The Bow and Elbow rivers are important parts of our community. Each year, thousands take to the rivers in rafts, canoes, kayaks, and drift boats.
At the same time, there are limits on peoples’ ability to access the rivers. Several factors, including the 2013 flood, have resulted in the closure of several hard launch points for boat trailers. While smaller boats can be launched from many places along the river, these spots are not always formalized. There can be challenges with parking and lack of access to bathrooms, garbage cans and other park amenities.
Developing a strategy
The goal of this strategy is to ensure easier, safer, legal and environmentally-friendly river access to the Bow and Elbow rivers. The outcomes will include a strategy and implementation plan that will identify stakeholders, potential new access points, safety and cost. Environmental considerations will also be paramount and sensitive riparian areas will be protected, according to The City’s Riparian Strategy. We will also consider promotion and education around river use, and working with businesses to create economic opportunities around river use.
*The strategy will take into account any type of user using a non-motorized boat or other watercraft on the river. This can include drift boats, rafts, canoes, kayaks and even surf boards. The strategy will not address swimming points for people or dogs at this time. However, we are being mindful to keep access points away from existing swimming areas and off leash parks, in order to reduce user conflicts.
**Motorized boats are restricted on Calgary’s River, according to the Government of Canada who has classified the rivers within Calgary’s city limits to “Schedule II” under the Canada Shipping Act, which states that “no persons shall operate a power driven vessel or a vessel driven by electrical propulsion.....However, operation of emergency vessels is permitted.”
Throughout October, The City is conducting engagement to gather input from stakeholder groups and interested Calgarians on river access site locations, required site amenities and benefits and concerns you see regarding river access. Provide your input by visiting the engage portal.
There is a hard boat launch underneath the Graves Bridge, where Glenmore Trail crosses the Bow River. The 2013 flood significantly changed the riverbank in this area. There is now a large gravel bank between the water and the boat ramp. There have been multiple reports of vehicles driving into the river and along the gravel bar. According to Alberta Environment and Parks, anyone doing this can face fines, Under the Public Lands Act, ranging from $250 up to $25,000.
Our rivers are important ecosystems. Vehicles can introduce oil, gasoline and other pollutants, or create harmful ruts and erosion problems that affect these sensitive areas. To prevent this type of activity, a gate was installed at the Graves Bridge access site. Because we realize that many responsible boaters rely on the Graves Bridge site for river access, the gate will remain open at this time. However, we will monitor the situation, and the gate may be closed and locked if misuse of the gravel bar and river continues.
As part of the River Access Strategy, we are investigating long-term solutions to create easy river access from the Graves Bridge site, while ensuring the environment is protected. Some solutions may include restricting access to much of the gravel bar using concrete barriers, or the excavation of gravels to extend the back channel water up to the boat launch ramp that was cut off from the river as a result of the 2013 Flood. All options would require design evaluation and the approval of the Alberta Government, which will take some time.
For more information on motorized recreation near rivers, please visit Alberta Environment and Parks.