Your ultimate guide to rafting in Calgary this summer

Calgary has not one, but two stunning rivers carving through our city. These beautiful bodies of water making rafting in Calgary an easy and fun way to explore a different side of the city. Understandably, figuring out where to get a raft, how to use your raft and what to bring can be intimidating. But don’t sweat it. This post will answer all your rafting in Calgary questions.

rafting bow river
Rafting Calgary’s Bow River is a local’s favourite way to cool down .(Credit Travel Alberta/George Simhoni)
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Rafting in Calgary

Rafting in Calgary Before we get going, some safety advisories… There’ll be other watercraft on the river, so be prepared to use your paddles to navigate or steer where you’d like to go. If you’re renting, ask staff for tips.

It’s a law to wear a life jacket, so don’t skip that on your rental fees. There’s also laws against drinking and smoking marijuana on the river, so leave all of that at home. (Rental companies strictly forbid this and there are police patrol boats on the water handing out fines for open alcohol.)

rafting in calgary
Even children wearing lifejackets can enjoy rafting. (Credit: Lazy Day Raft Rentals)

Raft rentals in Calgary

Unless you’re an avid rafter, you likely don’t own all the gear needed to float down the river. Raft rentals in Calgary vary depending on number of people, where you’d like to launch and how much gear you already own. These raft rentals in Calgary will set you up for success.

Lazy Day Raft Rentals

Lazy Day Raft Rentals is a good option for beginner rafters, as they take care of everything for you. Lazy Day rents raft for up to 10 people.

The float starts at the Lazy Day launch in Baker Park (across the river from Bowness Park) and ends at Prince’s Island Park. Lazy Day takes the raft back from you at Prince’s Island Park, so there’s no need to move the raft by yourself.

There’s parking at both the launch and the end point for you to leave your car. Lazy Day also offers a shuttle bus from Prince’s Island, in case you only have one car. They also include life jackets and paddles in your rental fee.

Book in advance by visiting their website.

bow river raft
Lazy Day Raft Rentals include a shuttle service to Prince’s Island Park. (Credit: Lazy Day Raft Rentals)

Paddle Station

Similar to Lazy Day, Paddle Station provides a hassle-free rafting experience. They rent small, medium, large and blue monster (xl) rafts, with a maximum of 20 people fitting in the large raft.

Paddle Station has its launch point at Shouldice Park, slightly further south on the river than the Bowness launch and they end their service at St. Patrick’s Island near the zoo. The rafts are picked up at St. Patrick’s Island, leaving you with nothing to transport or carry to your car. As a bonus, there’s ample parking at the Calgary Zoo north lot, steps away from where you ditch your raft. It’s a public parking space though, so that’ll set you back $12.

Book the rafts online on The Paddle Station’s website.

paddle station rafting
Paddle Station offers rafts that fit up to 20 people. (Credit: Instagram/@Paddle Station)

Sports Rent

Sports Rent offers lots of options for raft rentals, including multi-day rentals and launch location choice. Renters pick up the raft from Sports Rent locations near Edworthy, Shouldice and Bowness Parks, making launching convenient. Each raft comes deflated, so it’s easy to transport in a car to and from the store.

Raft rentals start are budgeted for 4 people for 1 day, and there are options for rentals that fit up to 10 people. Here, life jackets are not included in your raft rental, and neither are additional paddles. These are available for rent, but at an additional cost.

To rent a raft, call 403-292-0077 or visit Sports Rent in person.

University of Calgary

The University of Calgary Outdoor Centre also offers raft rentals. These rentals are similar to Sports Rent, with renters picking up the raft and transporting it themselves to their desired location.

Rafts from the university can fit up to 8 people. The rental comes with safety equipment, but no lifejackets or paddles. These can be rented for an extra cost.

To rent a raft, visit the U of C website and create an account. Rentals are picked up and dropped off at specific times. This means you’ll be prompted to choose the timing when you book online. Pick up the rental at the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre. 

bow river downtown calgary
City stressors are left behind on the water. (Credit: Travel Alberta /Caitlyn Giorgio)

Rafting Tips

Depending on how you choose to enjoy your rafting experience in Calgary, you’ll need to be prepared for a few different scenarios.

No matter what type of rental you do, you’ll end up floating to a different location than where you started. You’ll want to plan where you’ll be launching the raft, as well as where you’ll get out so that you can leave cars at both locations. If you don’t have two vehicles, plan to call an Uber or get a ride from a friend.

If you’re renting from Lazy Day or Paddle Station, there aren’t too many extras to think of. Both companies provide everything and make it easy to launch. The specific beginning and end spots are non-negotiable and usually have parking options. They also follow city regulations, so no need to worry about that.

For other rentals, you’ll need to check out this map from the City of Calgary to figure out where to launch your raft. Some areas of the city are not fit for boat launches. At Harvie’s Passage, the river becomes more challenging to traverse and can be dangerous for beginners. To avoid this area, launch and end before the passage (launch near Bowness and end in downtown) or launch after the passage.

Calgary raft
The only thing they’re missing is hats. (Credit: Travel Alberta/George Simhoni)

What to bring rafting

While rafting companies will rent or provide most things that are necessary for your float (whistle, safety packs, life jackets, paddles etc.), there’s still a few things you’ll want to bring.

Protecting yourself from the elements is non-negotiable. You’ll want to bring sunscreen, bug spray and a hat. If there’s rain in the forecast, grab an umbrella or rain jacket too (better safe than sorry!). You’ll also need a pair of sturdy water shoes (like Tevas) for getting in and out of the water. Flip flips have been known to float away. And obvs, you’ll be floating on water, so be prepared to get wet.

While it’s much cooler on water than land, don’t be deceived by those pleasant cool breezes. Mind the temperature and keep hydrated by drinking water. To amp up your experience, bring some food and stop along the way to eat at these pretty picnic spots in Calgary. You’d be surprised at how many little beaches and leafy parks there are to stop at for a swim or for a picnic.

You won’t regret stowing dry clothes and a towel in your car. Anything you want to keep dry and take with you on the raft should be packed in Ziploc or dry bag. Don’t forget the keys for your cars at both ends as well! Pros bring a speaker for optimal summer tune listening.

When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask the rental place if you have any questions or need any tips. And if you have any advice, please drop it in the comment section below. 

Keep these tips for future reference by pinning the image below to Pinterest:

raft rentals calgary
A different perspective of the city can be gleaned from the water. (Credit: Travel Alberta /Davey Gravey)


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