The North Saskatchewan River Through Edmonton, Alberta

The Arrogant Worms sing a song about pirates on the Saskatchewan River and that is what we are today. Pirates in kayaks! We paddle the river from Laurier Heights (near the zoo) to the 50 Street boat launch (near our house) with our friends J&A&S.

I have never done this before and I am excited as the flow rate of the river has mellowed out after all the rain and after paddling the Red Deer River, I feel I can do this. We meet up near the zoo at the boat launch and push off.

Edmonton, Alberta

This is definitely an urban paddle compared to our previous paddles. On this river there is constant noise – traffic, motor boats, construction work, people on the river banks. We have paddled up to today in the wilds where it is quiet with the occasional bird call.

We see scullers training on the river, dogs jumping in the river, cyclists and runners on the river valley paths, fisherpeople and a few ducks. We travel to many large international cities where the concrete comes right down to the river. In Edmonton, the river is bordered by green. The city has kept the river valley parks for everyone to enjoy. The tall buildings of Victoria Park Road, downtown, the University and Saskatchewan Drive are visible but they are set back behind the green embankments.

Edmonton, Alberta
First Bridge we paddle under!

The part I enjoy the most is floating under so many the bridges (10!). We start with the footbridge that connects Hawrelak Park to Buena Vista Park. Groat Bridge comes up and we can hear the construction on the bridge. My father was in Engineering in the 1950’s while the bridge was being built and I have some photos of his class on a field trip to the construction site.

Groat Bridge, Edmonton, Alberta
Groat Bridge

Two most favorite bridges arrive around a bend. The High Level Bridge, opened in 1913, and the Walterdale Bridge, opened in 2017. My engineering roots are tickled just to be able to view them from water level.

The High Level Bridge, Edmonton, Alberta
High Level Bridge with Walterdale Bridge in the background and the LRT Bridge in the foreground

Next we pass under the new LRT bridge being constructed over the river. The span doesn’t quite reach across yet and we mused about how the trains will have to jump over the gap on their way to the southside.

New LRT Bridge, Edmonton, Alberta
New LRT Bridge

J tells us an interesting historical tidbit about the river valley. About a hundred years ago there was a dump by the river, just after the Dawson Bridge extending downriver for a distance. We float close to shore and can see the garbage being exposed in the river bank. Erosion is wearing away the soil, but the debris remains. We see old tires, metal, house parts, a horseshoe, coloured glass and it doesn’t smell that nice. Interesting!

We stop at the downstream end of an island for lunch and A&S, being of a younger age, frolic in the water and play in the sand. We older folks, sit on the sand, munch on our wraps and enjoy the views and conversation.

It is only 500 m to the 50 Street boat launch and once we push off again we are there quickly. It has been a grand trip down the North Saskatchewan and, unfortunately we marauded no vessels and obtained no loot.

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