Paddling in Banff National Park
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.
Beware of the very sudden strong winds and waves on big lakes such as Lake Minnewanka and Hector Lake; especially in the afternoon.
Banff area: Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake and Vermilion Lakes
Lake Louise area: Moraine Lake and Lake Louise
Icefields Parkway: Herbert Lake, Hector Lake, Bow Lake and Waterfowl Lake
The Bow River in Banff National Park provides some excellent canoeing opportunities for experienced canoeists. Here are the three most popular sections for canoeing.
Rules and regulations
- Rowboats, canoes, kayaks, sailboats, and other non-motorized boats are allowed on all lakes in the park.
- The only camping along the Bow River is at the backcountry campground Bo1C (river access-only), at Johnston Creek.
- A Backcountry Use and Camping Pass is required for any overnight stays in the backcountry.
- Fishing Regulations
- 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.