Where there’s water, there’s risk. The importance of safety on all of Calgary’s waterways cannot be understated. To help everyone reduce their risk while enjoying the water, we have compiled what you will need to navigate The City’s waterways.
Planning a day on the water
While you're planning your day on the water, be sure to check:
- River conditions and flow rates. Not sure what the flow rates mean? Visit understanding flow rates for more information.
- Weather conditions at Environment Canada.
- For safety advisories. If river conditions require, we will post safety advisories on this page as well as on our Facebook and Twitter. If you are unsure about the status of an advisory, call 3-1-1.
- The river’s course, safe put in points, and known hazards. Find out more on our river access page.
- For water quality advisories by visiting the Alberta Health Services website. River water quality can vary due to heavy rainfall and upstream sources.
Remember to tell someone responsible where you are going and when you expect to return.
Life jackets are required
When rafting down Calgary’s waterways, even strong swimmers in shallow, slow-moving water are required to wear lifejackets or personal flotation devices (PFD). Lifejackets are sold at most sports and general goods stores and several local vendors rent them for day use.
Before using your life jacket or PFD, make sure to:
- Check the size and weight restrictions
- Start with the buckles and straps loose then fasten them from the bottom of the jacket to the top to ensure a snug fit
- Once fastened, test the lifejacket or PFD by holding your arms over your head and asking someone nearby 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.
Remember, there is a mandatory court appearance and up to $500 fine for not wearing a life jacket or PFD on Calgary’s waterways.
Keep kids safe around water
Remember to always keep toddlers or young children within arm’s reach while in or around all bodies of water. This applies to rivers, lakes and backyard bodies of water like ponds and pools. Lifejackets are critical for children and inexperienced swimmers. Encourage children to learn to swim and what to do in an emergency on the water.
Learn to swim
Swimming is a life-saving skill and gives you the confidence to safely take part in water sports throughout your life. We offer year-round swimming lessons for all ages, as well as First Aid and National Lifeguard certification classes.
Registration for lessons and classes is ongoing.
Bring the right supplies
Make sure you have the following before heading out:
- Watercraft suitable for the body of water and conditions.
- Properly fitting life jackets for everyone on board.
- Water, hats and sunscreen to stay hydrated and comfortable.
- Cell phone to call for help in case of emergency.
- A complete water safety kit to have in your watercraft.
What's in a safety 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-signaling 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.
Safety kits are required on all types of non-powered watercraft including kayaks, canoes, dinghies, inner tubes and rafts.
Before going on the water
Always SCOUT, ASSESS and DECIDE from shore before going on rivers, lakes and waterways.
- Scout the river for potential hazards and check the weather and water conditions.
- Assess the level of danger. Check for river advisories and assess the swimming and paddling skills of your crew.
- Decide if it is safe to raft or boat.
Intoxication on the water is dangerous and illegal
Consumption and transportation of alcohol and drugs is illegal on Calgary’s waterways. Intoxication makes it difficult to control a watercraft and react to the unexpected situations. Police and Bylaw officers patrol Calgary’s waterways throughout the summer. Anyone engaging in unsafe or disrespectful behaviour on the water will be subject to fines.