You know us, we paddle just about anything, from Class II to Class V. Just being in the river is fun and mind altering. On our Alaska Road Trip, we planned to spend 4-5 days in Kananaskis, BC for the Canadian Whitewater Kayaking Nationals and Team Trials. The kids were judges and scribes. So while there, we met up with friends, Chasing The Sun YT, and they introduced us to the Kananaskis River. It was perfect for everyone.
It’s rare to find a river that is as perfect for Coby and Elly as it is for Brody, Kenny and Dally. I mean, we all have a blast running rivers with the little kids, but rarely do we get any kind of an adrenaline rush doing so. Know what I mean? But the Kananaskis River was different.
As each day passes, on our amazing, extraordinary and memory laden Alaska Road Trip we are falling in love with this part of Canada. We are over the original shock and awe of the surrounding beauty, we are settling into being less of a tourist and more of what we really are … adventure travelers. We seek out, not the traps set by the various locales, but the vibe, the people and the culture.
The Canmore/Kananaskis area is a favorite. At the onset, this was a stop out of necessity to help out with Canadian Nationals, it turned into so much more. The Kananaskis River is great for all levels of paddlers for a gazillion reasons … below you will find the top 7.
Table of Contents
First, you can’t dismiss the absolutely mind blowing scenery on the Kananaskis River. The water is cool, clear, a gorgeous blue and the pine trees towered above. I don’t know about you, but I love pine tree forests. I also love this tropical looking water that abounds in these parts of Canada. It’s so luxurious to paddle on, especially when we are used to muddy rivers like all those found in Colorado.
This is the first rapid on the Kananaskis River and it is the rapid that we spent the most time at. The kids put in right above to hit some back breaking seal launch. I mean literally everyone’s backs and butts were sore from bad landings. Crazies. Skip this if you have any back or neck issues …
The Kananaskis River run begins at the ‘Widowmmaker’ parking lot. It’s an easy walk down to the river, even for little paddlers. Widowmaker is the first feature and is basically a wild and crazy rapid with massive swirly boils at the end. It’s “fun” to play in because there is a huge eddy river right, and tons of time to roll up. Everyone, down to our 11 year old, Rowdy LOVED this place. They were doing legit squirt boating as the boils pulled them under for like 20 seconds!
The eddy is a great spot for roll practice and for getting video of the insane antics in widow maker! 😉
There is tons of play on this river … definitely bring your playboat. Hollywood Hole, Santa Claus, and several other spots that I didn’t catch the name of. At the bottom, right before the takeout is a small feature where the Canadian Nationals took place. It’s shallow and tricks need to be thrown with near precision, but if done right, all the big tricks go!!
Santa Claus is the only drop on the run and it’s not even something I would classify as a drop. But, it’s worth noting for young paddlers who are hesitant, because it’s a big wave. The first day our two youngest took a look at it and said, “nope, not happening.” Super easy portage river right and they hung out while we surfed it.
The second, third and fourth runs, everyone ran it. The littles had already committed, so we didn’t bother scouting it. Elly swam it once (she’s the Queen of swimming) and Coby swam it once…no big deal, nice calm water after, easy to get swimmers and their gear to the side.
Perfect for Kids
The Kananaskis River is great for kids and new paddlers. It is short, which I’ve found is the key when it comes to Kids Kayaking. It almost doesn’t matter how scary the river is, as long as it’s short.
It has easy recovery, another important factor as long, scary swims are no bueno for little kids. Getting to kids fast and flipping them up with the Hand Of God is also a great way to instill trust. Elly is fast to swim, it’s not scary to her and she always comes up with a huge smile. She counts to 5 faster than a speeding bullet. Coby would rather hang on upside down (like Emmy used to do) and wait. He counts to 7 slowly.
The Kananaskis River is fun and challenging for little kids. There is action, which is imperative for Kids Kayaking and adults alike. There is nothing worse than paddling flat water and little satisfaction or pride when you are done. Kayaking is all about pushing past fears and when even the youngest kids do this, they know it and are proud of themselves. This instills confidence and eagerness.
This was the most challenging section on the Kananaskis River. It was long and technical-ish. I can see how it can be a little intimidating to less experienced paddlers, so we made it uber fun by counting how many gates they could hit and before you knew it, they were done and they were proud! Of course, Elly swam here! She’s a very proficient swimmer, in fact, she even self rescued herself and all her gear at the takeout!
Camping at Willow Creek Campground
This place is decent as far as campgrounds go.
Cell Reception is decent, so if you have to work, you can tether.
Warm Showers, $2 for 5 minutes
Close to the River, like 15 minutes
At least one site was 30 amps
During the week, no-one was there
Nice group campfire area
Cool hike off the back of the Campground
The old man and his wife who are hosts are crazy
Crazy small sites
No hook-ups, other than power
Bathrooms are meh