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PostPosted: November 11th, 2009, 6:04 pm 
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Joined: May 12th, 2008, 1:37 pm
Posts: 62
North Saskatchewan River: Rocky Mountain House (Hwy 11A bridge) to Edmonton (Emily Murphy Park)

Total Distance: 313 km (by GPS)

Gradient (average elevation differences as measured by GPS, horizontal distances measured from Hwy 11A Bridge in RMH)

    0-115 km: 1.65 m/km
    115-180 km: 1.3m/km
    180-313 km: 0.5m/km

Travel times

    Date start finish accumulated dist
    18 Aug: 4:26 pm 8:18 pm 19 km
    19 Aug: 8:29 am 5:12 pm 86 km
    20 Aug: 7:56 am 4:02 pm 146.8 km
    21 Aug: 7:28 am 9:16 pm 221.2 km
    22 Aug: 7:53 am 7:19 pm 290.8 km
    23 Aug: 10:20 am 1:32 pm 313.1 km

    Mark Lund’s Guide for Alberta Paddlers reach reports for RMH - Drayton Valley, Drayton Valley - Devon, and Devon - Edmonton)
    ARCA North Saskatchewan River map (RMH to Drayton Valley)
    relevant 1: 50 000 topo maps through CanMatrix online.

The ARCA map and Mark Lund’s guide were useful and accurate, but be aware that the position and existence of river features (rapids, islands, channels, sweepers, etc) shown on the ARCA map are inevitably subject to change over time. This is no reflection on the care shown while compiling this map!

River Conditions: I paddled a small rec kayak and this was sufficent to carry all my gear for this trip. Flow ran around 160 m3/s and water levels dropped every night about 30 cm. At this flow , there were enough rapids to make me want to keep the spray skirt on more or less continuously all the way to Drayton, where (as the gradient profile suggests) the river becomes much calmer.

I found the rapids just before Boggy Hall to be the largest. I had a GPS coordinate for Blue Rapids (the only named rapids on this reach) but encountered only three small riffles at that point, so I’m not sure which one was actually “Blue Rapids.” Almost all rapids and riffles can be avoided by competent paddlers.

I had adequate cell phone coverage for most of the trip and a friend texted weather updates daily, warning me of an impending storm system.

Especially around the Gennessee - Burtonsville area, it may be difficult to decide which is the best channel to navigate so keep your eyes open.

Saw three or four other parties paddling during this five day trip.

Campsites: I didn’t use commercial campsites and only dropped in at the Devon campsite for a soft drink. Adequate campsites can be found at almost any point on the river on one side or the other or on one of the many islands. Most islands and beaches are composed of cobbles and dried sand/mud overgrown with weeds, willows and poplar. So large tent pegs (“snow stakes”) may be useful to secure tents in case of wind. A small axe or machete may also be useful to clear undergrowth. I carried only 2 or 3 litres of water and filtered all drinking water from the river.

Established campsites tend to be sited in mature spruce or poplar stands. They usually have fire rings and you’re likely to encounter garbage left by former parties (which makes them generally unappealing to me). I noted more or less established campsites at the following locations (NAD 83 coordinates), but didn’t keep notes on them. The first campsite "Island" just out of RMH, was the nicest one I encountered.

    Island 0627331 5846576
    009 0626690 5847555
    010 0623035 5851168
    011 0619885 5872168
    012 0619890 5872169
    013 0619846 5872979
    014 0619636 5875761
    015 0632425 5882211
    017 0324664 5924453
    B 0619636 5875700
    CAIRN 0620297 5868775
    EAGLER 0623393 5853061
    QUAD 0624593 5854708

Wildlife: observed deer (almost every day, usually in the early morning), moose, beaver, coyotes (only heard howling at dusk), hawks, bald eagles, blue herons, cliff and barn swallows, ducks, loons, and songbirds. Only swatted the occasional mosquito and didn’t need to apply repellant until the last night.

Access: straightforward and easy at all bridges and urban centers (e.g., Hwy 11A, Hwy 11, Drayton Valley, Devon, Hwy 770, most Edmonton river parks).

I looked for other access points noted by ARCA and Lund, but even using approximate GPS coordinates, I didn’t notice them from the boat. I’m sure they’re there, but paddlers seeking to get off the river at one of the more obscure access points may wish to ensure they can spot their desired take-out point beforehand.
NSask gradient.jpg

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PostPosted: November 12th, 2009, 9:36 am 
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Joined: October 24th, 2007, 1:52 pm
Posts: 558
Location: Beaumont, AB
Sounds like you had an enjoyable trip. Good report. A number of times we have separately paddled the routes from Rocky to Drayton or from Drayton to Edmonton, but have never strung them both together. More recently, we have spent more time on the stretch from Nordegg to Rocky, and that is definitely our favorite section of the North Saskatchewan River (so far). Still waiting to paddle the section from the park (Ramparts Creek?) to Abraham Lake.


Dave W
"Everyone must believe in something. I believe I'll go canoeing" - Henry David Thoreau

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