For those of you visiting Banff National Park and the Banff Townsite in particular, this is a great little paddle, especially if you do not want to arrange for shuttling options for a strictly downriver trip.
From the put-in at the Canoe Docks, start off by heading upriver, following the main channel. This will be very obvious as the side channel, just meters from the dock is merely a small stream leading off to the nerby Vermillion Lakes, also a nice little paddle. For this trip however, we will focus on the Bow River itself.
The current is slow to moderate depending on water levels but is certainly doable by most everybody at low to moderate water levels. More advanced paddlers can easily work there way up even in high water, sticking to the inside of the bends and taking advantage of the slower water to be found here(Faster water will normally be on the outside of the turns).
The river itself twists and turns, winding it's way along the spectacular Bow Rvier Valley. Don't forget to bring your camera with you as the views are astounding to say the least!
Just over 3 kilometers upriver form the canoe docks, you will see a fork in the river. Stay to the right here. The left channel is also a nice little paddle but gets shallow very quickly before dead-ending. The main river continues to the right and will once again be obvious.
Apprroxiamtely 6 kilometers upriver, you will turn sharply to the left and will pass by the railroad tracks to your right. You are now only about 3 kilometers from the proposed turn-around for todays paddle.
The last few kilometers continue to twist & turn and you will get into some faster currents over the last section. Be sure to look for the slower water along the inside bends.
After about 9 kilometers, you will be at the highway overpass for the Trans Canada Hihway. There is a good eddy on your left when going upstream, this makes a great spot to take a lunch break and to stretch your legs before heading back downriver. Just above the eddy, going under the bridge is some faster water. If wishing to continue further, you will likely need to portage around the fast water before struggling further upriver.
Heading back down towards the canoe docks in the Banff townsite, stay in the faster water near the center of the river. Before you know it, you'll be back where you started. Be sure to take your time though and take in the incredible views of the amazing Rocky Mountains. There is also a strong chance of seeing a variety of wildlife during along the river during your paddle. Elk, eagles, osprey, deer, black bears, grizzlies etc are common in this area. Take care when going ashore and do not try to paddle too close to the wildlife trying for that" Perfect picture". Give the wildlife a respectable distance and enjoy the experience of paddling in Canada's Rocky Mountains.
Back in Banff, there are many places to choose from for a great bite to eat and a cold beverage after your paddle. Relax and enjoy everything that Banff has to offer! A particular favorite of mine is Bruno's Bar and Grill on Caribou Street, about a 5 minute walk from the put-in/ take-out.
Put in: N51 10.657 W115 34.680
Turn-Around: N51 10.069 W115 39.538
The directions to the put-in/ take-out for this route are very simple. From the town of Banff itself, when going along the main street, Banff Ave, turn down Wolf St. to Bow Ave. From the intersection, looking left is the "Canoe Docks". There are commercial rentals here during the summer season but the public has complete access here as well to come and go and to use the docks along the river.
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