Paddle the North Saskatchewan River (Nordegg to Rocky Mountain House)

Rate this Adventure Forestry Trunk Road Bridge, Clearwater County, Alberta, Canada

  • Activities:

    Canoeing, Chillin, Camping

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer

Forest
River
Scenic

Gorgeous 105km paddle down the North Saskatchewan River from Nordegg to Rocky Mountain House. 2 - 5 days: Multiple drop in points and a wide river means that the length and difficulty of the adventure is up to you! A great experience with beautiful free camps along the way.

A suitable journey for beginners who are accompanied by intermediate/advanced paddlers with canoe rescue experience ideally. 

Due to the multiple drop in points, you may even opt for a day trip without camping. 

The following is a guideline of what we did from 11-13 August 2017.

Approach:

Head along Highway 11 towards Nordegg from Rocky Mountain House and take a left onto Forestry Trunk Road (just after Nordegg). Follow the semi-developed road all the way to the bridge. Cross the bridge and immediately to your right is the drop in point from Nordegg. 

Day 1 - Nordegg to Saunders Ledge, 2 hrs, 26.8kms: 

From the drop in point the river is wide and braided with shallow areas. A great way to warm up and get in tune with the river. There are multiple places to set up camp between the drop in and Saunders Ledge (by Alexo road drop in), we opted for the bend just before Saunders Ledge where a stream runs into the river on your left. 

Day 2 - Saunders Ledge to Blue Bridge, 9hrs, 72.5kms: 

Began the day right in Saunders Ledge (Class 2 rapids), that can be avoided by staying right. The rest of the day was compiled of wave trains and various sections of rapids that can easily be avoided. We passed Horburg (where there is an official campground) and saw multiple great spots for a wild camping experience. 

You can find a list of the rapids between Horburg and Rocky here: http://gallery.myccr.com/albums/userpics/10971/NSR-rapids.jpg

One rapid to watch out for is the most difficult of the trip but can also easily be avoided: Devils Elbow. Long class 3 rapids running down the left side of the river with great camping spots lining the right bank. Stay right should you wish to avoid the rapids. 

After this the river widens and slows before picking back up again. We chose to wild camp along the river bank just before the blue bridge (first bridge you come across since leaving Nordegg) in order to enjoy being out for one more day. 

Day 3 - Bridge to Rocky Mountain House National Historic Park, 30mins, 5.4km: 

A easy day with ample opportunity to have some fun in class 2 rapids before exiting the river on your left at Rocky Mountain National Historic Park (marked 1 on the above mentioned map). It is a popular drop in point and hard to miss with people dropping in for a day of play on Brierley's Rapid. 

We chose to exit here as our map ended and we knew the river split further ahead. If you want to extend the day and face more rapids then you can continue until Highway 11A crosses the North Saskatchewan River. 

This trip can easily be extended to 5 days and can be as difficult as you want it to be. All the rapids are avoidable though do keep an eye out for hidden features! 

Pack List

  • Canoe (or kayak) 
  • Lifejacket 
  • Rescue equipment: bailers, spare paddle per person, throw bag per boat.
  • First aid kit 
  • Long sleeves recommended 
  • Paddle jacket/wind breaker  
  • Shoes (dry and water shoes)
  • Hat + sunscreen 
  • Water
  • Adequate food (paddle snacks) + chosen cooking equipment 
  • Camping gear: tent + poles, sleeping bag, sleeping mat
  • Dry and warm clothes 
  • Mobile phone (we only lost cell service on day 1) 
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Community Photos

+ Add Photos

Reviews

Overall rating:  Rate this Adventure

Leave a Review

Have you done this adventure? Leave a review!

Tiffany Fernyhough

Outdoor Educator from Hong Kong + New Zealand | Currently in Alberta, Canada

Nearby Adventures

Hike the Sugar Bowl Loop in Kings Canyon NP

Tulare County, California

First and foremost, to get to this trailhead you need to drive down a 2-mile, one lane dirt road that is quite steep.

3 Saves

Hike to Ehukai Pillbox

59178 Ke Nui Road, Hawaii

This hike starts directly across from Banzai Pipeline, the famous barreling wave at Ehukai Beach.

4 Saves

Winter Hike to Calypso Cascades

1046 County Highway 115, Colorado

While most people go snowshoeing near the Bear Lake or Glacier Gorge area in RMNP, Wild Basin is a much less trafficked option.

5 Saves