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PostPosted: September 3rd, 2013, 1:54 pm 
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Just finished paddling a Labor Day Long Weekend canoe camping trip on the North Saskatchewan River from the Forestry Trunk Road to Rocky Mountain House. Started out with a group of 9 of us in 3 kayaks and 3 canoes, with 2 of the kayaks only paddling down to Saunders Recreation Area as a day trip. The rest of us camped two nights on the river and paddled on to Rocky Mountain House.

We had stayed at the FTR bridge on Friday night and drove into Rocky Mountain House early Saturday morning. As in previous years, we left our vehicles near the take-out and used Action Taxi in Rocky Mountain House as the shuttle back to the put-in. They provided this service for a fee of $125.

Weather on the long-weekend was excellent with daytime highs approaching 30°C. A few of my paddling compatriots suffered from some mild sunburns.

It had been over a year since I had last paddled this section of the river and the large storm flows during June seem to have made some significant changes to the river. There are new gravel bars where they previously did not exist, and new channels at a number of other locations. There is a new WW wave feature about 1-2 km upstream of the devils elbow where the river makes a sharp left turn at a cliff face. I was told by a fellow who works for a local outfitter that this new feature has caught a number of canoeists unawares and sent them for a swim. Looks like it would be a great surfing wave for those who are adventurous. Devils Elbow was much the same, the camping there was quite good again and I was surprised that there were very few others to share with.

Just downstream a couple km from the Devils Elbow there used to be a large hole (Old Stoney?) that liked to eat boats. When we went through on Monday morning, the hole was still there, but the wave train after it was much bigger than I had ever seen it and it had huge waves that would finish the job that the hole started and sink you if you let it (my daughter and I rode it out in the Caption but had to pull ashore to dump out our water collection afterwards).

The biggest change I noted was on Upper Fisher rapid where you used to skirt to the right of a series of rapids before crossing to the left to go around the inside of a bend around a huge gravel bar where fairly large waves would pile up. Seems that the recent flood has washed out the gravel bar (people used to park their RV's on it) and the channel now flows right through where the gravel bar used to be. The rapid is much tamer now than it used to be.

We finished up in Rocky by about 1pm on Monday afternoon, stopped at 7-Eleven for a slurpie fix, and headed for home amidst the crazy long weekend traffic.

All in all it was a very enjoyable time on my favorite river. Unfortunately, I did not get many pictures. I will try to post a couple over the next day or too.

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Last edited by ice-breaker on September 6th, 2013, 2:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: September 4th, 2013, 9:09 am 
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Probably my favourite river run. I have done it maybe 15 times in the last 30 some years, and always on the May long. I really would like to try it at another time too. This year for us the water was so high, many of the bigger features were smoothed out a fair bit. Devils Elbow and Brierlies was quite good though.

We always shuttle on the Friday night. I used to have a daughter that lived in Rocky which made it easy, but she has moved away. We used Hela Ventures this year. They are a local paddling guide. We picked someone up at their facility on the way to Nordegg, and they kept our vehicle at their place dropping it off at the Water Treatment plant around noon on Monday. $125 for them to do this too.

Due to the amount of partying at the Forestry Trunk Road Campground on long weekends, we always dump our gear in the boats, and float down about an hour where we set up and get a great nights sleep.

Other than Saunders, DE and Brierlies, I must confess to not knowing names of the rapids. Is Fisher where the rapids start just before a shallow right then sharper left, with waves across most of the river? Right by a farm yard. If so, they were quite good in May too, big and less choppy than normal. We always head right through the heart of everything.

We always camp at Devils Elbow the last night too. We get there noonish, set up camp and have lunch, then go run Devils Elbow a schwack of times unloaded. Great fun. I too don't understand why people just stop there and watch for a while, and move on. Lots of good camping there, and an easy 4-5 hours to Rocky the next day.

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PostPosted: September 4th, 2013, 9:40 am 
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dunkin' wrote:
We always shuttle on the Friday night. I used to have a daughter that lived in Rocky which made it easy, but she has moved away. We used Hela Ventures this year. They are a local paddling guide. We picked someone up at their facility on the way to Nordegg, and they kept our vehicle at their place dropping it off at the Water Treatment plant around noon on Monday. $125 for them to do this too.


We have used Action Taxi several times. Sounds like Hela is about the same price. I think that I will give them a call next time instead, and try to support the local canoe outfitter. By the way, it was a guide from Hela that I spoke to at Devil's Elbow regarding the new wave feature that has formed a couple km upstream of DE.

dunkin' wrote:
Other than Saunders, DE and Brierlies, I must confess to not knowing names of the rapids. Is Fisher where the rapids start just before a shallow right then sharper left, with waves across most of the river? Right by a farm yard. If so, they were quite good in May too, big and less choppy than normal. We always head right through the heart of everything.


I have an old paddling map that shows the rapid names. Fisher's rapid is the one by the farm, just as you describe. It is a couple of km upstream of the old blue railroad bridge. RV's used to park on the gravel bar right downstream of the farm. Much of the gravel bar has now been washed away and a river channel runs right through it.

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PostPosted: September 4th, 2013, 12:11 pm 
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ice-breaker wrote:
I have an old paddling map that shows the rapid names. Fisher's rapid is the one by the farm, just as you describe. It is a couple of km upstream of the old blue railroad bridge. RV's used to park on the gravel bar right downstream of the farm. Much of the gravel bar has now been washed away and a river channel runs right through it.

