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Paddling Day Trips: South Saskatchewan River

Paddling Day Trips: South Saskatchewan River

The South Saskatchewan River flowing into Saskatoon is a wide, shallow, slightly meandering river with lots of sand bars at normal water levels. Taking a half or full day to mozey downstream with the sun shining, the breeze blowing, wildlife all over and great sandy expanses to stop and take a break on is one of our favourite things to do in summer.South Saskatchewan River paddling day trips pit stop

There are a number of good access points to the river and it depends on how long you want to paddle.  Of course the river won't always look like the above picture.  Wind can funnel down the river valley and a headwind can slow down your speed significantly.  

Here's the lowdown on some of our favourite paddling day trips on the South Sask.  The access points are pretty easy to get to and you can take-out right in the city at a few different locations.  All you need is to organize a shuttle and you're good to go.

South Saskatchewan River paddling day trips

Poplar Bluffs
Distance: ~11km  
Paddling time: 1.5-2hrs 

Not too far from the city and easy to find, although access to the river is not the greatest - it's a steep bank that can be difficult to get your boat down, especially if you are alone.  To get there, drive south on Valley Road about 6km.  Keep your eyes open for the sign to Poplar Bluffs Conservation Area and hang a left onto the access road.  You'll drive a bit less than 2km to a little parking area; you need to carry your gear about 100m or so to access the river.  Note that the parking area is open from 9am-9pm daily during the summer (May long weekend to Labour Day) and on weekends until October 31 when it closes down for the winter.  It's maintained by the Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA).

Poplar Bluffs canoe launch Saskatoon

Fred Heal Canoe Launch
Distance: ~20km
Paddling time: 3-4hrs

This popular launch spot - also maintained by the MVA - has a decent sized parking area and short trail (40m) to the water.  Usually there is a small beach there but in high water this completely disappears and you'll be launching from the bushes.  You can leave your car in the lot during daylight hours.  

To find the launch, drive south on Lorne Avenue until you pass Beaver Creek.  Right after you cross the creek hang a right (west) onto a gravel road.  Drive along this until you're sure you've missed the turnoff.  It will be near the bottom of a hill and you'll turn right, crossing a large open field area with some dead trees.  There are sandhill cranes in here during the migration.  The road ends in the parking area and there is, surprisingly, a sign for Fred Heal Canoe Launch.

Fred Heal canoe launch Saskatoon

Paradise Beach
Distance: ~25km  
Paddling time: 3.5-5hrs 

This MVA maintained area has a lot of beaches during regular water levels and is a hotspot for sunbathers.  (Translation: there will be naked people there.)  There is a large area for parking and you'll walk anywhere from 50m to 300m to the water depending on river levels.  If you are willing to paddle upstream a short ways, there are fantastic sandbars there (and far fewer crowds).  

To access, drive south on Valley Road until it curves past the Berry Barn.  Just past Lakeshore Tree Farms, turn left onto Range Rd 3063.  (You'll know you've missed this turnoff if you hit Highway 60.)  Take the road 2.5km south until you reach the parking area.


Paradise Beach canoe launch Saskatoon

Pike Lake Pumping Station
Distance: ~42km
Paddling time: 6-8hrs

This is a great full day trip.  Enjoy the subtle prairie scenery as you wind your way through the river valley.  The launch site isn't maintained though, so your bathroom break will be ... rustic.  There is a fence that you need to get around - there is a rough track just south of the pumping station you can use, but it gets nasty if it has rained recently.  The put in is a bit steep. 

To get there, drive south on Valley Road until it curves west and you hit Highway 60.  Turn left (south) onto Highway 60 and head 11.5km to where it curves into Pike Lake Provincial Park.  Turn right at this point onto O'Malley Road - a paved road that takes you past acreages for 1.8km, then take the first left (this will be along the south edge of the park) and drive east 5km to the launch.  Again, it's a dirt road, so your little Mini Cooper might wallow there after wet weather.

Pike Lake Pumping Station canoe launch Saskatoon

Take-out points in Saskatoon:

  • Gabriel Dumont Park: there's great parking here, bathrooms, picnic tables and fire stands, playground, and a small sandy beach very close to the parking lot.
  • Victoria Boathouse: on the west side of the river are the Rowing Club docks - great for disembarking.  There are bathrooms in the building open during the day, and extensive parking behind the Boathouse.  The Saskatoon Canoe Club (and other boating clubs) is based out of here so you might see some friendly faces.
  • Rotary Park: tonnes of parking close to the river.  There's a small sand beach you can take out on.  Then go get ice cream at Homestead Ice Cream on Victoria Ave.  You deserve it.

Saskatoon paddling take out points

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ebsadventure - July 29, 2020

Hi Scott,
The best place would be Fred Heal Canoe Launch, just downstream of Berry Barn. You can take out at the Berry Barn but if you do that the polite thing would be to support their business by eating there or purchasing something.
the Eb’s crew

Scott - July 29, 2020

If I don’t want to come all the back into Saskatoon. What’s the best place to take the boat out of the water. Is it the Beery Barn?

ebsadventure - July 17, 2020

Hi Jeff,
Yes, it’s possible, but with the high water (700 cubic metres per second at the moment) it’s not recommended unless you have moving water experience. The levels are expected to drop somewhat by middle of next week so keep an eye on them. You can check the levels on the Water Security Agency’s website (“Stream Flows and Lake Levels”)
the Eb’s crew

Jeff - July 17, 2020

I’m not from Saskatoon and iI am wondering if it’s possible to paddle Outlook to Saskatoon. Today is July 17 and I am wanting to do this next week.

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