your paddlesports destination

Banff in Alberta

Trip Overview

I put in at the river on the North Side of Vermillion Lakes. I paddled west to see where it got to. The lake is very shallow and requires lots of pushing. Eventually I noticed that people were entering the lake from the east side from Banff and followed some out along the river from Vermillion to the Bow River.

The section from Vermillion (downstream) to the Bow is short and interesting. It defines the west side of the mountain resort of Banff.

Once I got to the Bow, I found that many tourists were getting into the Vermillion River from Banff for the easy paddle to Vermillion Lakes (the reverse direction from where I came). Upstream this probably took 15 minutes.

At the Bow intersection, we turned upstream into the very green Bow River. Bow River is glacier fed so it is opaque green, very cold, large, and fast running. I paddled up the Bow for about 1/2 hour and it was relatively easy paddling against a stiff current. I would not do this if big rivers make you nervous but it seemed okay in this 1/2 hour.

Then I reversed direction to Banff and back up the river that connects to Vermillion Lakes.

This trip is easy. Bow to Vermillion Lakes on small river is very easy with little risk of getting lost and would be easy to get out if overturned.

The section upstream on Bow from Banff is also easy paddling but I would not want to tip given its speed and temperature.

This is a fun activity in Banff Park.


There are lots of facilities in Banff. Hotels, shopping, etc. It is a mountain resort.


On the west side of Banff, upstream from the bridge on the Bow River where it meets the river from the Vermillion Lakes, there is a canoe rental location. You can either put in your canoe there or rent a canoe to put in. Alternately you can exit Banff toward Norquay and turn left before the TransCanada and put in at the Vermillion Lake to find easy parking. I recommend the Banff Start because the entrance to the river from Vermillion to Bow River can be difficult to find and Vermillion is not that exciting.
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip