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Row Row Row Your Boat Exploring Kananaskis and Banff from the Water

Canoeing is a classic summer experience that many of us will remember from days at camp as a child. You don’t have to send the kids to camp, though, to get a safe introduction to paddling. Canoeing is a sport that the whole family can enjoy in Kananaskis and Banff this summer with little to no previous experience.

Canoe rentals are as cheap as $15 per hour and you can show up at a commercial dock with nothing but your sandals and positive attitude dialed in for fun.

Canoeing in the town of Banff

The Banff Canoe Club has taken over the Blue Canoe operation on the corner of Wolf Street and Bow Avenue downtown. They opened their doors on May 15 this year with a focus on connecting locals and visitors to the sport of canoeing in Banff National Park. They aim to make the sport of canoeing more accessible by offering reduced rental rates with the hope canoeing will become a more popular sport. The club will be offering free memberships to Bow Valley locals, with visitors paying $40 per membership.

With your 2014 season membership, you will receive one hour of free paddling and then pay $15 per hour after that for the rest of the summer and fall season. If you don’t want to purchase a membership, you can still rent a canoe from the club. But at $36 per hour for rentals without a membership, it’s much more cost-friendly to become a member of the club. The membership pretty much pays for itself in one visit with your first hour of free paddling, and then you can come back any time with the kids for another affordable outing.

Where can you paddle from the Canoe Club docks?

From the docks on Bow Avenue, families can explore  a gentle stretch of the Bow River or follow Forty Mile Creek into the Vermillion Lakes. Our family did Forty  Mile Creek last summer and the trip was very easy and good for novice paddlers. I did it on a stand-up paddleboard, which you can rent from the club if you’d like to try something different. The current is easy to navigate along the creek and the water flows very  gently for beginners wanting to try paddle boarding for the first time.

Where else can you paddle in Banff?

The Banff Canoe Club rents inflatable stand-up paddleboards with pumps as well as canoes and kayaks that you can take off-site to any lake that you’d like to paddle. You’ll have to be prepared to transport the boats yourself but within a very short drive, you can head to nearby Two Jack Lake or Johnson Lake for easy paddling on a calm day. Johnson Lake gets warm enough for a short dip on a hot day and is the ideal place to take a boat or paddleboard if you have little to no experience. For information on off-site rentals and inflatable paddleboards, contact the Banff Canoe Club,

Paddling in Kananaskis

Most families wanting to paddle in Kananaskis will head to nearby Barrier Lake or to Upper or Lower Kananaskis Lake on a calm day. Kananaskis Outfitters is based out of Kananaskis Village close to Barrier Lake,  and they provide a rental fleet of canoes and kayaks  that you can transport to any of the nearby lakes. Rental  rates are affordable at $55 per day for a canoe or  tandem kayak. The company also does lakeside rentals in the summer months on weekends at Barrier Lake. For more information on their schedule, visit

Last summer, the company was also providing stand-up paddleboards for rent at Barrier Lake on weekends so that would be worth checking out if you would like to try what is quickly becoming one of the most popular summer sports out there!

Renting boats in Calgary

For greater freedom, you can rent canoes, kayaks and SUP boards from MEC or from the Calgary Outdoor Centre at the University of Calgary. While you will have to transport your boat to your paddling site, renting in Calgary gives you the freedom to take boats with you while camping for the weekend at your favorite lake. Rates are always better too if you rent in the city and pay for multiple days. Long-weekend rates often include a free day or special price as well. Make sure you reserve boats for weekends in advance, though!

Safety precaution

Have fun but remember that properly-fitting life jackets need to be worn the entire time you are in the water. It’s not good enough to just have a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) in the boat and it won’t do you any good if you tip and you’re not wearing it. Transport Canada also requires that you paddle with a safety kit containing a whistle, bailing device and throw rope. A safety kit and PFD for each person in your family should be provided when you rent a boat. If not, make sure you ask for these items or add them on to your rental package. Dry bags can also be rented as part of your package and are useful if you don’t want your keys and wallet to get wet. At the very least, bring some re-sealable plastic bags or garbage bags with you when paddling with items you want to keep dry.

Tanya loves hiking, camping, skiing and all things mountain-related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies,, and the founder of Calgary Outdoor Playgroups on Facebook. More information about her playgroups can be found on her blog.

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