Kananaskis.com - Kananaskis Country Activities & Adventures

Being on the water is one of the best ways to experience Kananaskis and surrounding areas.  Learn the facts and features of rivers near Kananaskis and Canmore through to Banff and Golden. 

Our local rivers have some of the finest whitewater rafting around, are popular with kayakers and river surfers, and also have calmer sections for family floats, canoeing, and stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). There are some beautiful nearby lakes for those who want to start and finish in the same place.

Popular Rivers & Lakes in the Area

To help you plan the perfect day, we’ve compared the local rivers and lakes in a simple reference guide: available activities, river grades, skill levels and useful info like driving distances, operation dates, washrooms on site, bonus info and what each river is best known for. Whether you’re seeking thrills and spills or prefer to stay dry, nature has just the right river for you!

River or
Lake
Activities River
Difficulty
Season Adventure
Level
Known For Bonus! Distances Washrooms
Kananaskis River Rafting
Surfing
SUP
Class 1 - 3 May - Oct Mild to Moderate Scenery Swimming Calgary, 85km
Canmore, 40km
Banff, 65km
At tour base
Canoe Meadows Canoeing
Kayaking
Rafting
Surfing
Class 2 - 3 (occasionally 4) May - Oct Mild to Wild Whitewater facility: hanging slalom gates Campground on site. Controlled flow, check river schedule. Calgary, 85km
Canmore, 40km
Banff, 65km
Yes
Horseshoe Canyon (Bow River) Rafting
Canoeing
Kayaking
Class 3 - 4 May - Oct Moderate to Wild Big waves
Movie set scenery
Cliff jumping Calgary, 70km
Canmore, 30km
Banff, 55km
At tour base
Kicking Horse River Rafting
Kayaking
Class 2 - 4 May – Sep Moderate to Wild Canyon scenery
Big rapids
4km stretch of Class 4 water (lower canyon) Golden, 25km
Calgary, 240km
Canmore, 140km
Banff, 115km
At tour base
Elbow River Rafting
Surfing
Kayaking
Canoeing
Class 1 - 3 June Mild to Moderate Alpine scenery Exclusive limited access Calgary area
Canmore, 100km
Banff, 125km
At tour base
Bow River (Banff area) Floats
Canoeing
Kayaking
SUP
Class 1 - 2 May – Oct Mild Gentle water, mountain scenery Canoe and kayak rentals In Banff.
Calgary, 125km
Canmore, 25km
Yes
Red Deer River Rafting
Kayaking
Class 1 - 4 June - August Mild to Wild Foothills scenery Wilderness feel Approx 2 hours from Edmonton,
Calgary, Canmore, and Banff
At tour base
Vermilion Lakes Kayaking
Canoeing
SUP
n/a Spring - Fall Mild Scenic photography Wildlife viewing In Banff.
Calgary, 125km
Canmore, 25km
Yes
Lake Minnewanka Lake Cruises
Kayaking
Canoeing
SUP
n/a Spring - Fall Mild to Moderate Lake Cruises Scenery In Banff.
Calgary, 125km
Canmore, 25km
Yes
Canmore Reservoir (near Nordic Centre) SUP
Canoeing
Kayaking
n/a Spring - Fall Mild to Moderate SUP Vehicle accessible In Canmore.
Banff, 25k
Calgary, 100km
No
Quarry Lake SUP
Float
Swimming
n/a Spring - Fall Mild Family friendly
No dogs allowed
Next to off leash dog park
NOT vehicle accessible
In Canmore.
Banff, 25k
Calgary, 100km
Yes
Barrier Lake Canoeing
Kayaking
SUP
n/a Spring - Fall Mild to Wild.
Rapid wind increases common. Be prepared.
Blue water
Strong winds
Vehicle accessible In Kananaskis.
Calgary, 85km
Canmore 40km
Banff, 65km
Yes
Spray Lakes Reservoir Kite Surfing
Canoeing
Kayaking
SUP
Fishing
n/a Year-round Mild to Wild.
Rough conditions can occur quickly. Be prepared.
Strong winds
Ice fishing
Vehicle accessible In Kananaskis.
Calgary, 130km
Canmore, 30km
Banff, 55km
Yes (Driftwood)

Fishing is allowed in many rivers and lakes in the area. Check with local fishing outfitters for season dates and licenses. Most rivers are catch and release, while many of the lakes allow you to keep your catch

Local whitewater rafting companies offer exhilarating guided experiences for all skill levels on the Kananaskis River, Horseshoe Canyon on the Bow River, Elbow River, Red Deer River and Kicking Horse River. 

Many rafting tours have options for lunch, cliff jumping, swimming and photos of your trip. Or try a self-guided canoe and kayak exploration on the Bow River or Barrier Lake. Relax with a gentle paddle on Vermillion Lakes, with picture postcard views of Mt Rundle. 

Disclaimer:

The information that we give on any activities is for informational purposes only and not intended to give specific advice. The writer and/or publisher of this website is not responsible for any accidents, injuries, rescues, inconvenience, or loss of life by anyone attempting any of the activities described on this website. It is the responsibility of the reader to use common sense and good judgment to safely enjoy any outdoor activities.

Activities in the backcountry can be dangerous and have many potential hazards. It is up to each individual to know their limits, abilities and level of expertise before attempting any outdoor activity.