Saturday, September 25, 2021

North Saskatchewan, Laurier to Whitemud Creek

I've been trying to venture out of town to see some new lakes this year, but the North Saskatchewan is just too convenient to not paddle on.

The Laurier Park boat launch has been so crowded on the weekend that I haven't bother with it. But it is quite during the week. I had a nice paddle upstream with very clear water (no rain so just mountain runoff). Always happy for this rock to hide behind before pushing the last bit up to Whitemud Creek.  

The Edmonton Queen is still in drydock air the mouth of the creek.

The water in the creek was higher than usual so I was able to get underneath Fox drive before grounding out. A very pretty little section of creek.

Then a nice float back down to Laurier, which went quickly since the river is a touch higher than usual this year.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Twin Lakes

 The Twin Lakes are located about 90 minutes north of Peace River. This is a long drive unless you are on your way to High Level (in which case, this is about half way). There are two lakes here but only one is readily accessible for paddling from the recreation area.

The recreation area has two parts. Up top, there are campgrounds, a picnic shelter (watch your head!), and really awful pit toilets. Down below, there is a sandy boat launch, dock and parking area. 

The lake is clean enough to swim in and has an interesting (if weedy) bottom.

The shore is a mix of weeds, bushes, and turf with a few beaver lodges. We followed two loons around the perimeter (maybe a half hour paddle).

There is also a trail around the lake (maybe 3km) that connects to the second lake. The trail is fairly rough so hauling boats isn't really an option.

It looks like there is a fair bit of fishing and we ran across some bear poop on the lake trail. also lots of bugs on the trail (but none on the lake).

I was surprised how much I liked this lake. At one point we were the only ones on it. I can't imagine I'll every get back here but who knows.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Cardinal Lake

Cardinal Lake is located just west of Peace River. We put in in Queen Elizabeth Provincial Park. The boat launch requires a hard right as soon as you pass under the park archway (the left take you to an outdoor museum and rodeo ground).

The boat launch is nice enough (ramp, dock and gravel beach). The lake was pretty murky (you could see down less than 12 inches). There are washrooms, lots of parking, a playground, and a campground here.

The only other access point I could see was what looks like a boat launch on the south shore off range Road 244, to the west.

As a paddle, this was a bit of a bore. The shoreline is a mix of rocky beaches with scrub growth and reeds. Looked like lots of fish though and we saw some birds, including a pelican.

We had a very overcast day but, on the plus side, this very late lake was glassy calm, which make for some great reflection in pictures.

I don't think I would go back. It was nice enough but not super interesting.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Figure Eight Lake

We spent some time near Peace River this summer, which opened up some new paddling opportunities. Figure Eight Lake is located just west and north of Peace River. It was one of the nicer lakes that we paddled in the Peace country.

There is a nice campground and a day-use area. The easiest place to launch is from the main beach. There is a short 150-foot carry down a gentle slope to a sandy beach. There are also toilets, picnic tables and a picnic shelter. The water was clean enough that we went swimming afterwards.

If you drive through the campground, there is also a proper boat launch and the lake is popular for fishing. There looks to be a hiking trail around the lake, although we didn't try it.

A leisurely paddle around the lake takes about 45 minutes (it is pretty small). There is a small bay on the north-west side. Here we had beavers slapping their tails at us and a bald eagle giving us the eye.

Out on the main lake there were loons and we saw an osprey dive and catch a pretty large fish.

Other then the beach, the shoreline is mostly cattails. There were several docks around the lake, including one just as you come into the day use area.

Overall, a nice paddle despite crazy heat (+30C) and would definitely go back if I was in the area again.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Hubbles Lake

Hubbles Lake is a small spring-fed lake about 25 minutes west of Edmonton. The water quality is good and a paddle around the edge is maybe 3km or so. To get to the lake, take Highway 16 west past Stony Plain. Then turn south on Range Road 13 and go about 3km. There is a gate on the west side of the road. 

