Canoe Rental & Shuttle Service

Canoeing the South Saskatchewan River

Canoeing upstream on the South Saskatchewan River in downtown Saskatoon

Saskatchewan Rivers Canoe Rental & Shuttle Service

CanoeSki has been providing a canoe rental and shuttle service for the South Saskatchewan River for many years on an informal basis. Most of the clients for this service have been paddlers who have been involved in canoeing or skiing programs with CanoeSki or their contacts.

Canadian Heritage River & Trans Canada Trail
CanoeSki has expanded the canoe rental and shuttle service in anticipation of an increased demand resulting from two recent significant events: first, the nomination and future designation of the South Saskatchewan as a Canadian Heritage River and second, the section of the river from Gardiner Dam to Saskatoon formally declared the Chief Whitecap Waterway. This unique water trail has been designated as part of the Trans Canada Trail in Saskatchewan and was recognized at an official launching ceremony on June 6, 2015.

Canoe rental and shuttle service will cover other sections of the South Sask River, including the popular historical route north from Saskatoon to St. Louis and beyond. The service will also include the North Saskatchewan River, including the more popular portion  from Battleford to Prince Albert.

Extending the service to canoeing areas north and south of the Sask Rivers will be considered on an individual basis, depending on the specific waterway and company time constraints.

Hiking to Fish Creek National Historic Site

A CanoeSki group hiking from the South Sask River up one of the Trails of 1885 to Middleton’s Camp at the Fish Creek National Historic Site

Canoe Rental Rates

Canoeing & Safety Package
Canoe (2-person), 2 life vests, 2 paddles, rescue throw bag, bailer & cleaning sponge, painter rope
Minimum charge $45 (1-day rate)
Second day – $40
Third day – $35
Fourth day – $30
Fifth day & forward – $25

Additional life vest (for 3rd person in tandem canoe) – $5

Add 6% PST & 5% GST tax to canoe rental & shuttle costs
Damage Deposit – $100
Cleaning Fee Deposit – $10 per canoe (deducted from rental charge if canoeing equipment is returned clean)

Rental Canoes Available
Lightweight Souris River 16’ & 17’ canoes constructed of composite Duralite material. CanoeSki is a dealer for the Souris River Canoe company in Atikokan, Ontario.
Trailhead Prospector 17’ Royalex canoes from Trailhead Paddle Shack in Ottawa.

Shuttle Rates
CanoeSki Van (2 canoes, max.; no trailer) – $.70/km, minimum charge $60
CanoeSki Van & Canoe Trailer (3 or more canoes) – $.85/km, minimum charge $75
Above per kilometre charge includes CanoeSki driver time, loading/unloading, transport of canoeists & gear, & vehicle mileage costs.
Note: Van & canoe trailer are not for rent        

Additional Services
Preparation of Route maps
Trip consulting
Pre-launch paddling & safety instruction
Rates based on clients’ requirements. Contact CanoeSki for more info.

Booking Canoe Rental & Shuttle Service
Tel: (preferred) Cliff Speer 306-653-5693
Email: cliff@canoeski.com

Canoeists on the South Saskatchewan River

CanoeSki paddlers on an Urban Canoe Camping adventure on the South Saskatchewan River

Why Shuttle?
To paddle both the North & South Sask Rivers, it is necessary to travel downstream due to the strength of the current. One exception is a small section of the South Sask River that runs through downtown Saskatoon (see headliner photo) and upstream to about the new South Circle Dr. Bridge, which can be paddled both up and downstream due to a reduced current from a back up of water created by the city weir – a “reservoir” effect. Beyond this area, the current increases till it gets too difficult to make much headway moving upriver. The only practical alternative if you want to paddle upstream more than a couple of kilometres beyond downtown is to shuttle canoes up to a launching point and paddle back with the current.

Meanwhile your shuttle driver returns a vehicle to a designated pick up location or responds to your call on arrival at the designated spot. There are variations on this theme, but the gist of it is that there has to be a road between the put-in and take-out spots and arrangements to make the connection with a vehicle that can transport paddlers and canoeing equipment. It is worth noting that the North Saskatchewan River has a stronger current than the South, so there are no options other than to arrange shuttles between put-in and take-out locations.

Safety Tips for Renters – South Saskatchewan River Hazards

Submerged Structures
There are submerged concrete water intake structures at the Queen Elizabeth Power Station on the southern outskirts of Saskatoon that could damage or upset a canoe at certain water levels. Warning buoys may or may not be attached to these structures. Best to maintain a good distance from the west shoreline while passing the power station. Similar intake structures occur at the water treatment plant a few hundred metres upstream of the Victoria Park Boathouse. These submerged structures have permanent warning signs attached, so can be easily avoided.

The Saskatoon Weir
The most hazardous submerged structure, particularly for out-of-town paddlers unaware of it, is the weir immediately upstream of the CPR Rail Bridge, north of downtown Saskatoon. Anyone on a canoe trip that starts upstream (south) of Saskatoon and ends somewhere north of Saskatoon must portage around this man-made hazard. There is a safety warning boom across the river a few hundred metres upstream of the weir to prevent boaters from approaching the dam. CanoeSki can provide a shuttle portage from the last take-out at the boat launch below the Broadway Bridge to a safe launch site below the weir.

CanoeSki canoeing group launching at the Hague Ferry on South Sask River

CanoeSki group launching on the River Trails of 1885 trip at the Hague Ferry on the South Sask River. Guide cable above is obvious, but the drive cable is barely visible near river level. Rock fill rapids are noticeable near shore.

