Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sturgeon River and Big Lake, St Albert


The Sturgeon River flows from Big Lake, eastward through downtown St Albert and (eventually) dumps into the North Saskatchewan.  I've always wanted to paddle this but doubted it was doable in a canoe (maybe a kayak). We were out today cycling along the river and saw two canoes in the water so (proven wrong) I dug out my pictures from last summer.

One of the challenges with the Sturgeon is that it is silty and often has low water levels, especially during the summer. Even today (after a lot of rain) the water was quite low through town. There are also no really good entry points—its going to be a muddy entry no matter how you approach it.


There is a boat launch in downtown St Albert (see above), on the north side of the river. Access is off Mission Avenue and it is just across from St Albert place. Alas, the cement runs out long before you get to water so there will be slogging until you get enough depth to float.


A second (informal) put in is on the south side of the river, about 100 feet downstream from the Ray Gibbins Drive Bridge. Access is from the Kinsmen RV campground (there is parking in the roundabout) and there is a dirt trail down to the water through the grass. I did not wander down today to see how the access was.


It may also be possible to put into Big Lake (above) on the south side, although all of the approaches from here seem hooped because of the low water levels and long mud flats.

Paddling is best between Big Lake and the trestle railway bridge by the ball diamonds and St Albert Senior Citizens Club. This is about 2 km long (at a guess) and there is lots of waterfowl (including young today). There are multiple bands of forest and fields and apparently good fishing. Big Lake is also navigable, although often windy.


Downstream from the trestle bridge, the river passes through St Albert and under St Albert Trail. This was navigable today (there were canoes here) but the paddlers could not get the entirety of their blade into the water, especially passing under St Albert Trail—I’d guess there was about three inches of water beneath their keel and there is a good chance of running aground. The current is not very strong, but pushing off a deep muddy bottom would be a chore.

The river looked passable as far down as Boudreau Road (so a total of maybe 3 km downstream of the trestle rail bridge). Here, there were multiple beaver dams on the river, which would require a muddy dismount to get over. My guess is the mud at the bottom of the Sturgeon is effectively bottomless and quite sticky. My understanding from other paddlers is that, further downstream, you run into a morass of dams and quasi oxbows--a trip best avoided.

11 comments:

  1. We have canoed this river and enjoyed it immensely. You're right about the launch off Mission - it's concrete and not that easy to negotiate.

    We saw so much wildlife it astounded us... all the while the (noisy) farmer's market was going on in the background. I'd have preferred a Sunday paddle. This year!

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  2. Update from August 2016. Best place to put in is by the Gazebo in the Kinsmen RV park. You can paddle downstream towards St. Albert downtown but about 250 meters upstream of the trestle some very efficient beavers have engineered a dam from bank to bank. This dam, naturally makes paddling upstream towards Big Lake a dream - wide, slow waters.

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    1. Thanks for the update--that dam wasn't visible to us when we cycled from downtown to Big Lake this spring.

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    2. Yes this place is awesome. We are beginners and the makeshift dock was easy enough for us. There is a fun climbing tree for the kids east of the dock, a playground and well you could easily spend all day here.

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    3. If it weren't for your post I would never have found that, so thank you!! Easy parking right by the Gazebo,a quick carry down the path to the river. Very easy to get in there. My friend and I headed out toward Big Lake, heard some bird sounds I'd never heard before! Unfortunately a big dark cloud and thunder made us turn around earlier than planned but we will be back for sure!

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    4. Glad you liked it. It is a nice paddle, especially early in the year when the water levels are high and the north saskatchewan is dirty and fast.

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  3. My husband and I drove from Calmar, Ab to check this out. Thank you so much for posting this info! We were beginning to get frustrated/ driving in circles. A quick google search and we found everything we needed! Very nice paddle. We saw 2 baby beavers, numerous birds, and baby ducklings. Seems very popular, but wasn't crowded. Some helpful people helped us launch as the entry point is quite muddy. Made for a perfect way to spend the Holiday Monday.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it. The entry is less muddy in early spring when water levels are higher. It is a lovely paddle.

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    2. We are hoping to go there today. Suggestions?

      Thanks

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    3. This is a slightly more recent post that identifies the two easiest access points: http://edmontoncanoeing.blogspot.ca/search/label/Sturgeon%20River I haven't been out to St Albert since lat June so no idea how the water levels are. Easiest access is downtown.

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