The Float: Banff to Canmore on The Bow River

It’s early January, pretty bloody cold, and lockdowns been extended! (great!) This seemed like a perfect time to tell you about my favorite summer adventure to cheer us all up!

If you find yourself in Canmore mid-summer then you will not be able to avoid the beautiful Bow River and all the activities that it tempts you with. All the locals are driving around with their kayaks permanently strapped to the roof of their cars, tour guides are trundling through town towing their extra-large floats, and everyone is looking for 2nd hand SUPs (stand up paddle boards) online so they can have their chance at a go on the water.

I was so lucky to fall in to a job where my colleagues are all my friends. I work with such a great bunch of adventure loving people and there is always an opportunity to go and try something new with someone who has done it a million times. This summer my bosses put together a staff float day. Covid was very much a thing, and as we all work together, we are in the same bubble, so getting out on the water together seemed like a safe activity we can all do with out the risk of strangers getting involved.

This float consisted of everyone who had a floatation device of any sort meeting in Banff at the Bow Valls and basically floating down the river all the way back to Canmore. 23km, they say it takes 4 hours. The river is constantly moving and there are trees and all sorts of other hazards in the way making it a really fun route with a little technique involved, but mostly a lot of fun.

Henry and I bough an inflatable canoe this summer and it has been BRILLIANT. We bought it from seaeagle in the US, it cost around $500. It inflates super quick and then deflates and you can store it in a cupboard. Unlike traditional canoes which take up so much space, this was a great option for us as we are starting out in our tiny apartment.

Valbella also hired two large commercial rafts for those staff members who didn’t have anything but wanted to come, Jeff took his paddle board and we followed along in our canoe.


I was a little apprehensive as we had only really been out on still lakes, a moving river was a very different thing. But! We picked it up really quick and turns out, were not too bad at this rafting game.

Working for a meat processor, we knew that there was going to be plenty of high protein snacks to get us through the day. Half way down the river we all pulled up on a rocky island, made a fire and cooked up smokies. Jeff was amazing and bought a grill top and enough sausages to feed an army. Some of the team bought a huge canister of boozy cocktail, we had a cooler of beer and a good few bottles of tequila were passed around.

My kinda day!

The whole float took us from 10am to 4pm in the afternoon and was honestly the most fun I had all summer. The river winds its way through the valley and the sights are so beautiful. We, as a group, were alone on the river and felt completely in nature. The river is constantly flowing but as long as you are paying attention it is very easy to avoid and debris. You really feel in awe of the Rocky Mountains on this route, seeing some sides of the valley you can never see by road or path.

I’ve heard stories of people seeing families of bears bathing on the side of the river, and the heard of elk refreshing themselves. We saw a beautiful big bald eagle fly overhead, but I guess all the larger animals were shading from the heat.

As fun as it was, I would not be confident taking Rocket! This was very much an adult’s day (which was fine by me) If you have older children then I think they would love it. But I would make sure they are strong and have a bit of savvy. This is a moving river and can be very dangerous. You frequently hear stories of tourists having to be rescued because their kayaks have got caught in the trees. If you only have to keep an eye on yourself then you’re defiantly going to enjoy it more.

Going in a big group was great because we knew there was always someone watching and that we could all take care of each other, as well as have a few drinks and let our hair down.

You can book guided tours where all you have to do is sit on the float and enjoy yourself. Something I hope to be able to take my family on this year. But if you’re after a little thrill and a whole new level of isolation then I highly recommend getting yourself a boat and hitting the river with some friends.

It was a very hot day, in the 30’s, we had loads of food, loads of beer and a lot of water fights. What could be better.

I will never forget this day. It was the day my colleagues became my real friends and I made some of the best girl gang mates I could ask for in this new world. Bring on the future adventures, I can’t wait to get back on the river.

2 thoughts on “The Float: Banff to Canmore on The Bow River

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