Saturday, October 19, 2019

Athabasca River, Athabasca

During  recent work trip, I managed to get an hour in to paddle on the Athabasca River, which flows past the town of Athabasca. I've paddled the Athabasca in Jasper but never this far downstream.

Access is really easy, with Highway Two depositing you right a the river's edge in a lovely park. There is a boat launch right there and ample parking.

I paddled upstream about 45 minutes until I started to lose the light and then floated back. The river is a bit larger than the North Saskatchewan and had a pretty decent current, even late in the autumn.

The autumn leaves made for a nice paddle. It might be more fun to do this paddle with a shuttle arrangement.

My time was limited during this trip but nearby Island Lake and Baptiste Lake to the west and Lawrence Lake to the north look like good places to try the next time I'm up (in the summer!).

There is also Skeleton Lake and North Buck Lake to the east (the latter has a provincial park).

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Long Lake Provincial Park

Work took me north in early October and I managed to swing by Long Lake Provincial Park during the drive. This is a different Long Lake than the one which hosts the Forfar Recreation Area (which is to the west about an hour).

Long Lake is a bit of a haul from Edmonton (2+ hours each way) for a day trip, but there is a nice campground here. The facilities were pretty decent and included a boat rental and concession (open during the summer) as well as a store and gas station just outside the park gates. The boat-rental dock (normally on the left in picture below) had been hauled out for the season when I got there.

There is a large public beach with a playground and picnic facilities. You'd have to haul a boat maybe 200 feet to beach launch, but this is likely the best option.

The lake is very long (north-south) and it can be windy. When I got there, the air temperature down in the valley was only 3 degrees (!) and the wind made it much worse. I'm pretty hardy but this was just too cold for me to paddle.

There is a boat launch to the north of the main beach.

There is also a dock at the boat launch.

Overall, likely a nice lake on a calm day. Not so nice of a paddle if the wind gets rolling. I would say this is a slightly less attractive paddling option than the Forfar site at the other Long Lake in the region.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Moonlight Bay, Wabamun Lake

It has been a couple of years since we've been to Wabamun Lake Provincial Park. I took a morning off work after a late night and Jess and I headed out for a quick paddle.

Things are basically the same as the last time were were here. Good parking and two boat launches. There is also a big public dock if that is to your taste. The bathrooms move have been recently improved.

The beach was lovely and largely deserted on a Wednesday morning. The weekends are typically much, much busier

We paddled around the outside of moonlight bay, voice dup some garbage and two beachballs.

The water was super clean, and with the sun, we spent a lot of time looking at the weeds, watching fish jump, and swallows catch bugs.

It was a calm day so we also went under the railway bridge and out in the main lake. Basically you could paddle forever here (Wabamun is big!) but Jess was getting a bit tired so we poked around in the reeds and then went back to the beach.

I'd say we spent 90 minutes here and it was a lovely paddle, perfect for beginners. Things were picking up by 11 with more kayaks, some paddle boards, and more power boats.

Our next paddle with either be Long Lake north of Gibbons or maybe Lake Nakamun (hard to find info about public entry--google suggests a launch on the south side).

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Forfar Recreation Park, Long Lake

We drove up towards Athabasca last week to check out the Forfar Recreation Area. The trip is about 90 minutes north on Highway 2 followed by a short drive west on Highway 663.

There is a $5 entry fee to access the lake. The main access point has a beach, boat launch, dock and swimming area. The water is lovely (spring fed and clear). There is also a campground with separate beach.

We paddled north up the west side of the lake. After getting through the first narrows we hit a shallower area with a speed limit. This was much nicer as we weren't have to cope with the wake of the many boats pulling tubes.

Pretty typical northern lake but with lovely clear water (more like northern Saskatchewan lLakes at the tail of the Shield).

We paddled up towards a camp. We came back down the east side to try and get out of the wind that came up. There is also a small camp ground at the north end of Long Lake, but I don't know what kind of lake access there is (google suggests limited).

Further north is Narrow Lake. We didn't try that but there is a campground with water access about half way down the east side of Narrow Lake.

Overall, a lovely day and a very nice lake. We might go back again and see what the south end of the lake holds. There is another Long Lake about 60km to the east (which is confusing) that also appears to have a campground and beach that we might try this summer.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Cardiff Pond

We took a couple of trips out to Cardiff Pond this spring while the Sturgeon was too low to paddle and the North Saskatchewan was too high.

A kayak club has taken up residency here which means a new (and better) dock and beach. This makes for a much nicer launch.

Jess always enjoys collecting fishing gear that has floated away from the many anglers. We ended up with 14 floats and a half dozen lures this time. We also managed to get into the one reach we could not paddle last year because of an aggressive loon.

I also managed to recover a large patio umbrella and a sodden coat. On a separate trip, I found two cans of beer (thanks to the graduating class of Morinville High!).

Overall, a pleasant afternoon only 30 minutes north of town. Lots of birds on the water, including terns, loons, geese, ducks and heron.

 Also lots of other kayakers as the club has practices and races on the weekends.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Sturgeon and North Saskatchewan Rivers

An early and warm spring has meant more kayaking. Jenn and I hit the Sturgeon again on the weekend. The water level was up some but paddling was still easy.

We saw a tonne of muskrats sunning themselves but no beaver. The dock is also in at the Riel Park launch.

The high water is a huge boon to kayaking on the Sturgeon and we'll be back to take advantage of the easier entry and lack of weeds.

A trip out to Elk Island was less successful with the shoreline and boat launch still iced in and a nasty wind blowing. But the North Saskatchewan is open and the water is still at summer levels.

I've been out a couple of times, putting in at Emily Murphy Park and paddling upstream. There is a new gravel bar about 700m upstream which offers a nice respite from the current.

The bare trees also reveal interesting things, like this abandoned staircase.

There has been a lot of beaver activity and I spent about 20 minutes watching one beaver on the south bank.

I also fished an unopened can of hard iced tea out of the water as I was paddling upstream.

Overall, great start to the season.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sturgeon River, St. Albert

We were out on the Sturgeon River yesterday for the first paddle of the season. The looks we got with the kayaks on the truck (still with winter tires) were pretty funny. But the river itself was open. 

We had to bust through some ice at the launch on Mission Avenue but, once on the water, things were fine. The launch closer to Ray Gibbons Drive was still iced in.

There were dozens of muskrats on the river and they were pretty tame. I got within two feet of one.

The paddle itself was lovely. It was about +5 and there was no wind and lots of sun so very pleasant.

Jenn's phone took a dive into the river (low complexity but clean entry, maybe an 8.57?), which was sad but otherwise, it was great.

Last year were were out in late April (26th?) and saw way more ice than today.

The North Saskatchewan is starting to break up (big cracks and movement and open channels over night) but already looks high. It will be a few weeks before the ice is gone.

I hope to get back to the Sturgeon this week before the water rises any more.