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Paddling the North Sask River | PA to the Forks

Paddling the North Sask River | PA to the Forks

Ah.. the beautiful, often overlooked and under-appreciated North Saskatchewan River.  Canoeing from Prince Albert to the Forks (confluence of the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers) is a great little trip: 60km, about 8 hours total paddling time over two days. If you time it for the first few weeks of July you'll have a fun ride as the mountain meltwater swells the river.

North Saskatchewan River canoe trip

 This trip is easy paddling, suitable for beginners if accompanied by a more experienced paddler.  It has some fast sections that are really fun.  As always, try to bring positive minded people on your trip so you maximize the fun times.  Eb's staff always has fun - from Iron Chef cook-off's...

canoe trip man cook off

.. to full on knife fights.  (Disclaimer: no blood or Backpackers Pantry was spilled in the making of this image.)

canoe trip knife fight

The Trip

There is a boat launch east of the Highway 2 bridge in Prince Albert.  No overnight parking, but a good place to get into the water.  As you paddle downstream (east) out of the city, watch for the weir just downstream of Bateman Island.  You can often paddle over this, or line your canoe down.  We recommend river left for this as the middle of the river is a shallow rock garden.  (If you need duct tape this early in the trip that's just plain embarrassing.)

map of canoe put in from Prince Albert to the Forks, North Saskatchewan River

About two thirds of the way through your first day you'll pass a pulp mill on your left.  There's only one more bend in the river til you reach Cecil Ferry, the halfway point of the trip.  This is also a good put-in point for a day paddle to the Forks.  After you pass the ferry start looking for a nice sandy point to set up camp; depending on river levels there are a few possibilities downstream. 

North Saskatchewan River camping

From here on to the Forks the river gets a lot twistier.  And a lot more fun!  You often get some Class II moving water in this section and your bow paddler may get a lap-full of river here and there.  If you're the bow paddler feel free to blame your stern paddler for picking a bad line.  If you're the stern paddler just be glad it's not you with the wet gitch and give your bow paddler an extra handful of gummy bears when you get clear of the haystacks. 

Lacolle Falls (yeah, it's Saskatchewan... anything over a half meter drop is considered a "falls") is a partially constructed dam that extends a third of the way across the river from river right.  It's not dangerous but stay river left going through here.  After five right hand turns in the river you will be at the Forks.

Saskatchewan River canoe trip Prince Albert to the Forks

Take out at the Forks is river right, on the height of land overlooking the confluence.  The climb (scramble?) up to the parking lot is brutal... just so you know.  Maybe keep a few trip treats as a reward for when you finish hauling all your gear up there.

Have fun out there, folks!


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