Saturday, November 21, 2020

End of the season

With colder temperatures and snow, the paddling season ended for me on November 3. Not the latest that I've paddled in Edmonton, but pretty close and a very good run. Below is a shot of Whitemud Creek on November 1--too frozen for me to bust through from the river.

I paddled a lot this year (I think 43 times--my goal was 30). We started April 20th out in St. Albert on the Sturgeon (also with ice!). High water on the North Saskatchewan into August meant we spent a lot of time on the Sturgeon this spring.

Highlights of the summer included a trip to Meadow Lake Provincial Park in Saskatchewan (Kimball Lake being particularly nice) and Horseshoe Lake in Jasper. I also had a very nice paddle at Island Lake up by Athabasca and a fun run through Edmonton with my wife.

Next year, I'd like to try Baptiste Lake up by Athabasca as well as maybe Slave Lake. Buck Lake is also on my list. Catch you in the spring!

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Muir Lake

I popped out to Muir Lake, just north of Spruce Grove one day in October. This is mostly a fishing lake (stocked with rainbow trout) but offers a sheltered paddle. The lake is busy on the weekends and quit on week-days. 

A circuit of the lake takes about 45 minutes if you stop to watch the wildlife. Access is off Range Road 274 (which is Century Park Road when it crosses Highway 16). There is ample parking, a great boat launch and dock and washrooms on the NE corner of the lake.

The lake is peanut shaped and runs roughly north-south, wth one island in the middle. The water level was way up this year (based on all of the bushes that were in the water).

The southwest corner of the lake has a private beach with gazebo and fire pit.

It was very windy the day I was there (>35kph) but the lake is both sheltered and shallow, so there were no real waves, even running down the long sweep from north to south.

There was the usual prairie wildlife (ducks, beaver, muskrats) on display despite the late fall day. 

The proximity to Edmonton, good facilities, and wind protection mean I'd totally go back (maybe in the spring to see the birds).

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Island Lake, Athabasca

Work took me to Athabasca in September and, after the day was over, I nipped out Island Lake for a paddle. I put in on the NW corner, coming off Highway 2 to Township Road 680.5 and then off Township road 680A.

A pretty basic but very functional launch. No bathrooms, one bench, lots of parking. The wind was coming up so I stayed don the north end of the lake to get some shelter and passed in to the bay on the NE corner of the lake.

The lake of beautiful. Clear, clean, and no other boats. The leaves and larches were turning.

At the entrance to the NE bay, there was a beaver dam and a very unhappy beaver!

The north shore of the lake was about and hour and 20 minutes to paddle (return).

I'd love to go back next year on a calmer day and check out the islands in the middle of the lake as well as the south end. It looks like there is a public boat launch of Shank Road on the south end. Nearby Baptiste is also on my list (it was way rougher the way I went to Island Lake).

Saturday, October 31, 2020

North Saskatchewan, Quesnel Bridge to Fort Edmonton Foot Bridge

A few weeks back, I put in below Whitemud Drive and paddled up to the Fort Edmonton foot bridge. It had been a few years since I'd been on the stretch (coming in from Devon) and I have never paddled up and floated back.

Access is below the Quesnel Bridge near Fort Edmonton on the south side of the river. This is a small amount of parking right below the bridge. Otherwise, you'll have to park in the Fort Edmonton lot and hump it a couple of hundred feet.

The current was pretty mellow on the south side of the river, with lots of shallows. It was early evening but, with the days shortening, it was into the sun most of the way upstream.

Lots of gulls and few ducks in the shallows.

The current picks up a bit as you sight the foot bridge. I used it to ferry across right below the bridge (some rocks to hide behind if you need a break). The north bank parallels a path until the Wolf Willow stairs.

I was starting to lose the light so I didn't explore down the north bank much. Some interesting seams and foot paths.

A pretty nice late-season paddle on very clear water with a sunset finish.

This would be a good first time run given how gentle the current was for most of the paddle. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Pyramid Lake, Jasper

Our last paddle in Jasper this year was Pyramid Lake (on a cloudy morning). We launched from Pyramid Lake Beach on the southwest corner (beach, pit toilets, picnic tables--maybe a 30-foot carry). You can rent boats from the Pyramid Resort on the southwest corner and also launch from there. And you can (sort of) get in just past the parking lot for Pyramid Island 

We circled the lake clockwise, with very calm water in the morning. There are a couple of creeks and we saw a lot of birds and a weasel. 

