Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Barrier Lake, Kananaskis

Barrier Lake is a reservoir located in Kananaskis country, about 90 minutes west of Calgary.  Head west towards Banff on Highway 1 and then turn south on Highway 40 (at the casino...). The lake is about 20km past the turnoff.

There are two access points for the lake. The first is at the very north-east corner of the lake near the dam. There is a small parking lot and a steep carry down to the water. Barrier can be windy and the wind generally blows towards this end of the lake. This means I've seen some pretty serious rollers (three feet and more) down here.

The better access is just down the road at the Barrier day use areas. The signage is the pits but basically turn in and stay to the right and you eventually wind your way down to the boat launch and beach. There are pit toilets here and lots of picnic sites.

The water level in the reservoir was dropped this year (for three years, I think) as a flood control measure. Thus the boat launch (above) ends about 50 feet shy of the edge of the water. The beach is sandy and it is a short carry to the (very brisk) water.

This year, Kananaskis Outfitters was running a boat rental operation here with canoes, kayaks and paddle boards. The rental site was staffed Friday to Sunday but arrangements could be made to access boats during the week at the outfitters office in Kananaskis Village.

We rented a pair of kayaks so all three of us could paddle. We also took a great paddle boarding lesson arranged through the outfitters. The beach got very busy as the day went on with more than a dozen boats and several groups. The wind picked up as the day went on and the lake is prone to both strong wind gusts and rapid changes in the weather.

Paddling west and then south (towards the point where the river enters the lake) was more interesting than paddling towards the north and east (which takes you towards the dam). Our paddle boarding instructor said that the delta exposed by the lower water levels is covered in old golf balls that have washed down stream over the years but we didn't get that far.


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