Try These Great Water Activities in Canmore!

There are plenty of different rivers and lakes in Canmore that are perfect for water activities such as kayaking, canoeing and rafting. Here are our favourites!

From kayaking and canoeing to white water rafting, Canmore offers some of the most scenic surroundings for water activities in all of Alberta. There’s nothing like unwinding on a canoe or kayak trip, while taking in the surrounding wilderness.
Although the abundance of rivers in the Canmore area often steal the show, you’ll also find plenty of lakes to explore. Many are accessible right from the Trans-Canada Highway and well worth paddling in. Just grab a map and start exploring.
Here are a few places to visit to get your adventure started:

Kananaskis River

This river blends challenging rafting with spectacular opportunities to view wildlife.
The Kananaskis River is a tributary of the Bow River, and they join together just east of Canmore, right before Horseshoe Canyon. If you are looking for an adventurous ride, the lower Kananaskis River offers a thrilling kayaking or canoeing trip down some adrenaline-inducing rapids.
Most trips on this river will take around two hours and provide plenty of whitewater thrills, as well as some quiet spots where you can take a refreshing swim.
As you ride down these rushing waters, you will be surrounded by rich wildlife habitat, so keep your eyes out for birds, bears, white tailed deer and elk – when you have a moment to look up from the rapids that is!

  • Total length of the river is 74km
  • There are many guided canoeing, rafting and kayaking tours on the Kananaskis River offered by tourism companies based in Canmore
  • Most trips will begin approximately 1km upstream of the Kananaskis Information Centre
  • If you are intimidated by the first rapid, the “Widow Maker” (which is a challenging class III pool drop), it is possible to put in below it and avoid this stretch


Bow River

The Bow River begins high in the Rocky Mountains and winds through the Alberta foothills until it meets with Oldman River.
Its name comes from the reeds that grow along its banks, which First Nations people used to make bows for their arrows. This exciting river offers some excellent opportunities for experienced canoeists, as well as a gentle section in the town of Banff for beginners.
There are three different legs to choose from on the Bow River – Lake Louise to Castle Junction, Bow Falls to Canmore or Castle Junction to Banff. These sections are all full day trips and they are suited for intermediate to experienced canoeists.
Beginners can get a taste of paddling on the Bow River by renting a canoe at the docks on the north end of Bow Avenue. From here, you can explore a gentle section of the river or venture to Forty Mile Creek and the Vermillion Lakes.

  • The Bow River is glacier-fed, so the temperature is very cold. There is a danger of hypothermia if you capsize, so make sure you’re prepared before you set out
  • To fish in the river you will need a valid National Park Fishing Permit, which you can purchase at the Parks Canada Information Centres in Canmore, Banff or Lake Louise


Spray Lakes Reservoir

The clear turquoise water of this peaceful lake draws many boaters and parasailers in the summertime. It won’t take you long to figure out why.
Spray Lakes Reservoir is a long and narrow impoundment set within a dramatic mountain valley, which is perched 400 metres above the town of Canmore. Paddling through this gorgeous mountain landscape, with the craggy peaks towering over you on all sides, is a truly humbling experience.
The water here is calm and perfect for a leisurely canoe or kayak. However, watch out for high winds that can make paddling a bit challenging. Also, take precautions for hypothermia as this high-altitude mountain lake is very cold.
Spray Lakes Reservoir is also a very popular fishing destination, so if you want to catch your dinner from your boat make sure that you register for your fishing license at the Canmore Visitor Information Centre.

  • There is a boat launch at Driftwood day use campground on the east side of the lake. There are no boat rentals, so you must bring your own vessel
  • To get to the lake, cross the bridge over the Bow River and follow the winding path past the Canmore Nordic Centre. Continue up the hill to the Three Sisters Dam and you will be at the north end of the reservoir


Kicking Horse River

Ready for a white-knuckled ride down some truly thrilling rapids?
On the Kicking Horse River you will enjoy spectacular mountain scenery, world-class white water and the stunning beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. This river offers large waves and numerous rapids that range up to a Class IV.
Beginners who are looking for a calmer ride can start out with the class II sections of the river. However, Kicking Horse also offers class III and IV rapids that are sure to make even the hearts of veteran rafters pump.
Several rafting trips down the Kicking Horse River depart from Canmore. Racing through the mountains to the Bow River Valley, this waterway stretches all the way to Yoho National Park in British Columbia. After this exhilarating ride you will feel like you’ve just spent five seconds on a bucking bronco. Interestingly enough, the river got its name in 1858 when James Hector of the Palliser Expedition got a kick in the chest from his pack horse while he was exploring the area.

  • There are three main sections of the Kicking Horse River that are used by white water rafting companies, kayakers and canoeists. These include the Upper Canyon (class III and IV), the Middle
  • Canyon (class IV and V for experienced rafters only) and the Lower Canyon (class IV and V)


Horseshoe Canyon

Hold on tight to your paddle as you go barrelling down the white water swells of Horseshoe Canyon.
This popular rafting river is an exciting prospect for hardcore white water rafting enthusiasts, as it offers gorgeous scenery, massive waves and up to Class IV rapids. It is located in the front ranges of the Rockies and offers some amazing scenery. Most of the guided trips will take you down three Grade III or IV rapids and will last a half day.
You’re surrounded by shale canyon walls as you blast down this river, which makes you feel as if you’re isolated deep within the wilderness. This is also a prime habitat for many large birds of prey, so keep your eyes on the skies when you take a break from rafting.

  • Many white water rafting tour companies offer trips on Horseshoe Canyon that pick up and drop off in Banff
  • Take a waterproof camera with you as you can get some great shots of the Rocky Mountains
  • Many Horseshoe Canyon white water rafting trips will include an optional cliff-jumping experience. Make sure that you follow the instructions of your guide for your safety!



If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Canmore, we have our highly knowledgeable Destination Experts on call to help. They can answer any questions you may have about water activities in Canmore, or about accommodations for rent. You can view our Canmore vacation rentals here. You can also call our Destination Experts at 1.877.902.1616 who are on the phone 7 days a week.