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Banff National Park

Paddling 

Where to paddle

  • The park's mountain lakes and rivers provide easy flat water to advanced whitewater, and almost everything in-between.
  • Rowboats, canoes, kayaks, sailboats, and other non-motorized boats are allowed on all lakes and rivers in the park.
  • Boats with motors, both gas and electric, are restricted to Lake Minnewanka only.

Lakes

Banff area: Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack, Johnson and the Vermilion Lakes.
Lake Louise area: Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.
Icefields Parkway : Herbert, Hector, Bow and Waterfowl Lakes.

Wind Warning: Beware of the very sudden strong winds and waves on big lakes such as Lake Minnewanka and Hector Lake; especially in the afternoon.

Rivers

The Bow River in Banff National Park provides some excellent canoeing opportunities for experienced canoeists. The three most popular sections for canoeing.

Rules & Regulations

Safety

  • Choose a trip suitable for your level of experience and current conditions such as weather and water levels.
  • There are several guidebooks and how-to books on canoeing available in the bookstores in Banff.
  • Limited route information is available at park information centres.
  • Changing river levels, fast flow, sweepers, heavily wooded undercut banks, and shifting gravel bars mean that the location of hazards is unpredictable.
  • River water contains glacial silt, fecal streptococci or giardia, so it should be filtered and then treated or boiled before drinking or bring along your own drinking water. 
  • Water temperature seldom rises above 10° C (50° F). A capsize in these chilly waters can result in hypothermia. Read up on hypothermia and how to treat it, before you set out.
  • Leave word of your plans and when you expect to return.

What to Bring

  • Take along wet weather gear to keep you dry, warm and to protect you from the wind.
  • Carry a complete change of clothing, just in case you fall in.
  • For whitewater trips wear a wetsuit or drysuit and wetsuit boots or neoprene socks with runners.
  • Use a waterproof bag or double bag your gear in two heavy-duty plastic garbage bags (sealed individually), to keep spare clothing and gear dry.
  • Carry waterproof matches in a waterproof case, as well as rescue gear such as a throw bag, a saw and a first aid kit.