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August 2019

River Kayaking: The Adventure; The Safety

My first kayaking experience

Summer camp 1998. Located in Riding Mountain National Park, also known as Clear Lake or Wasagaming, Manitoba. Where I was free as a bird, running around, play games, singing campfire songs and playing with my friends for one whole week. Parent-free!! Well, at that time that part was not exciting. I was pretty homesick for my mom the first day or two, parent-free was more relevant around 16. But never the less, this was one of those times in your life that you never really realized how influential going to camp would be. A time that helped inspire all the things I continue to love and cherish to this day. Camping, campfires, hiking, swimming, kayaking.

“I am not sure if its because of the limited season we get to enjoy the waters, the locations you can only access by water or just the laughs and adventures spent with friends paddling around on a beautiful day, but I love it. “

Up until a few years ago, I had only kayaked on lakes and ponds. Then one afternoon, my boyfriend suggested we kayak down the river, how have we not done this before?! We quickly ran to our Backroad Mapbook and started looking for a local route to try out the next day. After deciding on our mission, we quickly came to realize there is a bit more planning involved than just throwing the kayaks in the truck and dumping them into the lake for a few hours. The main concern being now we need TWO trucks: one at the start, and one and the end. Luckily we were equipped for transport with both vehicles otherwise this task wouldn’t have been a possibility right off the hop. After many river adventures, I have learned some valuable lessons to share to make sure you are safe and equipped when setting out on your own journey.

Finding your start and end point

Keep in mind there are very few places where private owners allow river access. Considering this, when mapping out your points, you are likely going to be in public land use areas, make sure that your location does not have an evening closing time. Many locations will have gates that they close at a certain time or at dusk. After a few hours of paddling having your boats locked in a parking lot is not a fun way to end your day!

Check the weather

When you are floating down the river you do not have the option to just paddle into shore and get back into your vehicle when those thundery skies start rolling in. Being stranded in the middle of a river during a lightning storm is for sure a major safety concern.

Leave enough time

Although the route may seem like a short drive from your start and end points, it actually takes a fair bit of time to travel down a section of river depending on the current speed (we will discuss in the next point). I have yet to take less than 5 hours of paddling time, in fair water conditions, where my drive points were only 10 minutes apart. Not to mention the drive time of dropping off and picking up vehicles.

River Current

Many rivers are controlled by runoffs and dam releases. Although it may seem like a beautiful spring day, lots of higher elevation areas are just beginning their melting season so the runoff is causing high-speed waters with lots of debris. During the summer, depending on rain, your river may be an exit source for a dam (ours is) so check online to see if your local conservations are planning to release the dam therefore increasing river speeds.

Items to pack

Throughout my journeys, I have developed a 5L dry bag that I always carry when hitting the waters. Here are my must haves:

River kayaking has really become an adventure for me – something about having a destination makes it all the more exciting. Kayaking allows access to sections of the river you would not be able to get to by foot, so often we will fish along the way! If you’re not into river kayaking… throw your boat in the local lake or pond before work! Often instead of going to the gym, I will wake up early and put my boat on the pond in the middle of town and enjoy the sunrise, still waters and morning coffee – maybe some wildlife if I am really lucky!

“An adventure is not strictly defined by the distance or extreme circumstances encountered – its merely the time spent doing something out of your regular routine that is either new or exciting"

Written by:

Leah Szucki – Originally from Manitoba, she grew up with not much hiking to do! So when she moved to Alberta, and discovered that there are thousands of hikes, and things to explore throughout the Rocky Mountains she was instantly overwhelmed. Not knowing where to start, what to bring, what defines a scramble, WHAT ARE SWITCH BACKS?! She has since started a blog with all sorts of resources and stories for people just like her. Check it out at You can also follow her adventures on Instagram here: @leahtylerszucki