Cable Ferries
There are 3 cable ferries operating on the section of the South Sask River between Saskatoon and St. Louis – at Clarksboro, Hague and St. Laurent. The ferry drive cable, normally submerged, can rise above the river channel at low water while the ferry is operating and interfere with downstream travel by snagging a canoe and flipping it’s occupants into the river. The problem is that the cable is relatively invisible until it’s too late to back out or veer off course. Best advice is to not cross the path of a ferry until it is at rest at either shore, or stop on shore to observe the position of the drive cable before proceeding. The upper guide cable is high enough that it isn’t a problem for canoes. In addition, rock fill has been placed in the channel at the ferry crossing to raise the water level for the ferry, which creates small rapids near shore. It is necessary to move closer to mid-channel to avoid the rocks and rapids.

More Tips & Canoeing Resources

River Levels
The relative ease and speed of paddling on the North & South Sask Rivers (environmental factors such as wind and weather aside) is influenced mostly by the water level or flow volume, which is continually fluctuating. What you experienced on the water yesterday isn’t necessarily what you will encounter a week later or what you saw last year at this time is not likely what you’ll experience now. In fact, the flow in the South Sask River downstream of Gardiner Dam in summer fluctuates daily according to the power demand in Saskatoon for air conditioning! Significant differences in flow result mostly from precipitation in the upper portions of the watershed and in late spring/early summer from Rocky Mt. snow melt water.

South Saskatchewan River at Outlook SK

South Saskatchewan River at Outlook (about 100 km upstream of Saskatoon) at low water – a challenge to find a canoeing channel between sandbars! (©canoeski)

What does this mean in practical terms for a recreational paddler? Knowing, for example, on the South Sask River at Saskatoon that low flow is somewhere between 100 – 150 cubic metres per second (cms), average flow 250-350, high flow 500-800, and beyond 800 cms the river is approaching flood stage, is helpful in determining whether you will be slowed down by wading around sandbars or flying downriver in half the time you figured!

The Sask Water Security Agency graph for flow rates at Saskatoon is difficult to decipher with no comparative information. The best option is Environment Canada’s graph for current flow rates and comparative low, average and high rates on a real time basis in cms readings. You can find their graph for the South Saskatchewan River at this quick link: http://bit.ly/2sI3Y3Z. Scroll down to Modify Settings to reset your current dates, then click Apply  Settings to update the flow chart to get up to the minute readings of flow rates at Saskatoon. You can do the same for the North Saskatchewan River at Prince Albert by using this link: http://bit.ly/2r6Ov0g.

South Saskatchewan River Eco Canoe Guide
This paddler’s guide for a portion of the South Saskatchewan River from Gardiner Dam to the River Forks where the North and South Rivers join, was researched and compiled by a consulting team of which CanoeSki Discovery Co. was a member. It was originally published by Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin in 1995. The guide has been out of print for quite a while, but the maps and related information have been scanned and added to the Meewasin Valley Authority website available via this short link: http://bit.ly/1BaA05n

The maps break down the entire 335 km of this river stretch into 14 manageable day

Campsite on South Sask River

Early morning light on a pristine riverbank campsite

segments ranging from 21-32 km each that can be combined into overnight or multi-day trips. Each map sheet provides lots of info related to that section: natural & historical points of interest; emergency access & egress points, distance & paddling time; navigation hazards; put-in & take-out locations; potential campsites and more.

Some things have changed over the last 20 years, like campsite spots that have been flooded out or eroded away. Former access points may no longer be available and new ones have opened up. For example, Segment 3 – “The Big Pipe to Pike Lake Pumping Station” is no longer accessible at the pumping station because a chain link fence has been constructed around the site. On the other hand, nearby on the east side of the river is another access that is proposed to be developed into an overnight campsite as part of the new Chief Whitecap Waterway project.

We had also included in the guide a handbook with more historical info, flora & fauna to be observed along the route, canoeing & safety info, and more info on river hazards, which is not on the Meewasin site. Needless to say, the guide maps need updating, but still are a valuable resource in planning your canoe excursion, even if it is only a day trip.

Maximizing Your River Experience

Canoeing instruction on the South Sask River

Cliff doing a “dry land” demo of a cross-bow draw stroke for a beginner group on the Urban Canoe Camping adventure on the South Saskatchewan River

CanoeSki has lots of programs to enhance your paddling experience. The more knowledge you gain and the more skill you develop, the more you’ll enjoy canoeing and tripping. Nothing beats the feeling of confidence in achieving control and mastery over your canoe. Here are some tips and recommendations from someone who has been involved in this game for over 25 years!

Take a paddling course – learn basic paddling strokes & manoeuvres and safety precautions. Set the stage for bigger things to come! If scheduled programs don’t fit your personal agenda, private lessons are another convenient option.

Beginner Overnight River Trips – Learn from the pros what it means to canoe-camp wilderness style close to home, totally self-supported. Find out what equipment you need and don’t need and get practice paddling with instructor help.

Northern Canoe Trips – Spread your wings on a trip into the almost limitless maze of rivers and lakes in the fabulous Canadian Shield canoe country of northern Saskatchewan!

Canoeing on Sulphide Lake in Lac La Ronge Prov. Park

Nicki in the bow and Erica paddling on Sulphide Lake in Lac La Ronge Provincial Park on the CanoeSki Canoeing & Painting in the Wild trip.

 

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