The only public access is through the Allan Beach Resort and there is a charge (we paid $12 per adult). Best to check operating hours (when we went, they opened at 10 and restricted the number of visitors). You can drive down to the lake to load and unload but you need to return to the top to park (four-minute walk?).

There is a beach and a sandy boat launch. The beach gets quite busy during the day. There are also port-a-potties and they were renting paddle boards for $25 an hour.

The shoreline is highly developed so you are basically paddling past people's cabins and an RV resort. 

We saw lots of ducks and grebes towards the west end (where it is a bit swampier).

Overall, a lovely short paddle on a clean lake. If you were inclined, you could make a day of it on the beach. 

While this is a fair bit like Moonlight Bay on Wabamun, there were many fewer boats and the bottom of the lake was sandier and the water was cleaner. 

This is probably good family lake or one to learn on. It was a bit small and over developed for my taste.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Pipestone Creek, Coal Lake

It has been a few years since I've been out to Coal Lake by Wetaskiwin. I went out this time specifically to paddle Pipestone Creek, which enters Coal lake at the south end.

Access is pretty easy. South on the 2A to Wetaskiwin, then east on Highway 13 for 15 kms until you drop down into the big valley by Gwynne. Coal lake is on the north side (you can see the berm from the road), with the turn off being marked by a truck up on top of some scaffolding. Follow the gravel road to the boat launch. There is a dock, a launch, good parking and nasty pit toilets.

Pipestone Creek is directly west of the boat launch in the swamp at the south end of the lake. When I was there, the most prominent marker was the lime green algae in the creek (the lake was clean).

Shortly after entering the creek, you go under a car bridge and, other than a house on the bluffs, you basically leave civilization behind.

The creek is a very nice paddle. Almost no current and lots of wildlife. I scared up some herons and saw lot of ducks and two hawks. There were also lots of shore birds and a couple of muskrats. Lots of beaver activity evident but I did not see any. Oh, and lots of wasp nests (but no bugs to speak of).

The algae came and went and this might be a cleaner paddle in the spring or autumn. No smell but a fair but of extra drag (which was surprising).

After about 75 minutes of paddling, I hit a pine tree down across the river (below). I could have snuck under on the right or maybe levered over on the left. Just around the bend, though, there is a large beaver dam (about a foot higher than the creek) plus lots more obstacles.

Some paddlers I met on the parking lot said you can portage around the dam but I was pooped so just turned around and went back. 

Overall, a fun paddle, especially if you like birds. I'd definitely go back in another season to see the differences.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Lac des Arcs, Banff

Every year as a kid, we'd drive to Banff and I'd see this tiny island Lac des Arcs from the highway. It always had a picnic table, or tent, or flag on it. I always dreamed of visiting it. This year, we stopped to paddle out there.

Access was from the east end of the lake in the Lac des Arcs campground, just east of Canmore. You can pull to within about 12 feet of the water. There are also pit toilets, picnic tables, and a picnic shelter. This campground is a part of the new Kananaskis improvement fee area, so you need to buy a daily (or annual) pass online before you arrive.

We paddled along the highway up to the island, crossed the lake, and then came back on the dyke they put in in the mid 1990s. There was a bit of smoke in the sky that day so the pictures are a touch hazy. We could have paddled the whole perimeter for two-ish hours but only had an hour to spare so just did half the lake.

The island was tiny and rocky and covered in goose poop. It would be fairly easy to access from a canoe but tricker from a kayak so we just paddled around it.

The limestone plant across the river is a pretty dominant sight and we watched trucks and dozers work. There were a few birds left on the lake and we saw a bald eagle at one point.

The water was calm. Given the valley, I imagine it could get choppy pretty quickly when a wind comes up.

Overall, a nice enough paddle. I probably wouldn't go back (Two-Jack in Banff is fair prettier) but I'm happy to have had the chance to paddle out to the island.