Best Creek Boating in Alberta

Zig Zag Falls - Cataract Creek Alberta

Paddler:  Tom Stewart | Location:  Zig Zag Falls - Cataract Creek | Photo:  Tim Shaw

As we head into the 2019 Spring runoff we thought we would switch gears on the where to paddle guides we have been releasing this Spring.  Back to our creek boating/whitewater roots and passion.

Whilst BC gets the bulk of paddlers creeking attention, for a short time in the spring, the Alberta rockies dish up some world class creek boating.  Now, this is obviously just my humble opinion and although I haven't run every creek in Alberta, I have run many of them.  So, I hope you enjoy this list and that it provides some inspiration for this season and beyond.

Note:  These arent necessarily the hardest creeks in Alberta, just consistent, high quality runs that I have thoroughly enjoyed paddling for numerous reasons!

If the list below gets you excited to get out on the water, feel free to follow the links below for more information:

kayaking on the pipestone river near lake louise

Paddler:  Danny Gariepy | Location:  Pipestone | Photo:  Tim Shaw

Top Creek Boating Runs in Alberta

  • Cameron Creek:  An absolute classic Alberta creek run.  Packs a punch when there is water in it.  A classic Rockies canyon with some clean and some not so clean rapids.  There is an upper and lower takeout.  The lower section definitely ramps up the difficulty a notch.  This is a must for confident Class V paddlers.
  • Location:  Waterton National Park
  • Class:  IV+/V
  • Highlights:  Fantastic whitewater, picturesque canyon, clear & cold water, Weiners of Waterton is a must post paddle visit!
  • Low Points:  The takeout hikes are pretty steep, of you commit to the lower run and decide you want to portage the scary cave drop it is a pain in the butt.
  • Click here for full details on PaddlingMaps.com 

Note:  The access road was closed in 2018, I am not 100% sure if it is planned to be open this year.  There is information available here

Other Runs in the Area:  Boundary Creek (Class V) - Not on PaddlingMaps.com yet & Spionkop Creek (Class IV/IV+)

  • Cataract Creek:  A most excellent creek within a stones throw of Calgary.  When the river is 8 cms or above the in between paddling is super fun Class III with a number of bigger, more challenging rapids.  Most of the hard rapids are easy to portage (except Zig Zag, which is a 40+ foot chuck and huck).
  • Location:  Between Highwood House and Coleman
  • Class:  IV/V
  • Highlights:  Great in between rapids and some real highlight major rapids, only a handful of full descents, remote and classic Rockies canyon.  The Back 40 takeout food 'truck' is an epic post paddle feast!
  • Low Points:  Not too many.  If Zig Zag was easier to portage it would open up the run to Class III boaters.  If the water is low the main rapids are still fun but the in between and flat water paddle in get super bony..
  • Click here for full details on PaddlingMaps.com

Other Runs in the Area:  Etherington Creek (Class IV/V)

  • Bighorn Creek:  If you like drops, then the Bighorn could be for you.  Right off the hop you have the ultra classic 40' Curtain Call (Crescent falls is still un-run to my knowledge).  the remainder of the run is full of challenging drops and cascading rapids.  A good boof is recommended for this run.
  • Location:  West of Rocky Mountain House
  • Class:  IV/V
  • Highlights:  Curtain Call is an amazing drop for those who like falling off things.  Another cool, Rockies style canyon.  Super easy put in and takeout.
  • Low Points:  Typically has a pretty short flow window.  Doesn't handle high water well, rapids get proper nasty with high flows.  Kind of out of the way (just means you need to do multiple laps)
  • Click here for full details on PaddlingMaps.com
  • Lower Astoria Creek:  An outrageously fun, super continuous class IV rollercoaster.  Not really much in the way of defined rapids just low volume, bouldery fun for confident Class IV paddlers.
  • Location:  Near Jasper
  • Class:  IV
  • Highlights:  Super fast paced, read and run, bouldery fun.
  • Low Points:  Potential for boat breaking is high.  You don;t wanna flip on this one.  Potential for wood and hard to stop.
  • Click here for full details on PaddlingMaps.com

Other runs in the area:  Upper Astoria (Class V)Maligne Canyon (Class IV/IV+), Poboktan Creek (Class V) & Beauty Creek (Class V)

  • Pipestone River:  Location alone makes this a classic.  Putting on just by lake Louise ski hill and taking out in lake Louise itself.  A continuous, high quality alpine style creek.  Very powerful and respect worthy at higher flows.
  • Location:  Lake Louise
  • Class:  IV/IV+
  • Highlights:  Super fast paced alpine style paddling.  Some great defined rapids.  Taking out in Lake Louise offers a number of great 'apres' paddling spots to eat and drink.
  • Low Points:  A short walk to the put in is a deterrent for some.  High likelihood of wood.
  • Click here for full details on PaddlingMaps.com

Other runs in the area:  Upper Bow River (Class III/IV), Johnston Canyon (Class IV/V), Bow Falls (Class V+)Spray River (Class IV/V)

  • Sheep River:  One of the prettiest rivers you could hope to paddle.  Beautiful alpine Class II/III with a number of fun Class IV to V rapids.  Sheep Falls is a very common first waterfall for aspiring creek boaters.
  • Location:  Turner Valley
  • Class:  IV/V
  • Highlights:  The surroundings are unmatched, gorgeous water colour and wildlife.  Sheep Falls is a brilliant first time drop and the run has something for Class III to Class V boaters.
  • Low Points:  Triple drop turned manky after the 2013 floods.  Short optimal flow season.
  • Click here for full details on PaddlingMaps.com

Other runs in the area:  Elbow River (Class IV/IV+)

That is my list!  I am sure many of you will have others on the list.  We would be stoked if you added them to PaddlingMaps.com to share with the larger paddling community.

If you are looking to get more experience on the water our Calgary location (and Edmonton) offer a full range of kayak and SUP instructional programs.  We also offer rental kayaks, SUPs and gear to help get you out on the water in and around Calgary.

Feel free to contact us at either our Calgary or Edmonton locations for more information on product, rentals, courses or paddling information.

Edmonton:  (p) 780 463-4892 (e) info@aquabaticsedmonton.com
Calgary:  (p) 403 288-9283  (e)  info@aqoutdoors.com