The North Saskatchewan River is a Hallmark of Edmonton’s landscape. It is used all year round for activities such as canoeing, kayaking, floating, fishing, gold panning and more. However, the river can also be unpredictable so it is important to prepare accordingly.
The North Saskatchewan River can be unpredictable, with fast underwater currents, strong undertows and unforeseen hazards such as underwater debris, floating trees and wood, and muddy shorelines. Swimming and diving without wearing a personal safety floatation device is strongly discouraged.
Water quality of the North Saskatchewan River and other untreated natural waters often fluctuate, and at times may not meet Health Canada guidelines for activities such as swimming and wading. Water quality can quickly change due to rainstorms and events upstream.
If this is an emergency, call 911 and ping your location.
Before You Leave Home
Share your trip plans with someone
Review a map of the local boat launches for Edmonton and Area: Paddling Maps
Check the weather report and safety advisories, and know how they might impact your activity
Check the river depth and flow rate. High and fast water can be dangerous! EPS and Park Ranger rescue boats will not go on the river when water levels are dangerous and can only perform rescues from the river’s edge.
Put on your personal flotation device. It does not work if you’re not wearing it!
Ensure compliance with Transport Canada guidelines, provincial regulations and municipal bylaws
Do not drink alcohol or take drugs
Give other boats and any waterfowl a wide berth when passing
Safety Requirements for Small Boats
If it floats, it’s a boat! Things like air mattresses, tubes, paddle boards, floating islands, inflatables, rafts and dinghies are all considered a Small Vessel. As noted in the Safe Boating Guide, all boats under six meters in length must carry:
An approved personal flotation device for each person
A buoyant heaving line or throw bag of at least 15 meters in length
A bailer or bilge pump
A whistle or sounding device
A waterproof flashlight for night or low-light situations
One manual propelling device (paddle or oars) or an anchor with not less than 15m of cable, rope or chain in any combination
Load your equipment and supplies into the boat before getting to the launch
If picking up people on the river, don’t wait for your party in the launch area
Move vehicles away from boat launch promptly and park in designated areas
Operate at a safe speed and avoid dangerous behaviours
Be courteous when passing other river users by keeping a safe distance and limiting wake
Give a wide berth for other boats or wildlife
Learn how to keep yourself and your pets safe in off-leash parks with water features: Dog Ice Safety.
Pet Water Safety
If you enjoy exploring the River Valley with your dog in the summer, please ensure you are aware of your surroundings and that your dog obeys voice commands. Keep your dog in sight at all times. If you take your pet on the river with you, please be sure that you supervise swimming pets. Never leave your dog unsupervised by any body of water and remember your pet should be outfitted with a lifejacket when swimming or boating.
It is never safe to walk on the ice of the River! Although the North Saskatchewan River looks desirable for hiking, skating, and cross-country skiing in the winter, its ice is unstable due to the moving water underneath. For more information on the factors that affect ice thickness, please see Ice Safety.
Recreational activities in North Saskatchewan River and other untreated natural waters could present a human health risk through intentional or incidental immersion and ingestion of untreated natural waters including primary contact activities (for example: swimming, bathing, wading, windsurfing and waterskiing) and secondary contact activities (for example: canoeing and fishing). It is strongly advised to check Alberta Environment and Parks for water quality guidelines before recreating near and on the river.
Aquatic Invasive Species
Aquatic invasive species can pose significant negative impacts to human health or the economy. They can also cause harm to the environment such as displacing native species, reducing biodiversity and overall health of an area.
The North Saskatchewan River is regularly patrolled by Park Rangers and the Edmonton Police Service. This is to ensure compliance on a range of matters such as safety checks, Small Vessel Regulations and the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act.