On a warm sunny day, sitting on a raft and floating down the river is a wonderful way to pass the time. In one afternoon you will see wonderful views of the city, amazing homes, natural parks, and maybe even wildlife, all while you spend quality time with family and friends. Rafting in Calgary is an activity that you can enjoy with all ages … make it an annual tradition! You can read more about our experience in 2021, rafting with Lazy Day Raft Rentals.
What you need:
You need a boat that is large enough to accommodate your family. You can purchase them at places like Canadian Tire, or you can rent them.
All persons in a raft must be wearing a PFD (Personal Floatation Device) at all times. Bylaw officers will ticket you for failing to comply. Set a good example for your children and wear one, even when the water is only ankle-deep!
You need to leave one vehicle at your exit point and drive the other to your entry point. (If you’re booking with Lazy Day Raft Rentals, you could also book seats on their shuttle.)
Elbow River – Nice and Slow
For families with smaller children, the Elbow is the way to go. There are many spots where you can stand up and wade alongside the raft (and in some spots, later in the summer you may have to portage because it’s too shallow). It’s also a shorter adventure for those with short attention spans!
Start at Sandy Beach in River Park near the Glenmore Athletic Park. Take 50th Avenue SW East until you get into a parking lot, then take the road all the way down.
Stanley Park is also an easy place to start. From Macleod Trail, take 42nd Avenue West to Stanley Road.
Some of the more popular exit points are 4th Street and Elbow Drive, if you want a short trip, or at Fort Calgary, if you want to ride the whole Elbow.
Bow River – Larger, faster, colder!
Entrance points at Bowness, Baker, Shouldice, and Edworthy Parks.
Some popular exit points on the Bow include the area just west of Crowchild Trail, Edworthy Park, Prince’s Island Park and the Zoo.
Things to know:
- Alcohol is prohibited but many people ignore this. Be responsible.
- Public urination is also a no-no. You don’t want people peeing on your lawn, so please respect private property. There are public restrooms in most of the river parks – use them.
- Tying boats together is not a great idea as you could capsize and get trapped underneath.
- Carry your phone, keys and cash in a waterproof bag, preferably strapped to one of the adults. In a pinch, zippered plastic bags work.
- The Bow River has some strong currents. Keep an eye out for them (especially around bridge supports) and when in doubt stay close to the shore.
- The area near the Calgary Zoo where the weir was, is now a set of rapids known as the Harvie Passage. While no longer a spiralling death trap, the rapids are to be navigated with caution and in fact, inexperienced paddlers are urged to portage – get out and walk around the rapids. There is a more gentle channel to the south (right) and a more challenging channel to the north (left).
- Check the weather reports. Thunderstorms come up fast and fierce in Calgary, so be prepared.
- Entrance Points Map – City of Calgary
This is provided for information purposes only. Please see this City of Calgary web page for more information about floating Calgary’s rivers.