6 ways to refresh and splash out at Alberta’s lakes and rivers


By Lisa Monforton

The long, hot days of summer in Alberta just beg those who love the water to suss out a swimming hole, a glassy lake to SUP or kayak or canoe, or let a meandering river take you on a blissfully lazy float.

If you have a favourite hue of green or blue, you’ll find it on one of Alberta's hundreds of lakes or rivers, like iconic Lake Louise or Moraine Lake, both glacial waters that attract visitors from around the world for their mountain setting and mesmerizing beauty.

For Calgarians, who may feel at times a bit landlocked, there are plenty of waterways both in the city or about two hours away. Here are a few of our favourites.

Floating on the bow river in Calgary

Enjoy a float down the Bow River in Calgary. 

Calgary and area

Calgary’s Bow River is a magnet to area residents during the warm days of July and August. Though this is a wildly popular activity, it’s easy to scope out some spots where you might not see another boater for hours. 

Take along some friends and your fur-baby for a float and be sure to watch for eagles soaring overhead. If you head south out of downtown into Fish Creek Park, you’ll see squadrons of white pelicans, some of the largest birds in Alberta, trying to snag a fish for dinner. There’s also a good chance of spotting deer grazing on the shoreline.

Paddling in Bowness Park

Paddle around and enjoy the water in Bowness Park. 

Put on your shades and dangle your feet over the edge of your boat for the best kind of cool down. Or, if you’re really brave take the plunge and go for a dip.

If you’re looking for a more chill paddle, Bowness Park, in the city’s northwest is an awesome spot for paddling, too. You can rent paddle boats, kayaks and canoes from the University of Calgary’s Outdoor Centre kiosk there.

Paddleboarding on water in Alberta

There are so many beautiful spots to enjoy on the water in Alberta. 

Waterton Lakes 

This is one of our absolute favourite places to play in the water in southern Alberta. Why? Well it might have something to do with the out-of-this world Rocky Mountain scenery. Just saying. Peaks and spires can be seen around every corner and the historic Prince of Wales hotel overlooks the head of the lake. It makes for a spectacular Instagram shot.

You can rent kayaks, canoes or SUP boards at Blakiston and Company for a whole or half day. Be sure to bring some snacks and beverages along and paddle up to shore some sunbathing time.

Start trip planning and follow along on our adventures

A waterfall in Alberta

Take in the beautiful waterfalls throughout the province. 

Who doesn't love a waterfall

Alberta is spoiled for choice when it comes to waterfalls. It's blissful to feel the refreshing mist wafting over the shore. It's kind of like being a kid in a sprinkler. 

Here are two waterfall destinations that make wonderful day trips. 

Johnston Canyon: Yes, this is a popular spot for Albertans but this year, getting there is the delightful twist to visiting the canyon. The 1A highway is closed to vehicles, (Yay!) meaning you can ride your bike there on freshly paved blacktop. Take the whole day to do this activity, it'll be worth it. The ride to Johnston Canyon is about 25 kms one way from the gates starting in Banff. Stop, have a beverage and lunch and then take the short hike to the thundering falls for a refreshing break.

Lundbreck Falls: You don't just get one waterfall here, but two, that flow from the Crownest River. You can take a short walk to the observation area to check out the mesmerizing falls and then head down into the limestone gorge if you want to cool down. Make a weekend out of it and spend a night camping out along the river in Lundbreck Provincial Park.

Check out this story about all the ways to explore the Crownest Region from the water.

A lake in the Alberta mountains

Find a spot near Edmonton to spend time doing water sports. 

Edmonton and area

Alberta's capital city is famed for its gorgeous river valley, but the city is also the gateway to northern Alberta's abundance of lakes and rivers that attract anglers from around the world. But if fishing isn't your thing, don't worry you can also kayak, canoe, SUP and get in some beach time. Here are a few suggestions to get you started in your quest to get out on the water to find some much-needed Zen. 

Fishing in an Alberta river

Lakeland Country is the perfect name for this area. 

Lac La Biche County

The Lac La Biche Region, just a little more than two hours north of Edmonton is an angler's playground. With more than 150 lakes in the region, you'll be spoiled for choice. You can choose to head out on your own if you're an experienced angler. Favourite fishing holes include Elinor Lake, Lac La BIche and Beaver lake, the biggest two lakes, where you can spend days casting and relaxing in your boat.

Or maybe you're one of the many people who've never gone fishing but want to learn. There are a variety of fishing outfitters in the area who are happy to show you the ropes.

Read this ZenSeekers story to find out what a day out on the lake with an outfitter is like

Lac La Biche #TakeItToTheLake
Photo: Angus Cockney

The canoe circuit in Lac La Biche County is a great way to spend summer. 

Put Alberta's only canoe circuit on your bucket list

The aptly named Lakeland Country, where the hamlet of Lac La Biche is located, is home to Alberta's only canoe circuit. The three-lake or four-lake Lakeland Canoe Circuit winds through pristine boreal forest and there the chance to camp on islands with sand beaches. You'll hit Jackson, Kinnaird, Blackett, & McGuffin Lakes to do the whole round circuit. Sounds pretty dreamy, right? 

Most folks can do the circuit in about three days. And, no, you don't need to own a canoe to make this happen. Local outfitter OffRoad Rentals and Adventures can get you set up with canoe carts and all, making the portaging a breeze. Your reward for portaging and paddling is setting up camping out on a sandy beach where you can refresh yourself with a dip in the lake. The bonus at the end of the day, is some spectacular star-gazing, and if you can keep your eyes open late enough, there's a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. 

Check out all the ways you can get out on the water near Lac La Biche.

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