Have you ever looked at the Elbow River to find a giant golden swan, pizza slice, or donut float along the top of the water, and been filled with hot weather envy? River rafting in YYC is a ton of fun, but going out can seem intimidating if you haven’t done it before. That’s why Vern is here to help make your next floating trip better than the passage of the Titanic. Spoiler: it sunk.
Before you Go-Go
The day of your city rafting trip can get really exciting ultimately causing you to forget about the necessary pre-planning that goes into an adventure such as this. It isn’t uncommon to hear about car keys for the pick-up location being left in the car at a drop off location, so we suggest by planning ahead by putting together a waterproof bag with your cell phone, keys, and wallet.
Then it’s of the utmost importance to ensure make sure your waterproof bag can be attached to something. You’re going to have a bad time if that goes overboard during your trip. Pack your sunscreen, tons of water, and leave your liquor at home.
It’s a great idea to have everyone meet at the pick-up location, park, and then travel to the drop off location in as few vehicles as possible. This makes the end-of-day logistics much easier to figure out, too.
Things to Know for the Bow
There is a lot you need to know about the Bow River before your raft hits rushing water. Check out CIty of Calgary’s website for every detail you’ll want to know. If you float the Bow, make sure your vessel is either a drift boat, canoe, kayak, or raft. Please leave your Cupcake floatie at home for this one, kids.
The Bow can be fast and furious and, much like the neverending movie series, could make a friendly little ride dramatic in point-zero-two seconds. The Elbow, on the other hand, likes to take it slow, and its lazy nature garners a giant yes from Vern for first-timers and leisure-lovers too.
For the Best Time on the Elbow
The Elbow river is perfect for the chatty buddies you plan to bring along and all the Instagram-worthy pics you plan to take with your seldom-used Go-Pro.
Because of how shallow it is, you’ll need to be careful not to burst your raft along the riverbed below. But since it is so shallow, all the fun floaties are fair game. Bring on the pizza slices, giant peacocks, unicorns, avocados, popsicles, and any other unique device you can find and drop in at Sandy Beach. Just be ready to drag some larger rafts over the shallows.
Float times vary on both rivers, from half an hour to six hours, so check float times and access here.
All the Really-Important-Please-Don’t-Forget-This-Stuff Stuff
Alright. Now is the time to listen up, friends. There are a lot of hazards, safety tips, and must-haves before you dip a single toe in one of Calgary’s rivers.
Before you even leave the house, check Alberta Environment for any advisories. Even if there isn’t an advisory, watch the river before you drop in.
Did you know life jackets or floatation devices are required by law? Or that you have to bring a bailer, paddles/oars, whistle, and 15 metres of buoyant rope in case of an emergency? This is just the beginning of all the things you need to remember before floating down the Bow, so check out the rest of that list here.
If you don’t have your own gear, don’t worry for a second. Calgary has a ton of options to get you sorted before your float, like The Paddle Station, the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre, Lazy Day Raft Rentals, Sports Rent, and Raft Calgary.
By Deanna Tucker
Looking for other fun activities this summer in Calgary? Check out different bike paths for all kinds of cyclists!