Canoe the Gap on the North Saskatchewan River (Nordegg to Saunders)

Forestry Trunk Road Bridge, Clearwater County, Alberta, Canada

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Day trip (approximately 6 hours, 28 km total) through the "Gap" on the North Saskatchewan River offers incredible views of the Canadian Rockies. Rapids and scenic stretches make for a great adventure as well as plenty of time relaxing out on the water.

To begin the day, launch canoe/kayak at the Forestry Trunk Road Bridge, located 11 km off Highway 11 on the Forestry Trunk Road (734), just west of Nordegg. Access on the left/upstream of bridge. Begin paddling through the mountains on a stretch of wide, calm water, taking time to soak in the beautiful scenery.

After 10.9 km, you'll reach Dutch Creek and the midstream boulder, where the mountains on either side form a more narrow pass (start of the Gap). Here the river breaks through the Brazeau range and begins to speed up. In the Gap there are three or four rapids depending on water levels. On the big bend to the north, there is a series of partial ledges extending out from the left shore, the first ledge is the one to really watch for. There are some fast chutes and boulders to dodge, prepare to get splashed during this section of the trip. From below the Gap through to Saunders rapid you will encounter another fast chute or two, and some wave trains.

Located 26 km from the start of the trip is the Upper Saunders Rapid (class 2 to 2+), then a short 1.4 km past these rapids is the Saunders ledge, stay tight right to avoid. The Saunders access is located a total of 28 km from the Forestry Trunk Road Bridge, and marks the end of the trip (access to the left at the Saunders campground).

Be aware of wildlife along the trip. It is recommended to take this trip with at least one other boat, and for all participants to have strong swimming skills. Option to continue to Rocky Mountain house (106 km total) and camp out 2-3 nights.

Pack List

  • Canoe or kayak
  • Paddles
  • Life jacket
  • Throw bags
  • Bail bucket
  • Dry bags
  • Lunch and water for the day
  • Camera
  • Extra layers
  • Rain gear
  • Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen
  • Bear spray
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The Saunders Ledge was tough with high water and fast flow rate. There was a section just before the ledge where a couple of us got sucked under and didn't wind up getting to shore till past Saunders Boat launch. Use caution in this area especially if you lack experience. Life Jackets always !

8 months ago
8 months ago

Ksenia Ledene

Student Nurse from Alberta, Canada, a beautiful place that I am so fortunate to live in. Experiencing the outdoors close to home as well as abroad has been extremely rewarding, and I'm excited to share the highlights so far!

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