A classic beginner run. There are many eddies and lots of water here. All of the rapids can be avoided relatively easily by going around them. This is nice because it lets beginners choose their level of adventure. There are some cliffs you can jump off in an old quarry just after the put in. Use at your own risk but it is a good rest spot and worth exploring up above the quarry as there are some neat ponds. Most kayakers will takeout at the Gas Plant as most of the major rapids are between the Ghost Dam and the Gas Plant. Taking out at the Gas Plant means that you will need to hike your boat uphill for about 5-10 minutes. Past the Gas Plant the river continues to flow fast and have minor rapids all the way to Cochrane. The takeout is Cochrane is hard to miss as it is under HWY22 where it crosses the river. It is possible to camp at Wildcat Island for the night to make this into a fun overnight trip even though it is really only a half day trip. This makes a nice canoe trip as well.
On September 7, 2014 the road from the valley crest to the put-in at river level below the Ghost Dam was closed for construction. We were informed the construction would continue until Sept 14/14. TransAlta or Alberta Environment should be called for updates before attempting access to the river at this location.
We parked at the top of the valley and carried 2, 10-plus foot lenght kayaks one at a tiime down the escarpment to the river via an unmarked and and sometimes precarious route. Required approximately 40-50 minutes to complete. Don't attempt unless you are in reasonable health and have good footwear.
The symbols can be clicked on and provide some simple explanations of why they are there. You can also use the symbols to get directions from Google Maps to the put in/takeout. A handy thing!
From Calgary take either HWY1 or HWY1A to get to Cochrane. In Cochrane drive S on HWY22 just before you cross the bridge over the Bow River take a left into a parking area. It is hard to miss as it is a small park too. The Gas Plant takeout is located at the Wildcat Hills Gas Plant. To get there take HWY1A west out of Cochrane towards Banff/Canmore. Look for the large gas plant after about 15 minutes. You actually turn onto the road that leads to the gas plant but instead of following the road around and into the gas plant follow it to its extreme S end and park off to the side of the road in a little grass parking area.
From either takeout go back onto HWY1A west towards Banff/Canmore. You will drive past the Gas Plant and the Forestry Trunk Road. In another 5-10 minutes you will see a sign for Ghost Dam on your left, turn in here and follow it down to the Ghost Dam where there is parking and a place to unload your gear. You are in the right place if you are literally right at the dam.
Nice calm beginner run with plenty of eddies
Dam release on the Bow River. Due to the size of the Bow as far as I know this section of river is always flowing it just sometimes has more or less water depending on the season.