Bow and Elbow River Rafting Routes – Calgary, Alberta (Canada)

Elbow River Rafting - Calgary, Alberta (Canada)

By Rich Webb
Senior Writer/

CALGARY, ALBERTA (CANADA) – Rafting the Elbow or Bow River on one of your trips to Calgary, Alberta is a great way to pass an afternoon and one of the highlights on a vacation to this region of Canada. The Easy Elbow, Easy Bow, as well as the Harder, Longer Bow, and Harder, Longer Bow or One for the Southeast routes offer different challenges to rafters of all skill levels. The Alberta Rafting Alliance has gathered advice from its approved outfitters to provide you with a general description of the routes so you can better plan a fun-filled family vacation to Calgary, Alberta.

Easy Elbow Route – Calgary, Alberta

The Elbow River is a great start for the novice rafter. For a lazy, two-hour float leave your retrieval vehicle near 4th Street SW and Elbow Drive, then drive the other auto to Sandy Beach at River Park. Sandy Beach has a shallow access point, which makes it easy for kids and adults. From here, the river winds past Calgary’s finest neighbourhoods, before going parallel to Elbow Drive. The bridge at 4th Street is your end point.

Easy Bow Route – Calgary, Alberta

Drop your retrieval vehicle in the parking lot at the west end of Parkdale Boulevard, and drive your raft and gear to Bowness Park (8900 48th Ave. N.W.). The entry zone has several man-made outcroppings, so it’s easy to get everyone loaded up in the raft.

The route takes rafters past some of the nicest riverfront real estate in Calgary. About an hour later, rafter pass Shouldice Park, and drift by Edworthy Park toward downtown. Be sure to pay attention to the middle of the river for a single red buoy, which marks the Parkdale Blvd. lot where you left the retrieval car. The river slows here, making it easy to unload and start the journey to the car.

Harder, Longer Elbow Route – Calgary, Alberta

It is possible for rafters to ride the Elbow all the way to the Bow River. The route, which needs to be completed in early summer before the water level gets too low, bends around the Talisman Centre, under Macleod Trail and past the Stampede Grounds to Fort Calgary, where the rivers meet.

Harder, LongeR Bow Route – Calgary, Alberta

One of the most difficult parts of rafting the Bow River is safely navigating the pillars of the various bridges. And the stretch of water between the 10th Street and LRT bridges is tricky – but it is smooth sailing afterward passing Prince’s Island Park or the Calgary Zoo, which adds another hour or so.

One for the Southeast Route – Calgary, Alberta

Start at the launch near Heritage Drive by the Glenmore Trail overpass and end at the Fish Creek Provincial Park.

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