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  • Floating the Elk River

What better way to cool off during the hot summer days than by floating down the Elk in town.

Only to be done by experienced river paddlers only and only after spring run off when river levels are lower and clear.  Lifejackets to be worn at all times. The Elk River has hazards even in slow sections, such as log jams, strainers and boulders.

The slow Level 1 & 2 section between Annex Park by the North Fernie Bridge and Dogwood Park is the recommended section for floating in tubes. Many continue to a small sandy area at James White Park on the left side downriver and around the bend from Dogwood Park. You'll be surrounded by the mountain views as you gently cruise by the town.

**There is a large logjam river left near to the Stanford Resort, floating the river past Dogwood or James White Park is not recommended.**

We recommend picking up a copy of the Elk River Map and Guide prior to any outing on the water. Due to the dynamic nature of the river, conditions will change throughout the season, please always check with the Visitor Information Centre for updates.

Putting into the Elk River & Taking Out.

For float trips the put-in is Annex Park or around the North Fernie bridge and the take-out is at Dogwood Park or James White Park. Plan ahead of time as they are not clearly marked locations. There is a new hand launch ramp along the Fernie Valley Pathway just down stream of the North Fernie Bridge.  You can park in Annex Park parking lot, but you'll need to carry your water craft to the hand launch. For those parking near the North Fernie Bridge please park with caution and be aware of the adjacent highway traffic at all times.

The main take out is at Dogwood Park & Boat Launch after the West Fernie Bridge, on river left. Be cautious of fly fishing drift boats and other river users. Do not block the boat launch. Another take out option is the small beach area at James White Park, just down river and around the bend from Dogwood on river left. Note after this spot is a large log jam on river left before the Stanford Hotel. If you find yourself past this point there is a rough take out just past the Stanford on river right.

Tips to Play Safe on the Elk River - Take a River Safety Course!

  • Don't go unless you are experienced with river navigation and can self-rescue.
  • Know before you go. Let others know where you're paddling and when you're due back.
  • Lose the booze and keep a clear head. You might need it to help a friend or avoid a bad situation. Celebrate your float on a local patio when you're off the river.
  • Children must always be acommpanied by an experienced adult, and floaties/boats should never be tied together.
  • Always use equipment that is appropriate for the river and can withstand waves, obstacles and collisions.  Little rubber dingies have very limited abilities to withstand impacts to river elements.
  • Always wear a PFD/life jacket and shoes for walking on rocks and pushing off obstacles.
  • Be aware of the river hazards i.e. rapids, sweepers/strainers and log jams. Talk to local river companies (rafting, fishing) or sport shops that carry river gear.
  • Stay on the inside of sharp corners to avoid colliding with woody debris/log jams. If you do collide it, immediately climb on top to avoid getting swept and trapped under water, which can be fatal.
  • If you end up in the water, swim defensively back to your boat or to shore with your feet downstream avoiding obstacles like rocks, trees and log jams where you can easily get pinned.
  • Be prepared for cold water and changes in weather conditions. There is a high risk of hypothermia if part or all of your body is submerged in the Elk River for a length of time. The Elk River starts from glaciers in Elk Lakes Provincial Park.

River Etiquette

  • Avoid overtaking other paddlers in rapids - wait for flatwater before you attempt to pass another boat.
  • Give all those fly fishing (floating or walking) in the river, lots of room to avoid entanglement with lines and hooks.
  • Respect the solitude and privacy of other groups having a river experience on the shore.
  • Please keep the Elk River and its banks litter-free! Pack out what you pack in. Look upstream before moving off. Give moving boats the right of way.
  • If you lose your floatie on the river and are unable to retrieve it, please make sure to report it to Search and Rescue. Floaties found unnatended along the river can become part of an extensive search and rescue mission. Please email [email protected].
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