.

A pair of canoes landed just as we were leaving for the second half of the trip. These guys sure looked good coming in. But before we could leave we had to fix that hole. Good old Duct tape, did a wonderful job, held for this trip, and a half dozen others this summer.

The rest of the trip was uneventfull. Just floating down a beautiful river in our own back yard. Only the odd cow to ever note our passing this beautiful day away from work.

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