Canoeing and Kayaking Banff

Placid Waters or Adrenaline Soaked Whitewater: Take your Pick for Canoeing and Kayaking in Banff National Park

When it comes to water sports and outdoor recreation, it’s tough to beat Banff, Alberta – still alpine lakes, lazy, slow moving rivers, and rippling and foamy mountain creeks and epic whitewater — all here in Banff National Park.

There are plenty of places for canoeing and kayaking in and around Banff – the Bow and Spray Rivers run through town, after all. Furthermore, the range of canoeing and kayaking opportunities offers something for paddlers of all levels, be they novice, expert, or somewhere in between.

Whether you are looking for adrenaline soaked adventure or just want to relax and take in the alpine beauty and wildlife, you can do it here in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.


Canoes can be rented at Blue Canoe, at the north end of Bow Avenue (also accessible from Wolf Street) in downtown Banff. From the canoe docks on the river, paddlers who put in directly right here can explore a gentle leg of the Bow River or follow 40 Mile Creek into the Vermilion Lakes. Both routes offer opportunities for wildlife viewing.

More experienced paddlers can take their canoe to one of three different legs of the Bow River:

  • Lake Louise to Castle Junction
  • Castle Junction to Banff
  • Bow Falls to Canmore

North of Banff on Lake Louise, canoes can be rented at Moraine Lake Lodge and at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. With hourly rentals here, you can take as much or as little time as you like to explore the pristine mountain lakes and unspoiled alpine scenery here.


Kayaking on the lakes around Banff town are an excellent way to not only enjoy the natural beauty of Banff National Park in serene settings, but also to observe the area’s wildlife in their natural habitat. It’s also an excellent opportunity to laze away an afternoon fishing.

Banff Travel offers half-day guided tours in inflatable kayaks, including a scenic “calm water” trip down the Bow River, with instruction in basic kayaking techniques and safety.

The best kayaking spots include:

  • Lake Minnewanka
  • Vermilion Lakes
  • Johnson Lake
  • Two Jack Lake
  • The Bow River between Castle Junction and Banff town

If creek boat or play boat describes your kayak – if you’ve been reading this thinking “Wildlife and natural beauty is great and all, but where’s the fun stuff? Where’s the whitewater?” Don’t worry, Banff has that too. Local routes for experienced whitewater paddlers include:

  • Bow River (Banff Springs Golf Course to Canmore) – Class I-II
  • Upper Bow River – Class III-V
  • Pipestone (at Lake Louise) – Class IV
  • Red Earth Creek – Class V+*

*Yes, that’s right, V+, as in should only be attempted by expert creek boaters/kayakers. There are epic 20- and 30-foot drops, log jams — anything the experienced whitewater kayak junky could want – on this short, intense little river which empties into the Bow River between Banff town and Castle Junction.

Hard boats not your idea of watercraft? Prefer inflatable rafts? Don’t worry, there’s whitewater rafting and float tours available in Banff National Park.

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