Adventure and travel writing

Kayaking Alberta

Barrier Lake, AB

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Location:  About 1 hour west of Calgary, Alberta on Hwy 40.  Two entry options, Barrier Dam is first turn off and the Barrier Lake Boat Launch is the second turn off.


Launch: The Barrier Lake  Boat Launch is located in the Day Use Area.  Though it doesn't offer access directly to the water, it does land you at a sandy hill down to the water.


Parking:  Free parking in the Barrier Lake parking lot but this small lot could fill up quick and you may have to park in other sections of the Day Use Area after dropping  your boat by the water.


Facilities:  Pit toilets available throughout the Barrier Lake Day Use Area.


Drinking water / Food:  None available so come prepared.


Notes: How far south you can go on Barrier Lake will depend on the water levels.  There is a great opportunity to hike to Jewell Falls by kayaking across to Jewell Bay.  Jewell Bay does having a nice campsite that is close to the Day Use Area and can be pre-booked through Alberta Parks.

Ghost Lake, AB

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Location:  About 15 min west of Cochrane, Alberta on Hwy 1A.


Launch: The Ghost Lake parking lot on the south side of Hwy 1A has a very nice large boat ramp and launch area.


Parking:  Lots of free parking in the Ghost Lake parking lot.


Facilities:  Pit toilets in the Ghost Lake parking lot.


Drinking water / Food:  None available so come prepared.


Notes: Head West along the lake which will eventually take you up the Bow River.  The lake and the launch can be busy on nice days so keep your eyes open for boat traffic.

Ghost River, AB

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Location:  About 15 min west of Cochrane, Alberta on Hwy 1A.


Launch: The Ghost Lake parking lot on the south side of Hwy 1A has a very nice large boat ramp and launch area.


Parking:  Lots of free parking in the Ghost Lake parking lot.


Facilities:  Pit toilets in the Ghost Lake parking lot.


Drinking water / Food:  None available so come prepared.


Notes: Head North under the Hwy 1A bridge and follow up the river.  How far up you can go will depend on the time of year.  There are areas higher up the river where you can pull out for a lunch break.

Johnson Lake, Banff, AB

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Location:  North of Banff townsite on Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive


Launch: Sandy beach area just down from the Johnson Lake parking lot.  They do have a spray down area for kayaks beside the parking lot.


Parking:  Parking at Johnston Lake lot but get there early on nice days as it can be busy.


Facilities:  Pit toilets in the Johnson Lake parking lot.


Drinking water / Food:  None available so come prepared.


Notes: Nice lake with beautiful views but it is small and only takes half an hour to circumnavigate at a slow pace.  We did two loops of the lake.  The lake is shallow so it is one of the warmer lakes in the area for swimming.

Lake Minnewanka, Banff, AB

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Location:  North of Banff townsite on Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive


Launch: Boat launch right beside Lake Minnewanka parking lot so you are able to drop your kayaks right by the water before going to the parking lot.


Parking:  Parking at Lake Minnewanka lot but get there early on nice days as it can be busy.


Facilities:  Flush toilets in the Lake Minnewanka parking lot.


Drinking water / Food:  Drinking water available near the washrooms.  There is a small restaurant just north of the parking lot but we did not visit there.  Best to bring a packed lunch to eat away from the crowds.


Notes: This is a very big lake and we only spent an hour and half on the south west end.  I'm not sure if you could circumnavigate the lake in a single day but it would be a long day if you could.  We will have to try that one day.  The lake can get windy and rough and there are both tour boats and a few motor boats on the water.

Two Jack Lake, Banff, AB

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Location:  North of Banff townsite on Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive.


Launch: Beach area just down from the Two Jack parking lot.  


Parking:  Parking at Two Jack lot but get there early on nice days as it can be busy.  There is parking closer to the lake for boaters but again you have to be there early on nice days.


Facilities:  Only one pit toilets in the Two Jack Lake parking lot and picnic area which can have quite a long line up to use.


Drinking water / Food:  None available so come prepared.


Notes: Beautiful lake and views though the picnic and launch area can get very busy.  The north end of the lake is damned between Two Jack and Lake Minnewanka.  On the south end of the lake you can follow the river for quite a ways to the south damn.  There is a low bridge you can go under and the river carries on for quite a ways afterwards so it is worth doing the limbo under the bridge.  We spent two hours circumnavigating the lake and river at a leisurely pace.