Monday, July 14, 2014

An unexpected dip in the Elbow River

Saturday afternoon was a scorcher here in Calgary, and the best way to beat the heat is definitely to get yourself out onto one of the rivers for a float. I've floated the Elbow River before, and it is such a relaxing ride, truly one of my favourite summer things in Calgary (although it doesn't quite make up for how much I miss cottage country back in Ontario). This time however we took an unexpected dip in the river.

I was floating with my friend Sarah (@setulk) and we were both on one of those large circular rafts. Like the highly educated young women we are, we forgot our paddles at home. Despite the lazy nature of the Elbow River, paddles are still a necessity to keep you off the shores and out of trees. So we improvised, I spotted a solid long branch, and we poled our raft along, Venetian style. Much to the ammusement of our fellow rafters, I might add, we got lots of comments about our 'paddle'. So many so that we began to boast and brag about the superior nature of the wooden branch for raft navigation.

Maybe we shouldn't have bragged.

Just after passing under the 4th St SW bridge, there is a small section of what likely can't actually be called rapids, but I'll call them rapids for the sake of excitement. A propper raft ahead of us (with propper paddles) went through no problem. As we entered the stretch however, we were quickly swept towards some low hanging branches. In an effort to use our stick to push off the shore and avoid the brush we capsized our raft and were dumped into the river.

My first thought? The Elbow River is pretty shallow, just stand up.

Nope, the current in some spots is pretty strong, standing up just wasn't an option. So instead I assumed the position we were taught when I did white water rafting in Colorado a few years ago. Sit your but down, bring your knees up in front of you and steer with your hands, face downstream and ride it out. (If you're a bylaw abiding Calgarian, the life jacket you're wearing makes this a lot easier...if you're like me, just rely on your core strength or something). So ride it out I did, getting swept maybe 150meters downstream and eventually catching up with the raft. Sarah trailed behind me through the water.

The whole dip in was actually quite a lot of fun, once you figured out how best not to smash your legs/knees on the rocky bottom of the river. And I was laughing as I climbed back onto the raft. Until Sarah shouted, "the Keys!"

You see the thing about rafting is you park one car down stream, then drive a second one upstream. Then ride the river down to the first car and drive back to the second.

Which means that while (if you're smart) you can leave your wallet and phone in the car, and not risk loosing them in the water, you do need to have car keys with you. Ours were in a little zip lock bag, sitting in the middle of our raft, underneath my tank top.

That is where they were sitting until our raft flipped over.

Somehow tho, the gods of the Elbow River were feeling generous that day, and just as we began to panic about having lost the keys I spotted my shirt floating towards us. And then Sarah spotted the keys in the little plastic bag floating ahead of it. Somehow the river was returning all it had taken from us. We even got our paddle/branch back...much good that it did us in preventing such mishaps.

Over all it was a great day of sunshine and water and mishaps. But if you're going to go rafting any time in the near future, make sure your keys are connected to you somehow. While the river may have been generous to us, she is a fickly beast and will likely not be so kind the next time.


  1. Yikes! Glad your adventure turned out ok! I haven't floated down the river here for a few years now. It's such a nice way to relax.

  2. I found your blog when I was looking for new hiking pants (I think you have some pinned somewhere), and then found your blog. I live in the southeast US and am coming to Calgary/Banff NP and all that this summer (okay, late spring -- early June). Too bad it'll be too cold to float. Glad you found your keys... a year ago!