Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Moolight Bay, Lake Wabamun

Last week, Jess and I braved the smoke and drove out to Moonlight Bay on the east end of Lake Wabamun. The lake can be accessed from Wabamun Lake Provincial Park and the bay provides a nice sheltered paddle of about 2.5km around the perimeter.

There is a boat launch (two actually) on the south end of the provincial park, lots of parking, toilets, playground, picnic tables, and a busy public beach.

We had a quick snack sitting on the edge of the board walk and then launched from the boat launch ramps. Nice sandy bottom with no weeds or other junk.

The launches were quite busy even though it was an overcast week day. You could also rent canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats.

The bay is shallow and a pleasant paddle. We saw lots of birds and people fishing.

The bay empties into the larger lake at the south end. You just have to paddle under the CN main line bridge and you are out in open water with the town of Wabamun (and its marina) to the west.

It was very calm the day we were there. I would imagine the lake itself could get pretty exciting of there was a big wind.

Overall, a nice paddle and easy location. You can also get into the lake from the town of Wabamun on the north side (boat launch) and from Seba Beach on the west side (public beach) of the lake.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Bowness Park, Calgary

We took road trip to Calgary a few weeks back to visit with some family. I didn't bother bring the kayaks because I didn't think we had time to paddle. We ended up at Bowness Park one afternoon and the U of C's campus Rec Program is renting canoes, kayaks, and (for the brave) paddle boats.

There isn't much to the Bowness pond--you can do several laps in an hour--but it is a good place for kids to get some experience paddling. The launch is from docks, which can be a touch tricky in  kayak (versus a beach launch). My brother managed to botch getting into the boat and jack-knifed into the lagoon (which is about four feet deep). Sadly, I did not get this on video.

There are a couple of small channels around the back of the dock area to paddle in and then the larger east-west lagoon. The creek leading to the river at the west end of the lagoon was off limits. There were lots of ducks to float along with.

Below is a shot looking west down the length of the lagoon. In addition to the rental boats, there were private kayaks and floaties on the pond.

It looks to me like you could launch from the patio of the restaurant at the west end of the lagoon (the closest spot to the parking lot).

There is also a miniature train, picnic sites, a snack shop and a restaurant, and playground equipment. Not an interesting enough paddle to do more than once but a good place for kids to build their confidence in a pretty safe environment.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Miquelon Lake

We drove out to Miquelon Lake provincial park today, about 70km SE of Edmonton (near New Sarepta) for a paddle. The last time we were here was maybe 11 or so years ago.

The lake is melt-water fed (so salty) and shallow and today had hundreds of pelicans nesting on the west side. We came at the lake from the south off Highway 623 (through the campground) and put in at the boat launch (about two-thirds of the way down the east side of the lake). The boat launch has pit toilets and lots of parking! The whole park has this feeling of being way over built for the modest lake it sits on.

The launch itself is a good carry (maybe 60 or 70 feet) down an easy embankment. The water level looked lower than the last time we were here. I had to wade out about 15 feet from shore through some mildly stinky mud to get enough water to float my kayak with me in it.

Once on the water, we had a lovely time. There was a decent breeze to keep the bugs off but the lake was very calm. We could see the bottom most of the time. We went north around the island on the east side (more of peninsula right now) and there was an interesting rock formation with friendly gulls.

We then turned south to check out the main beach. I recall this was a very long carry from the main day-use parking lots the last time we were here. The lake has receded since (I'd guess another 30-40 feet of beach and grass was there).

Despite the wind pushing the boats around, there was hardly a ripple on the lake. There could have been a much longer paddle here (the lake is maybe 3 x 4 km) but we were mostly out to get Jess some experience paddling on her own and see what the facilities are like.

We stopped back at the day-use lot for a picnic lunch. There are flush toilets, picnic tables, a playground and beach access. Water quality was low so there was a swim ban. We walked around some slews to the south of the day-use lot and I wish we'd brought our bikes to check out the trails. This was an interesting paddle but I'm not sure we'd go back unless it was for an extended tour of the lake.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Quick paddles on the North Saskatchewan

The most accessible water in Edmonton in the North Saskatchewan. I paddle on it about three times a week during the summer, usually putting in just downstream of the Groat Road bridge (top centre of map). You can launch from Emily Murphy Park with a carry of less then 50 feet.

