It could be that I am just lazy. Living near the Bow River in Calgary, brightly coloured rafts and super-size inflatable animals float by all summer long. Sparkling sunshine reflects off toothy grins of happy folks sailing by. Still all I can think about are the endless organizational details of what Calgary rafting involves.
First of all we don’t own a raft, dinghy, blow up unicorn or a rubber duck the size of a car for that matter. Of course I could rent one. Well maybe not the giant rubber duck, but raft rentals in Calgary are a booming business.
But what if it rains the day we plan our river rafting in Calgary? How will we blow up our boat to float? What if the Bow River is too high and unsafe to raft? How will we steer it? Do we need oars, paddles or possibly magic wands?
And don’t even get me started on the logistics of getting a vehicle to a pick up spot downstream on the Bow River. Let alone actually landing our rubber duck there.
For decades the dizzying details have sent Calgary rafting to the bottom of my bucket list like a blow up unicorn over Victoria Falls.
Calgary rafting the easy way
“You’ve never gone rafting in Calgary? How long have you lived here?”
I hang my head like a disobedient puppy who has eaten a pair of newly purchased Italian leather shoes. The comments and looks of disbelief from friends and acquaintances weigh heavily on my usually adventurous shoulders.
“That’s it!” I declare to Hubby. “Our next visitor is seeing Calgary from the Bow River.” Hopefully not from the vantage point in the chilly mountain fed water or clinging to a bridge pillar I think to myself. Yes I am a worrier to be clear.
So begins my research in what I expect will be a detail extravaganza nightmare.
Calgary River Experience
I am embarrassed to say that I did not know about Calgary River Experience.
Let’s see. A travel writer who doesn’t know that there are guided rafting trips in her own city. A rather humbling admission.
What? No rubber ducks to rent and transport? No pick up arrangements to organize? Just rafting in Calgary with one of those toothy grins while the guide takes care of everything.
Traveling on Calgary’s original highway, the Bow River, the adventure is approximately 90 minutes long. The Calgary rafting route travels under eight bridges, past the downtown skyline and the Calgary Zoo. If you are lucky you may spot a Canadian beaver near one of the dams along the way.
All shuttling is provided as well as life jackets, rain ponchos (not that we needed them) and bottled water.
Tips for Bow River rafting
Guided rafting trips can be booked between early April and late October. Open to ideas such as packed lunches or stopping for a meal at a riverside restaurant, the tours can be customized.
Wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet or muddy getting in and out of the raft. We did not have mud but would suggest shoes with good grip.
Dress for the weather and be sure to use sunscreen.
Rafting Calgary in spring the water will be faster moving. The Bow River has Class 1 rapids, other than one section at the 10th street bridge, where they are Class 2. Our float on the Bow in late summer was a gentle one.
For those with mobility challenges, Calgary River Experience is happy to discuss how to make a rafting experience work for anyone.
Information about organizing your own trip can be found here
It took me almost 30 years to see Calgary from this unique vantage point. Check out our video below to see if you would like to try rafting in Calgary. Be sure to watch for my ear to ear smile.
Well better late than never I say. Every future visitor of ours is going to have the experience. Who wants to come to Calgary?
We were guests of Calgary River Experience and Tourism Calgary. All toothy grins and opinions are our own.