Paddling Your Way Through Kananaskis


There’s nothing like a summer road trip, and when the sun’s beating down those getaways are even better when they’re based around water.

Kananaskis Country is home to some wonderful paddling locations. From deep turquoise water and sprawling mountain vistas, to fast-moving white water and glassy lakes, there’s something here for everyone and every skill level.

The Kananaskis Trail (Highway 40) travels south from its interchange with Highway 1; approximately 75 km west of Calgary. This is your starting point for an unforgettable paddling journey.

The first paddle-worthy stop is Canoe Meadows right along the Kananaskis River. This is a very popular spot for canoeists, kayakers, and river surfers looking to play in the frothing river. Rafters tend to put in further south at Widow Maker. If you’re planning on running the Kananaskis River, try setting-up a shuttle at Seebe, where the Kananaskis empties into the Bow River.

Photo: Tyler Dixon
Paddling along Barrier Lake

Continue heading south until Barrier Lake comes into view. This popular spot has two parking areas, both of which fill-up fast, especially on sunny weekends. You will reach the Prairie View Trail parking lot first or continue driving until you see the Barrier Lake Day Use Area. You can access the lake from either parking lot, but the Barrier Lake location has a hand-launch available.

Past Kananaskis Village lies Wedge Pond. One of the smaller bodies of water on this list, but it’s excellent for beginners, offers dramatic scenery, and, unlike many of the other suggestions, the water is warm enough here for a refreshing swim.

Photo: Tyler Dixon
Wedge Pond is an excellent spot to start your paddling journey, being a smaller body of water.


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After departing Wedge Pond, continue traveling south past jagged rocky peaks and vast forests until you reach the intersection for the Kananaskis Lakes Trail (Highway 742). You’ll follow a twisting road towards the Lower and Upper Kananaskis Lakes. These large lakes provide spectacular paddling opportunities with multiple different access points. You’ll want to bring a waterproof camera as there is jaw-dropping scenery with every paddle stroke!

Photo: Tyler Dixon
Enjoying the beautiful scenery of Upper Kananaskis Lake.

From here you can retrace your route north or opt for an extension and take the scenic way home. The Smith-Dorrien/Spray Lakes Trail (Highway 742) is a dusty, corduroy road that travels the length of the Spray Valley and connects Peter Lougheed Provincial Park with the Town of Canmore. There is no cell service in this area so ensure you are prepared. There are also additional paddling opportunities available along this stretch of gravel road.

Mud Lake can be found at the Burstall Pass trailhead. This very shallow lake comes by its name honestly. Continue north to the Spray Lakes Reservoir, a 15-kilometre-long lake that offers excellent paddling from various access points. Power boats are also permitted on this lake and there’s a boat launch at Driftwood Day Use Area.

Goat Pond is immediately north of the reservoir. It is considerably smaller and is often overlooked as a paddling destination.

You will leave Kananaskis Country as you get closer to Canmore. Along the way you will pass the Canmore Reservoir (an excellent choice that’s worth the stop) and Quarry lake (extremely popular in the summer). By now you will have reached Canmore where the Trans Canada Highway will take you back to Calgary.

Photo: Tyler Dixon
Paddling on the Canmore Reservoir


Remember, a Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required if you’re stopping at any location within Kananaskis Country. If you don’t have your own gear, Kananaskis Outfitters rents various watercrafts for your enjoyment.


Water safety should always be forefront in your mind anytime you venture out on the water. Here are a few safety guidelines to follow:

  • always wear a PFD
  • check weather, river and water reports/warnings before leaving
  • refer to safe boating guides for your area
  • leave a detailed plan with a trusted friend or family member
  • consider taking a swift water rescue course if you’re planning to spend time on the river

Help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species and diseases

"Please be mindful of protecting our beautiful waters from the threat of invasive species by taking action to ensure your watercraft and gear are free of invasive species. To prevent the spread of harmful hitchhikers, always clean, drain, and dry your vessel and equipment before entering any waters. By following these simple steps, you can help preserve the natural beauty and biodiversity of our pristine lakes and rivers for future generations." -Pam Saunders, Lake Windermere Ambassadors

Other resources to help understand why we should respect our

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