How to Have the Best Kayaking Experience in Calgary and Area

While Calgary may seem more of a horse town than a destination for water sports, Calgary actually has tons of great kayaking opportunities. Whether you own your kayak, want to rent, or learn, there are lots of ways to get into kayaking without having to venture far.

The best spots for kayaking in Calgary, Edmonton + Kananaskis
Mountain lakes are less than an hour away from Calgary and are lovely kayaking spots. (Credit: Laurie Shannon)

Kayaking Calgary

We’re going to get into some of the best options for kayaking in Calgary and the surrounding area. One of the most popular spots for kayaking in Calgary is the Glenmore Reservoir. 

While most boats can’t go on the reservoir, kayaks can and are one of the greatest ways to get around on your own time. You can self-guide around this beautiful body of water, located in the heart of the city. Just note that inflatable kayaks are not permitted on this reservoir.

Another popular kayaking destination in Calgary is the Bow River. Here, you’ll find both floating and white-water sections. These can take a couple of hours to complete or even a day if you choose.

You can also check out the Elbow River for easy summer floating. If you do want to kayak the Elbow River, check it out at spring and early summer levels, rather than during the summer when the river is often too low.

Many lakes just outside of the city limits are great for kayaking too. Lake Chestermere is a sweet spot to kayak and can often be warm enough for a dip during the summer.

kayaking close to Calgary
Chestermere Lake lies 20-minutes east of Calgary and affords plenty of opportunities for water sports

The Bow River Ghost Dam to Cochrane route is good for more experienced kayakers and provides a beautiful river valley journey.

Kayak Rental Calgary

Kayak rentals in Calgary can be done at a variety of places. The city rentals are located at the Glenmore Sailing School, which is convenient if you’re looking to kayak on the reservoir.

The hours vary depending on the time of year, but the rentals open at 9 am and must be returned by the end of the day. Rentals are $15 per hour or $45 for the day.

Sports Rent and Aquabatics (both in Calgary) also offer kayak rentals. These rentals can often be for longer periods of time and taken out of the city.

The Paddle Station is the easiest way to rent kayaks for paddling on the Bow River. They provide everything that you need. Simply book your kayak, show up, paddle down the bow and then leave your kayak with the staff at the end of your float.

Kayak in Edmonton

The options to kayak in Edmonton are slightly less than in Calgary. The good news is that there are quite a few options just outside of the city limits.

Within Edmonton, you can kayak in Hermitage Park and Big Lake. Both of these locations are great for a quick paddle with friends and family, and are good for beginners. The North Saskatchewan River is also good for paddling in the city.

Many of the lakes outside Edmonton are ideal kayaking spots and allow you to try your hand at kayak fishing. The quieter lakes include Islet Lake, Black Nugget Lake, Buck Lake and Twin Lake.

If you’re new, look for a lake like Twin Lake that doesn’t allow power boats which will reduce the potential for waves. And be sure to check out Astotin Lake at Elk Island National Park. Elk Island is a wonderful spot to explore, both from the land and water.


kayaking Elk Island National Park
It’s choppy day on Astotin Lake in Elk Island National Park. (Credit: Diana Duzbayeva)

Kayak Rental Edmonton

Many kayak rentals in Edmonton can be found at specific kayaking locations. Rundle Park and Elk Island National Park have rentals to be used on their bodies of water.

For more general rentals, Aquabatics offers many different packages including kayaks and safety gear or just boat rentals. Totem Outdoor Outfitters also have plenty of kayak rental options and are priced out by weekend, long weekend and week.

kayaking in Alberta
It’s further north, but Slave Lake is another peaceful spot for a paddle. (Credit: Lee Simmons)

Kayaking Kananaskis

Just an hour’s drive from Calgary, Kananaskis offers plenty of places for kayaking. Kayaking in Kananaskis Country is great for all levels – from beginners to the more experienced.

Barrier Dam offers a epic mountain views and is generally quiet place to kayak (come early on very warm days and weekends). It offers rentals during the summer months.

kayaking and canoeing near calgary
Peaceful paddles of all sorts can be had on the Canmore Reservoir (Credit: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis/Paul Zizka)

You can also check out Sibbald Lake and Wedge Pond for quiet, easy family paddles. For the more experienced, check out Kananaskis River, Just be aware there are often whitewater patches.

And if you’re into whitewater, you’ll want to tackle the Widowmaker, a series of rapids on the Kananaskis River downstream from Barrier Dam. A trail by the same name runs alongside the rapids, so your fans can watch you.

Closer to Canmore, check out Spray Lakes Reservoir and Lower Kananaskis Lake for the easier paddles. Both can be subject to heavy winds, so check the weather before you go. Upper Kananaskis Lake is also beautiful, but often suffers from snap weather changes and heavy winds – more so than the above-mentioned lakes.

For the most adventurous, consider kayaking at Chester Lake. Inflatable kayaks and paddleboards are the ONLY boats allowed on this lake as there’s a 5km hike to get to it. The lake is small, but calm and you’ll likely be the only ones there. Don’t forget your fishing license and rods!

paddleboarding and kayaking in Kananaskis
Barrier Lake is a reservoir at the north end of Kananaskis Country. (Credit: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis/Paul Zizka)

For kayak rentals, check out Kananaskis Outfitters at Barrier Lake. Some Kananaskis campgrounds may offer kayak rentals for their guests. Boulton Creek, for example, has canoe, kayak and bike rentals. If you’re travelling to Kananaskis from a city like Calgary, you may find it easier to rent from the city.

Where is your favourite place to kayak?

kayaking spots Canmore



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2 thoughts on “How to Have the Best Kayaking Experience in Calgary and Area”

  1. Katja Gaskell

    I was in Calgary last summer for the stampede followed by a few days in Waterton National Park and I’ve been wanting to go back ever since; what a beautiful state! This just makes me want to return even more. I mean, the colour of the water at Canmore Reservoir is just stunning!

    1. I wish I know you were here then! I would’ve happily escorted you around or given you some other recommendations.

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