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River Adventures Right in our own Backyard!

Posted by Keith Pushor on 25 August 2022
Me looking back upstream at Shaunna

OK, I apologize for my BLOG absence since April but I’ve been out playing, and working, in Southern Alberta all summer. Now I am back to report to you.

You don’t have to venture far to have a spectacular day kayaking or floating down the river…just jump onto the Oldman right here in Lethbridge. There are several really good access sites to the water to either put-in or take-out, however my favourite is the Popson Park access just North of University Drive and the Sunridge Community. The ideal take-out point for our most recent morning trip was the boat launch area at Indian Battle Park.

Fair Warning

While the “Lazy Oldman” seems harmless enough, even mockingly slow to us self-proclaimed avid kayakers, moving water is incredibly powerful if you find yourself on the wrong end of a situation so please proceed with respect and sensible caution. In my opinion the stretch of river from Popson to Indian Battle Park is the most scenic leg of our city’s river valley. Here you’ll pass through gorgeous landscapes and topography, Paradise Canyon Golf Resort, Sixmile Coulee, the Country Club, and The University of Lethbridge.

The wildlife that you may encounter will astound you. As you may or may not know, the variety of animals that call Lethbridge home include ground squirrels, skunks, porcupines, racoons, weasels, badgers, mule deer, white tail deer, coyotes, and a host of other surprising beasts that traverse the river valley corridor (cougars, moose, and even wolverines have been sighted!). Not to mention an abundance of bird species.

A flock of Pelicans

The Popson/Indian Battle route takes about 3 and a half hours and a bit of coordinating vehicles for shuttling, so it’s the perfect half day adventure with very little gas money. You’ll have a couple sets of rapids which are at most class 2, and more than likely a mountain rating of class 1. But they are enough for a newbie kayaker to get a bit of a thrill. Once you pass the Country Club on the right you’ll approach the notorious weir, right below the U of L. Don’t worry there is plenty of signage and time to leisurely glide to the east side of the river and prepare for a muddy take-out and portage. The riverbank mud can be a bit tricky to scramble into, over, and out of, and we have yet to discover the perfect technique (hint: you will get dirty and might lose a shoe). Once out you will have to portage (exotic term for carrying all of your gear) for about 100 meters. Then you will put back in right below the roaring weir and paddle around a short bend to complete your adventure.

Cleary marked Portage Path

If you feel more ambitious, and have about 3 more hours, you can continue through the 2nd leg of our River Valley water route and head down to Pavan Park in far North Lethbridge. Passing under the High Level Bridge and past shale and coal outcroppings is pretty cool too. And you will have to shoot over a bit of a ledge towards the end of this leg (still won’t exceed class 2 rapids). The City of Lethbridge has constructed some concrete steps at the Pavan take-out section to assist in scrambling up the bank out of the water there. Where’s the vehicle?

A resident Marmot checks us out from above

Once you’ve experienced this fabulous urban river paddle you may be itching to get out into faster white water like you might find in the Crowsnest Pass, down into Montana, or over in British Columbia. Please talk to someone who has knowledge of the area, and be prepared with proper safety equipment before you “level up”. High Level Canoe and Kayak are your go-to source for all of your adventure gear with Awesome Adventures Ltd being another good option. Once again, whether you are looking for a quick afternoon activity, or a longer destination excursion Lethbridge is the perfect hub to launch ALL of your Adventures.

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