At the east end of the lake, there is an outflow under a bridge (not navigable). The area leading up to the creek looks like a lovely sandy bottom. It is not. There is a sandy-colours layer of slime and then a seemingly bottomless layer of black goo. If you want to get out here, find a rocky part of the bottom.

Usually we come back around Pyramid Island but Jess wanted to try to sneak under the bridge instead. You like could not do this in a canoe very easily. But we managed in kayaks.

A nice paddle to wrap up our Jasper trip.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Horseshoe Lake, Jasper

A new stop for us in Jasper was Horseshoe Lake, which is located south of town on the Icefields Park way just north of Athabasca Falls. There is a gravel parking lot on the east side of the highway. There is pit toilet and room for maybe 15 cars.

Access is an adventure. The lake is shaped like a horseshoe with the two ends on the south side. To get to the lake, you have to walk down a steep path about 400 feet. The first access is pretty dodgy (see below), with lots of fallen trees to thread through (the water was also very high this year). 

The was the access we used and you basically paddled out and then made a very sharp right after the saskatoon bush in the water. The alternative is to hike through a windy trail maybe another 200 feet to the other end. This is tricky unless you have an inflatable SUP.

Once on the lake, the paddle is amazing with clear water and stunning cliffs. I'll let the pictures tell the tale.

This was one of the nicest paddles I've had in the mountains and made the difficult access worthwhile. Another family was in tied up at the bend in the lake and rock climbing of the water. There were also cliff jumpers!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Lake Edith, Jasper

In mid-September, we took a trip to Jasper for my 50th birthday. Our first stop was Lake Edith. The water was lovely at the end of summer.

Access is on the south end with a short (150 feet?) carry from the parking lot. There were pit toilets and a trailer renting paddle boards.

We could not have asked for a nicer day and look a leisurely hour or so to paddle around the lake.

There are a few small islands on the west side of the lake. We were surprised to find them occupied by elk.

Always a good paddle here and nice enough I wish I had brought my swim suit.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

North Saskatchewan: Whitemud Drive to Rowland Road

A few weeks back, we took a float down the river from Fort Edmonton to the Dawson Park. With a tiny bit of paddling this took 2.5 hours. Much much easier trip than my usual "paddle up and float back" runs in the evening. Thanks to Jessica for running a shuttle bus.

Entry was underneath the Quesnel Bridge. There is a nice vehicle pull out under the bridge right before you get into the Fort Edmonton parking lot. A very short carry (70 feet?) down a concrete ramp and we were in the river. An alternative entry further upstream is to entry off Whitemud Road, upstream of Fort Edmonton. Longer carry to the water but longer float.

We passed Whitemud Creek and then the End of the World. The river was shallow with lots of places out in the middle having only 18 inches of water.

It was quite overcast which makes the colour quite flat but there were moments of interesting sunlight. The Hawrelak boat launch looked better in lower water than it did the last time I out there.

In mid summer, the water was almost at the top of this pipe below the old museum,

The Groat bridge was still under construction, with a berm around two the piers. This forced the rive river and the current under the bridge was quick.

I know the High Level bridge is big when I cycle across it. But floating underneath reveals just how big it is.

The old pump house is very pretty from the water. The effort the city spent landscaping under the Walterdale bridge was well worth it--creating a public space where people were fishing, throwing balls, reading books, and shooting what must have been an album cover.

I hadn't been down below the Walterdale bridge by water before (except a long-ago trip on the riverboat) so this was all new to me. Great sites (coal seams, the Mill Creek spill-way, the MacDonald Hotel and the funicular).

The new LRT bridge is finally connected. Not sure of they will keep the berms that created accidental beach downstream.

After a paddle along the east side of Riverdale, we finally pulled out below the Rowland bridge at Dawson Park. It was very shallow here. We ground out about 40 feet from shore (not the traffic cone in the water) and managed to wiggle our way over. If we'd been in a canoe and drawn even another inch, we would have had a long gooey walk to the exit.  

Overall, a very interesting float and a nice way to see the city. A bit of sun and some more colour on the leaves would have made it better. We might also have gone a bit further and pulled out at Goldbar or Rundle.