Edmonton Paddler: June SUP Spots
Many of the lakes around Edmonton are shallow and laden with nutrients. These factors combine to make some paddle destinations less desirable later in the season due to the build-up of algae and weeds. June is a great time for exploring these spots as we can experience hot weather and cool water with fewer weeds. Here are my picks for June:
Nestled between Edmonton and St. Albert is a birder's paradise and a fantastic place to go for a paddle when water levels are high and weed growth is low. Big Lake is the primary feature of Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park, and is recognized as a "globally significant Important Bird Area". Make sure your sound is on before you play this video for a taste of what you can expect when visiting this bird sanctuary. Big Lake is a shallow, double-lobed lake with a narrow channel connecting the two halves, and can easily be a 15km+ round trip.
Big Lake is best accessed from the Sturgeon River at Riel Recreation Park in St. Albert as the parking lot at Lois Hole Park is well set back from the water.
June 26 note: Alberta Health has issued a Blue-green algae advisory for Islet Lake. I recommend paddling elsewhere for the remainder of 2020 (or until the advisory is lifted). It is still a great place to visit.
I recommended Hermitage Park as a picnic and paddle location for May, but for June I recommend travelling a little further from the city. Islet Lake is about 45 minutes east of Edmonton and home to 10's of km of trails, nice wooded day-use picnic areas, basic facilities and a small lake with a large central island. It's a great place to spend the day with a little bit of everything for everyone. Bring bug spray.
Access to Islet Lake is available via the Islet Lake Staging Area.
Located in Elk Island National Park (park fee required) is a beautiful lake dotted with islands. Bison sightings are almost guaranteed (most likely on the drive to the lake). The day-use area has ample parking, a large beach, well maintained facilities with flush toilets and an outdoor shower. Canoe, kayak, and SUP rentals are available on the lake from Haskin Canoe (obviously I'd prefer you rent from me). Camping is also available.
Access to Astotin Lake is available from the Elk Island National park turn-off on Yellowhead Trail. Note that the access road is a popular cycling destination and bison are present. Drive carefully.
Note: As of June 30, river levels are high/potentially unsafe. This run is not recommended at the current levels.
If you like your paddles to be a little more adrenaline filled, and have the necessary equipment and training, the Pembina River might be for you! We may not have extreme whitewater nearby, but this class I-II whitewater is only an hour from Edmonton and a better fit for the intermediate paddler anyway. The Pembina is best known as a river for tubing, but it's absolutely more fun to run on a SUP.
The start point is Pembina River Tubing (paid parking) and finishes at the Pembina River Provincial Park day use area. Be sure to check river levels before leaving. This is best run during "normal" levels, and can be dangerous at higher flows. I'm always looking for paddle partners to do trips like these as they are not something to be run solo. If you think this might be in your future, let me know!
North Saskatchewan River - This could be an entry every month. The river valley looks fantastic during the height of summer. It will be featured in July.
Sturgeon River - Featured in my May post and good as long as water levels are high. Same start point as Big Lake.
Hubbles Lake/Allan Beach - A fantastic lake with private beach access just west of Stony Plain.
Any large lake of your choice - There are plenty of lakes that I simply can't cover in this blog. Popular lakes include Lake Wabamun, Lac Ste. Anne, Pigeon Lake, Gull Lake, etc. Be sure check the weather, stay close to shore, and avoid lakes or sections of lakes that develop blue-green algae. The latest advisories can be found here.
Sorry for the delay on posting the June list and my July list will be up in very short order. Feel free to include your own paddle suggestions in the comments below, tag @chadhasapaddle on Instagram or email your favourite spots to firstname.lastname@example.org
Chad writes about Edmonton, SUP, travel and his van. We participate in affiliate programs, and can earn a commission on qualifying products linked in the blog.