There are many good reasons to visit charming Saskatoon in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan: its picturesque location on the banks of South Saskatchewan River, its wonderful culinary scene and, last but not least, its outstanding sights – including Wanuskewin Heritage Park, one of Canada’s most authentic Indigenous sites. However, few people know that Saskatoon’s attractions also include world-class paddling opportunities! In and outside the beautiful prairie town – like everywhere else in Saskatchewan - there are countless idyllic lakes and rivers that are great to explore by stand-up paddleboard (SUP), kayak or canoe. With no mountainous or hilly terrain, you can look forward to calm waterways suitable for paddlers of all experience and fitness levels. Before embarking on your own adventure, taster courses or guided tours are recommended to familiarize yourself with local conditions.
In her blog The Lost Girl’s Guide to Finding the World, travel journalist Ashlyn George takes us to Saskatchewan regularly. Here she introduces us to the best paddling trips in and around Saskatoon:
Canoeing Pike Lake
Pike Lake is only 20 minutes south of Saskatoon on Valley Road. The park is one of Saskatchewan’s smallest lakes but it's also quite busy as many Saskatonians head out from the city for the day. It’s the perfect place for a day canoe trip (or a weekend getaway for those that love to camp). The lake is actually an oxbow - a u-shaped lake formed when part of a river is cut off - created by the South Saskatchewan River. The lake is long and narrow and perfect for paddling and exploring the shorelines as well as through the lily pads. If you’re lucky, you might spot beavers, turtles, and plenty of birdlife.
Paddleboarding from Poplar Bluff into Saskatoon
Distance: 12 kilometres
Duration: 2-3 hours
Poplar Bluffs Conservation Area is also along Valley Road about 10 minutes south of Saskatoon. Accessing the river from the parking lot takes a bit of effort: a path leads to the river but ends in a sandy cliff-side descent to the water below. However, it’s usually pretty well-trod to get down and is possible to haul canoes, paddleboards, and kayaks up and down the steep bank. Often there are sand bars to hop across to reach the main flow of the river but it depends on the time of year and how high water levels are. Directly across is a split in the river around Wilson Island. The paddle back into downtown Saskatoon takes about 2 hours.
Kayaking the Chief Whitecap Waterway
Distance: 50 km from Whitecap Dakota Dunes First Nation
100 km from Gardiner Dam on Lake Diefenbaker
Dauer: 1-3 days
A paddleboard or kayak tour from Gardiner Dam on Lake Diefenbaker covers 100 kilometers through the pristine river valleys of the South Saskatchewan River, past the Whitecap Dakota First Nation to Saskatoon, following the Chief Whitecap Waterway, which is part of the Trans Canada Trail. Along the way, there are several opportunities to stop and spend the night on the sandy riverbanks (or hop on/off for a shorter stretch). This tour is perfect for those looking for a great adventure, as just a few miles out of town you feel like you are in the wilderness.
Canoeing the North Saskatchewan River from Borden- to Petrofka Bridge
Distance: 45 kilometres
Duration: 6-7 hours
About 45 kilometers northeast of Saskatoon, this canoe trip starts at Borden Bridge and continues for another 45 kilometers on the North Saskatchewan River to Petrofka Bridge. You should plan a whole day for this trip.
The following companies offer paddling lessons, guided tours or rentals of appropriate equipment in Saskatoon: