Mountain Lakes or Prairie Lakes: A Flat Water Paddler’s Choice

Growing up in Calgary and being close to the mountains has always drawn me to paddle in the majestic mountain lake areas that are so readily accessed. My best time on the water has been on lakes in the mountains where there is peace, solitude and the splendor. Big peaks above that reach down to the water and cast their peacefully noble reflection onto the surface of a fantastic calm lake is awe-inspiring. When paddling in the mountains, my focal point is often up towards the peaks or off to the distance where one can take in the broadest of views. There is a quiet appreciation of our smallness in the world when mountain peaks tower around you. With the thaw still on, I look forward to when fellow flatwater paddling friends and I can get onto some favorite mountain lakes and explore other lakes in the Rockies I have yet to paddle. 

This spring, we’ve all be dealing with the challenges of living in a very different world and managing restrictions that have limited access to open water. At the same time, being outdoors and involved in activity while appropriately physical distancing is a good way to support our mental health and wellbeing.

As a shoulder season paddler, I would start to seek out open water early in the spring and am still drawn to the mountains to find some small section of water such as Two Jack Lake canal in mid-March where I can happily sitting in my boat paddling back and forth on the canal to log some early season km’s.

This paddling season I was introduced to paddling on prairie lakes, something I had not really thought much about before. I quickly developed a new appreciation of what prairie lakes offer. They are the home to tall grasses and a marsh ecosystem that is the home for an abundance of birds and wildlife. There is so much to take in on one of these lakes! I found myself looking with anticipation around each corner wondering what surprise I would see next. This year, my first couple of paddling trips were with a fellow Paddling Ambassador Paul Kolman. We ventured out on Crawling Valley Reservoir near Bassano, followed by a trip to Chain Lakes west of Nanton. These lakes are such an experience and unlike mountain lakes, the water fowl, birds of prey, and other wildlife are so abundant that it’s hard to know where to look first. Unlike the mountain lakes, everything seems to happen at water level and it’s all right in front of you. For those who are avid kayak photographers there is an action shot around each corner, for those who love kayak fishing these prairie lakes are ready to offer up the next cast and catch as fish seemed to be jumping everywhere.

After experiencing prairie lake paddling, I have certainly developed a new appreciation for these areas. For those paddlers who are just chomping at the bit to get out on the water but still waiting for the thaw to be finished and waters to warm up a bit, check out a fantastic prairie lake and enjoy what these areas have to offer. Many of these lakes are listed on https://paddlingmaps.com. Take along a camera to capture duck and geese nesting and nurturing their young, cormorants and pelicans fishing for dinner, swans and herons sharing a nesting spot, eagles and osprey circling overhead, muskrats upgrading their houses, coyotes on the prowl, deer on the hillside and any number of shorebirds who follow you as you “create your own momentum” and paddle along the shoreline of one of these fabulous wildlife habitats.