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Paddling the North Saskatchewan from the Bighorn Dam into Emily Murphy Park in Edmonton. Trip notes and resource references below.


























A tried and true Alberta paddle, this North Saskatchewaner was a 10-day trip with Class II+/III rapids bowed by the efforts of Leroy Schulz, putting in just below the Big Horn Dam at the end of Lake Abraham and taking out at Emily Murphy Park in Edmonton. Roughly 450km in length, it combined four sections from Mark Lund’s Paddle Alberta trip notes: Nordegg to Rocky Mountain House, Rocky Mountain House to Drayton Valley, Drayton Valley to Devon, and Devon to Edmonton. Combined with the upper section of the river above Lake Abraham from Rampart Creek to Preacher’s Point and a portage around the Big Horn Dam, and one could just about paddle the Kisiskâciwani-Sîpiy from source origin into Pehonan (Edmonton), following in the footsteps of the fur trade through the traditional territories of the Stoney Nakoda, Alexis Nakoda Sioux, Paul First and Enoch Cree nations. No 1:42,000 topo maps from Natural Resource Canada’s Geogratis portal this time as maps for each of these four sections are easily obtained (for a fee) here.


Follow the signs and access below the Big Horn Dam making a left hand turn onto the Big Horn Dam road approximately 22km west of Nordegg off the David Thompson Highway (#11). Follow the wide gravel road 4km down to the river. There’s plenty of room to maneuver and informal camping abounds; the best part of the logistics of this trip is that there’s no shuttle – simply get dropped off! Minimal (one bar) cell phone coverage is possible from almost every point on the journey – text messages get through.


Beautiful scenery and wildlife abound on this paddle, and distinct paddling zones moving from Mountain to Foothill to Prairie are encountered as one progresses through the four segments of the trip. Class II+/III rapids can be present depending on flow rates and the lines chosen especially in the first two sections from Nordegg to Rocky and Rocky to Drayton, so reviewing maps and being aware of marked locations is recommended. That said, many of these larger rapids are forgiving and provide ample room for recovery; braided channels early on the first day just after the Big Horn Dam posed the greatest challenge and hazard.


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