Safety for One, Safety for All
As paddling enthusiasts and Aquabatics Paddling Ambassadors, Paul and Bryan love to connect with paddlers through a Meet Up group called Alberta Fun Paddlers. This group is for recreational paddlers in Alberta who are seeking other paddlers and trips to join. All paddle craft (canoe, kayak, and paddleboard) are welcome, as are all skill levels. Trips out on the water are of all types: quick evening tours, local day-paddles, and longer trips further afield.
A recent trip out on the water required our group of paddlers to make safety based choices that included both personal decisions and location decisions due to weather and water conditions.
With the mountain lakes still opening up, Alberta Fun Paddlers had organized a trip to Lake McGregor. The group was excited to paddle part of a larger 40 km long lake and see some of the plentiful waterfowl that abounds the area. Everyone arrived at the launch site for the 9:30ish start time and was readying their gear, anxious to get on the water. We stood as a group staring at the water, scanning the conditions to assess if the water was too rough and the wind too strong to venture out. We were all attempting to read the other paddlers to see what people were thinking. Would we decide to get on the water or come up with another plan? Given the experience level of each paddler and the varied types of kayaks and gear that people had, there were a number of factors to consider. Communication, trust and leadership come into play in these kinds of situations. Safe decisions occur when all factors are considered and fellow paddlers look out for each other.
We concluded that McGregor was definitely too rough for some folks. One person made the decision to head home for the day planning to come out for a different fair weather trip. Another person wanted to paddle but due to not having a skirt, we thought a more protected area would be best. With McGregor out, we tossed around other paddling options. We had all traveled to paddle, and paddle we would! We all agreed to drive another hour north and east to a more protected lake. Once everyone was re-loaded we headed up to Crawling Valley Reservoir near Bassano in caravan style.
The wind was still a factor to contend with at Crawling Valley, so one fellow paddler in a folding kayak felt safest along the shoreline near the launch site and enjoyed some calm water paddling along the south-west side of the lake. The rest of us ventured out to paddle along the south edge of the dam heading east and then north winding our ways through protected sections of the lake. Crawling Valley Reservoir as its name suggests, is a flooded valley with innumerable coolies making the shoreline very complex and amounting to approximately 150 kms of shoreline to paddle on a lake that stretches 18 kms long with a maximum width of 4kms. The coolies are rich with an abundance of nesting waterfowl including Cormorants, a colony of Herons, brightly colored shore birds and very vocal songbirds who willingly serenade paddlers along their journey.
Following a great lunch on one of the many islands where we spotted cacti and some Turn eggs, we noted that the wind was picking up so made our way back to the launch point. We were all gaining paddling skills padding with and against the wind in waves, which were at points 2-3ft high, making it a “swell” trip!
While the trip was shorter than intended, the company was great, the sights were plentiful, and Crawling Valley offered something new for each of us.
If you love to paddle, love to see wildlife, or love to kayak fish this lake is for you!
“create your own momentum” on Crawling Valley Reservoir https://paddlingmaps.com/trip/Alberta/298-crawling-valley-campground-boat-launch
Alberta FUN Paddlers can be found at: https://www.meetup.com/Alberta-FUN-Paddlers/
Come and join us – we’d love to have you!
Bryan Hume & Paul Kolman