14 kilometres of paddling peace
The peaceful surroundings make for a picturesque campsite as you work your way down the Red Deer River. Hannah Schadel/ Camrose Canadian Contributor
When my friend informed me that I was joining a large group of friends on an overnight canoe trip near Red Deer, my head immediately turned as if I was a confused eight-week-old puppy.
An overnight canoe trip near Red Deer? Where do we canoe? Where do we camp? Admittedly, I haven’t spent much time in Red Deer — apart from driving through it and stopping in for lunch on occasion. So I wasn’t really aware of the attractions this highway-side community had to offer. Approximately 45 minutes from the outskirts of Red Deer, you’ll find a gem like no other.
Cue Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park. Engraved by wind-driven sand and rain, the barren landscape sitting beautifully next to the Red Deer River has been eroded by water and time. Etched with barren red-hued wrinkles, these rolling rocks are in fact, Alberta’s Badlands. The Canadian Badlands stretch across a wider range of Alberta than what I originally once thought. These badlands edge the river for more than 300 kilometres and terminate in their most extraordinary display in Dinosaur Provincial Park.
Flowing through the badlands of Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park is the Red Deer River, the location of our overnight canoe trip. Paddling the lazy river will leave you in awe of these ancient plains as you overlook the 150 species of birds that flock to the area.
We began the journey at the opening departure at Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park and finished it 24 hours later at Tolman Bridge. There are copious amounts of outlets and openings along the river after Tolman Park that eventually continues on to Drumheller. As 10 26 year olds, we did not see the point, nor did we have the drive to canoe all the way to Drumheller. However, if this is something you may be interested in, the option is certainly there. We of course, chose the route that allowed us to listen to music, do more sun tanning than canoeing and quench our thirst every hour, on the hour.
Running adjacent to both sides of the river are dry land banks that are perfect for camping. Depending on the size of your group, you will need to find a space that suits you. Once you’ve settled in on a spot that’s perfect for you, pitch your tent and you’ll quickly realize there really is no better feeling than setting up camp in the middle of the badlands. With a lazy river two feet from your fire and red-hued rocks that transform to pink and orange as the sun sets, this little camping adventure is one you’ve probably never had before.
Over pack your canoe with outdoor games, s’more ingredients and smokies, and you’ll be set for an evening of fun. With zero cell service and reception, you’ll be delving into the wilderness with your friends or family and experiencing a trip that will forever be imprinted in your memory.
Trying to take advantage of the Canadian summer often leaves you with camping in overcrowded campsites, all fighting over that extra foot surrounding your tent. During our 24-hour canoe trip, we came across only two others groups that slowly drifted by, so this ticks all the boxes when it comes to seclusion.
Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway with a bunch of your friends, a secluded couples escape or something you can do with your little kiddies, this is it.
Over the 24-hour period, we may have floated a measly 14 kilometres, but we walked away with no injuries or strains. Instead, we returned home with stomach stitches from laughing, happy hearts and well-deserved hangovers.
If you’ve got a spare weekend before the snow moves in, make this little trip a priority, otherwise start planning for Summer 2018.