Firstly how to get there - from Banff Avenue (near the Tourist Info Office) head down Wolf Street towards the Bow River and at the end of the road there is parking for the Blue Canoe office (staff were quick to check that we weren‘t just parking there for other reasons!).
No booking was required and when we visited at 10.00am mid-week at the end of September it was quiet. I have canoed before but only a handful of times and not recently whereas my wife had never been canoeing at all so it had the hallmarks of an interesting trip! The staff were very friendly and gave a brief introduction whilst kitting us out with lifejackets, paddles and getting a two-man canoe organised by the jetty. Assistance was given to board and within a minute or two we were off with the sound advice to head upstream in our ears (the Bow Falls are further downstream!). It made me think of a phrase my late Dad used to come out with now and then - "can I canoe you up the river" (I've since discovered on the internet it was a popular song) or the more common phrase used by many about being up a creek without a paddle!
Thankfully we had wrapped up well because out on the river it was even colder than it had been onshore although we quickly warmed up when paddling. The river is wide at this area and progress for us was quite slow against the current - the question did arise from my wife, is anyone steering?
There are a couple of route options - take a right shortly after leaving the dock and head towards Vermillion Lakes or just head up the main course of the Bow River. The Vermillion Lakes route is apparently easier however with me as “captain” we missed the turnoff…oh well. One of the staff who had just returned from an escorted tour on the Bow River route had indicated that they had spotted wildlife near the riverbank so we were on the lookout.
You are also able to take in the lovely scenery around which of course has an added attraction when you feel you are in the great outdoors. We came across a few other canoes in our travels but not many and you generally feel you could be miles from anywhere - without actually being miles from anywhere!
We had only hired the canoe for an hour (CAN$35.70 inc tax) so we managed to get upstream round a few bends before it was time to turn around. En route we had to avoid a few sandbanks and submerged logs close to shore and no thanks to my steering narrowly avoid a few fallen trees but it was all good fun. However the trip was further rewarded with the sight of a deer calmly grazing by the riverbank. Going back was much easier downstream and by then we had kind of got the hang of things - we made it back safely!
Tip:- keep your camera handy, it’s not so easy when your sitting, balancing in a canoe, to retrieve it from deep pockets.
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