Thanks for the confirmation, sounds like quite the change there. I do know the RV's of which you speak. That was normally right after the bigger rapids ended, I think.

Obviously paddling on May Long I was just prior to the big water, and the changes. I do know that Devils Elbow sure changed after 2005. The big rock forming a wave near the end of the run, used to be mostly out of the water on the far bank (river left) nearly the end of the run. We used to eddy in there to take photos.

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PostPosted: September 6th, 2013, 1:24 pm 
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Here is a scan of the map that I got from Rocky Mountain House visitor center showing the major rapids between Horberg and Rocky Mountain House.

Image

The full-size image is here:

http://gallery.myccr.com/albums/userpics/10971/NSR-rapids.jpg

The rapid names are there, but it can be a little difficult to tell which name refers to which rapid.

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PostPosted: September 6th, 2013, 1:31 pm 
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Thanks for this ! I lived in Red Deer when I was 23 and would camp on Ram River Road or near Nordegg. I left Alberta when I was 25 and only learned to paddle when I turned 26...damn I wished I stayed....


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PostPosted: September 6th, 2013, 1:38 pm 
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gunnelbob wrote:
Thanks for this ! I lived in Red Deer when I was 23 and would camp on Ram River Road or near Nordegg. I left Alberta when I was 25 and only learned to paddle when I turned 26...damn I wished I stayed....


I grew up in Red Deer. Did my first canoe trip in high school on the Red Deer River from Red Deer to Drumheller. One of my favorite whitewater rivers is the Red Deer River near the forestry trunk road (near Mountainaire Lodge).

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PostPosted: September 6th, 2013, 1:44 pm 
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Thanks for the map, I now have printed and laminated it.

ice-breaker wrote:
I grew up in Red Deer. Did my first canoe trip in high school on the Red Deer River from Red Deer to Drumheller. One of my favorite whitewater rivers is the Red Deer River near the forestry trunk road (near Mountainaire Lodge).


I am from Olds, and other than some lake paddling, mostly at Sylvan Lake, The Red Deer River from Sundre to Red Deer was my first big paddle. A few years later I did the same stretch you refer too. HUGE changes in the river after the 2005 flood, and have not seen it after this year. We were to go paddle it next weekend, but I just have too much work to do.

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PostPosted: September 9th, 2013, 10:45 am 
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I also have done the Nordegg to RMH run numerous times, but this last May long weekend I started at the Big Horn Dam as we were denied access at Hwy 40 due to the wild fires. For the record, the 25+/- Km between the dam and Hwy 40 were the highlight of the trip and in the future that is where I will start. The river was very braided but no dangerous wood issues (that may have changed with this flood season) were encountered. This section only took 4 hours to do and the Rocky Mountains were spectacular. No rapids of any type, but very fast water that required good maneuvering skills.


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PostPosted: September 9th, 2013, 1:32 pm 
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Rob S wrote:
I also have done the Nordegg to RMH run numerous times, but this last May long weekend I started at the Big Horn Dam as we were denied access at Hwy 40 due to the wild fires. For the record, the 25+/- Km between the dam and Hwy 40 were the highlight of the trip and in the future that is where I will start. The river was very braided but no dangerous wood issues (that may have changed with this flood season) were encountered. This section only took 4 hours to do and the Rocky Mountains were spectacular. No rapids of any type, but very fast water that required good maneuvering skills.


I have also wanted to paddle this section but have never had a good opportunity to do so. After hearing your good words Rob, we will definitely try to start from the dam next time. Where exactly did you put-in to the river?

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PostPosted: September 9th, 2013, 2:04 pm 
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We did our research on Google Earth - there is a good, gravel access road with random camping just below the face of the dam. Easy access to the river and the shuttle cost was only $100 from a local cabbie, using my vehicle. Shuttle driver was outstanding, even washed my vehicle while I was on the river. I have his card at home and can provide if requested.


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PostPosted: September 9th, 2013, 9:32 pm 
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Here is a photo looking upstream from the FTR. It is a very scenic place.
Image

And another at our first night campsite downstream of Saunders. Sometimes those silt terraces make fine tent pads (if they are not too soft and wet).

Image

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PostPosted: September 10th, 2013, 6:57 am 
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Rob S wrote:
I also have done the Nordegg to RMH run numerous times, but this last May long weekend I started at the Big Horn Dam as we were denied access at Hwy 40 due to the wild fires. For the record, the 25+/- Km between the dam and Hwy 40 were the highlight of the trip and in the future that is where I will start. The river was very braided but no dangerous wood issues (that may have changed with this flood season) were encountered. This section only took 4 hours to do and the Rocky Mountains were spectacular. No rapids of any type, but very fast water that required good maneuvering skills.

We thought of doing that this year too, but opted for leisurely paddling, and started at Saunders due to having no access on the FTR, and just camped there on the Friday night as we were late getting going from Calgary. Definitely better scenery on that part of the river, as after The Gap, all you get to see are the trees along the way. I definitely need to go and try that stretch again, I bet I haven't done it in 20 years.

The only river feature we miss due to not starting at the FTR was Saunders Ledge.

It was kinda neat to stop by lunch on Saturday, as we stayed at Boxcar Flats. We went for a big hike, then had a cocktail or two, played guitars, threw a frisbee, and had a couple rousing games of rocce (bocce played with river rocks).

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PostPosted: January 7th, 2014, 8:29 pm 
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The river guide map for that section that they sell at PaddleAlberta is quite good too.

http://www.paddlealberta.org/store/index.asp?pnl=1_3


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