Slave River (AB) III-V
The Slave River is without a doubt the best playboating river in western Canada. Perhaps even all of Canada. The catch is that it is a long drive from parts of Alberta and BC, but if you live in Edmonton it is very doable for a long weekend. The river is located on the Alberta/Northwest Territories border near a nice northern town named Fort Smith. Most of the paddling actually takes place in Alberta. The whitewater on the Slave River is created by 4 major ledge systems creating four distinct paddling areas named Cassette Rapids, Pelican Falls, Mountain Portage, and Rapids of the Drowned. The beauty of the Slave River is that you can create class I to class V experiences based on where your paddling skills are at. The large number of islands, and channels allow the Slave River to offer everthing you could ever want to paddle from technical creeking style drops to big water playboating to easy beginner wave trains. The Slave has it all. If you have never paddled it before and are not a professional paddler try to get someone to show you around. It is a very powerful river.
Rapids of the Drowned is the least popular area on the Slave River. The features tend to be a bit smaller and the access is a little tricky with some long ferries required. The river left side has a few dangerous ledges that look very retentive. The saving grace of the Rapids of the Drowned is the creek style drops on the river right side. There are a number of small channels that create some really fun and interesting features. On your way to the takeout if you keep your eyes open there can be a large party wave that many boats can fit on.
Mountain Portage rapids are probably the most popular spot on the Slave River. They are close to town, you can park and play, the takeout and the put in are one and the same due to a peninsula the river wraps around. On Mountain Portage there are a few major channels and routes that people tend to take. On river left there is a class IV/V route that starts with the English Channel and finishes with the monster sized hole called the 'edge'. On river right there is Molly's Nipple a famous feature which can easily be portaged leading to a few other things like Avalanche, Land of the Giants, etc. Local knowledge is key around here.
Pelican Falls is a huge, enormous, chute/falls with hydraulics that seem impossible. There are waves the size of a family home on there. If you are thinking of running this you don't need a guide book.
Cassette Rapids is the other very popular paddling area. It is a longer day on Cassette but it tends to have some of the bigger play waves depending on the water levels. Some of the highlights of this area are things like TSN wave, Rockem Sockem and the elusive Rollercoaster play wave. Again Cassette should be approached with a local as there are many channels some of them still unrun due to their danger. The 45 minute ferry to the takeout is also quite tricky as you need to where on shore to aim for.
If this space is blank there have been no alerts posted for this specific river.
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!
You will need to do some zooming for this one!
The Takeouts are at various locations between the town itself and places along HWY5.
For Rapids of the Drowned you take out in town at the river access point near the north end of town.
For Mountain Portage you put in and takeout at the same location about 7km out of town off of HWY5. Keep your eye open for a sign. You will drive down a sandy road and reach a Y intersection. Park here for the access to the Playground a popular play wave or stay right to do a full run of Mountain Portage rapids.
For Pelican Falls you Takeout at Mountain Portage. If people are running Pelican Falls they will usually run Mountain Portage rapids afterwards and takeout near the playground.
Cassette Rapids is the trickiest takeout to find since it is down an unmarked road. From Paddle St it is approximately 18km down HWY5. Look for a 'road' going into the bush on your left and follow it to the end. There is a small parking area and a lot of bugs.
For Rapids of the Drowned you put in near the water pumping station for town. This is off of Pickerel St. A local can show you where.
The put in for Mountain Portage is the same as the takeout, roughly 7km out of town along HWY5 look for a sign and follow the sandy road to the Y intersection and park.
The put in for Pelican Falls is typically at Mountain Portage and people then paddle up to Pelican Falls from below using the massive eddies.
The put in for Cassette Rapids is in Fort Fitz at the end of HWY5. About a 20 minute drive from Fort Smith.
Big water playboating
Length & Time
The length and time on the Slave can vary from as little as a 1 hour playboating session at the playground to an all day adventure up in Cassette Rapids.
The Slave River is fed by most of Northern Alberta and Saskatchewan and so flows for a long season. The water level can fluctuate tremendously based on rain and snowmelt. It typically ranges between 3000cms and 5000cms. Above 4500cms would be considered highwater. The nice thing about the Slave River is that at different water levels different play waves are created.
- Fort Smith Paddling Club - local knowledge and a great paddling festival