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Water Safety

Calgary’s rivers, lakes and waterways can be a fun and refreshing way to spend a hot summer day but keep in mind - where there’s water, there is risk.

The Calgary Fire Department issues river safety advisories when the conditions of the Bow and Elbow Rivers pose an elevated risk to river users.

At this time, there is no river safety advisory in effect for the ​Bow or Elbow Rivers.


Life jackets are a must

If you plan on enjoying the water by rafting or boating, you must always wear a properly fitted life jacket. It’s not only a bylaw requirement; it can also save your life.

Life jacket safety

Always wear a properly fitting life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) when boating or rafting anywhere.

  1. Check the PFD or jackets size and weight restrictions.
  2. Start with the buckles and straps loose, do them up from the bottom of the jacket to the top. Make sure the jacket or PFD fits snugly.
  3. Test the life jacket or PFD once you have done it up; hold your arms over your head and ask a friend to grab the tops of the arm openings and gently pull. Make sure there is no extra room above the arm openings and that the jacket does not ride up over your face or chin.

Call 9-1-1 if there is an emergency.

Children learning to swim

Swimming is a life saving skill

Water skills give you the confidence to safely take part in water sports throughout your life. The City offers swim lessons for all ages, throughout the year. We also offer First Aid and National Lifeguard certification classes.

Registration for lessons and classes is ongoing.

Remember, always keep toddlers or young children within arm’s reach while in or around all bodies of water.

Before you raft or boat

Always SCOUT, ASSESS and DECIDE from shore before going on rivers, lakes and waterways.

  1. Scout the river for potential hazards and check the weather and water conditions.
  2. Assess the level of danger. Check for river advisories and assess the swimming and paddling skills of your crew.
  3. Decide if it is safe to raft or boat.

Teens rafting on the river

Raft and boat safety

Anyone boating or rafting on a river, lake or waterway should:

  • Never be intoxicated on the water or transport alcohol, it’s illegal.
  • Always wear a properly fitting lifejacket when in or on a boat or raft.
  • Tell someone responsible where you are going and when you will return.
  • Carry an emergency kit on your boat or raft.

Emergency kit items

What's in an emergency kit?

  • A bailing device to remove water from inside the watercraft. A hand-held bailer can be purchased or made by cutting the end of a bleach bottle.
  • A paddle or oar to help you control your craft.
  • A sound-signalling device to help with navigation, alerting others of your approach, or in case of emergency. This could be a portable air horn, whistle, mechanical whistle or bell.
  • A heaving rope or towing line (15 metres long) that floats to use for rescue or to pull your craft to safety.
  • Navigation or safety light to be used at night or in poor visibility.

These guidelines apply to all types of non-powered watercraft including kayaks, canoes, dinghies, inner tubes and rafts.

Related information

Harvie Passage is currently closed. Visit the Government of Alberta for more information.