I usually paddle upstream for 30-45 minutes towards Laurier Park, cross over and float back down. To get all the way to Laurier is a longer trip (maybe 90 minutes of paddling)--I usually get to the MacKenzie Ravine (about half way there) before turning around. With loading and travel time, a trip is usually 90 minutes door to door.

Floating back towards downtown is lovely. There is lots of wildlife and usually other paddlers on the water (and sometimes swimmers in it).

This spring the beavers have been fairly active, (re)building a lodge at the mouth of the MacKinnon Ravine. I saw three of them there this morning working on it. You can get pretty close before they bail out; apologies for the dropped camera in the shot below--was trying to avoid a collision.

Another easy access point is the Laurier Park boat launch (bottom left of the map). Here you can get right down to the water to unload. I would say the river is a bit faster here than it is closer to Emily Murphy. From Laurier you can paddle upstream, cross over just below the Quesnel bridge and access Whitemud Creek.

There are of course, lots of access points to the river (for example, you can put in off the beach at Whitemud Creek or under the Quesnel Bridge by Fort Edmonton). While the float from Devon to Edmonton is a lovely day trip, a quick paddle on the river is a lot more accessible.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Coal Lake

Coal Lake is located east of Wetaskiwin and west of Camrose in a small valley. The lake runs roughly north-south for about 11 km and is about 1 km across. It is dammed at the south end and reminded me of lots of prairie lakes in the bottoms of coolies.

It seems to be a part of chain of lakes in a old glacial meltwater valley, including Saunders Lake and perhaps Telford Lake, that eventually turned into the ox-bow hell of the Battle River.

We accessed the lake at the south end from Coal Lake provincial park. The lake access was not signed but was reasonably easy to find. We travelled east-bound on Highway 13 then took the second left once down the valley. Most notable land mark is a logging truck fixed atop part of an oil derrick (you'll know it when you see it...).

There are pit toilets, a boat launch, a parking lots and a jetty here. Access was good and the water was reasonably clean. The carry was about 25 feet--which is hardly worth mentioning.

The lake is long and it was windy when we were there. The sides of the lake were nice and calm and there were only a few power boats out fishing. We went north on the east side, got bored, turned back and then cut across to the west side (below).

There are lots of bird here. At the south end of the lake, there is a bit of a swamp with channels to explore and lots more birds. The biggest we saw were a bunch of pelicans.

The most striking was a yellow-headed black bird (I don't think I've ever seen one before--mostly we see red-winged black birds).

We sent probably half and hour in the swamp, watching birds and cutting among the reeds for open spots.

 Overall, a nice enough lake. I'd be worried if a big wind came up as there is no where to hide!

I'm not sure we'd go back although there is also access at the north end of the lake.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Astotin Lake

We went Astotin Lake at Elk Island Park last weekend for a paddle. The park was crazy busy (free entry this year coupled with a nice day). There are almost 50 cars with boats on top by the time we left and they were also renting canoes and kayaks on the beach.

Jenn and Jess had a nice paddle while I rode in from the main gate. Jenn got shat upon by a pelican and the wind was just picking up as they were coming back in. It got rougher as I went out and I took a wave over the bow deck and into my lap!

Even with the chop, there were some nice sheltered bays to the north and south of the beach. Lots of birds including pelicans.

There were also voyageur canoes on the water for a bit. 

And the new boat launch was busy. We just carried to the beach as a beach launch is easier.

We finished the trip off with a picnic, a hike, and an ice cream cone from the food truck that was out there.

Overall, a wonderful trip (pelican poop notwithstanding).

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sturgeon River

The North Saskatchewan was still flowing a bit high for us so we trekked out to St Albert to paddle the Sturgeon River this past week. This is a lovely way to spent an hour or so on a warm night.

We put in at the boat launch just off Mission Street (top right corner of map above, just upstream of the bridge). This is an okay launch when the water is high. It can get pretty muddy later in the year when the water level drops.

I went back the next day and put in with a friend at Riel Park (bottom left of the map). There is a jetty and a gentle entry into the water.

Both times the paddling was lovely and the current was not anything to worry about. As we paddled upstream we saw lots of ducks. The next day we saw beaver kits and a heron. The wooden rail bridge is lovely and the smell of creosote-y wood reminds me of being a kid at the lake.

Overall, this was a nice shakedown cruise for the season. No one got wet or injured, all of the equipment still works, and the round trip (including an hour of paddling) was only two hours.

I'm looking forward to getting back on the river at lunch times!