Oldman River (Ft. Mcleod - Nolan\'s Bridge) 2

Submitter & Author Information
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Additional Route Information
147 km
3 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
700 m
Longest Portage: 
0 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Not applicable
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Access/egress distances.
Hwy 2–Hwy 811
Hwy 811–Hwy 3A
Hwy 3A-Hwy 3
Hwy 3–Hwy 809
Hwy 809–Popson Park 17km
Popson Park-Weir
portage 700m
Weir-Hwy 3
Hwy 3-Hwy 25

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Darin & Jennifer Zandee July 2001
As we put in at the campground on the west side of Hwy 2, we could see that at 150m3/s there was going to be many shallow riffles to watch for. It was a hot, sunny, prairie summer day in July. At 36*C with no wind, I looked forward to those secluded sandbars where we could skinny-dip and rest on the soft sand.
A kilometre downstream from the Hwy 2 bridge there were chunks of broken up concrete lurking just beneath the surface waiting to slice through inattentively paddled canoes. We stayed left to avoid these jagged slabs. We glided along at 8kph as the river meandered through the cottonwoods and farm fields. The cows stared, chewing their cuds, as “Eddy” our green Royalex Wenonah canoe, drifted past. At 13kms Willow Creek entered on the left and the river split, the left channel makes a 160* turn before passing along a 30m high purplish clay bank. We stayed right and when the two channels met we could see how a canoe could flip if you didn’t stay right.
At 35km there is a ledge on the left with a little surfing wave and 3kms before the Old Hwy 3 bridge the rock gardens were fairly shallow. A kilometre below the Hwy 3 bridge the river bent left along a 50m high cliff and at the end of this the wall stuck into the river creating some whirlpools.
At 62 km there were some waves along a bank that we took once when the flow of 650m3/s created 4 ft standing waves, which was a ton of fun. On the left a person can eddy out below these waves and line back up stream to ride this roller coaster many times. There were many flocks of pelicans along the river as well has some hawks and at 83km there is a heron colony on the right downstream of a large island.
As we floated past Popson Park we reflected on the time we took the kids down this section of river on June 16 (flow 800m3/s) 2 days after it flooded at 1600m3/s. The silt hissed on the bottom of the canoe. Nowhere could you eddy out as the water was into the willows and trees. Not to mention the mud was so deep and soft you would not want to step out anyway. There were lots of weird currents and boils and the bridge pylons were thick with logjams and whirlpools. Justin (11yrs old) remarked that is probably why the city had posted the large red signs “AREA CLOSED Due to High Water” at all the river access points. Stephanie (9yrs) had known better to question Dad as to why we chose to paddle a closed river, as she knew he would just grin and say his usual, “it’s all part of the adventure” quip.
The section from Lethbridge to Hwy 25 bridge had high sandstone walls on one side and fields on the other. At 144km we stayed right of a large island and reflected about the time we used a large golf umbrella as a sail, we clipped along at 11kph to get to Nolan’s (Hwy 25) Bridge were my truck waited to take us home.

Special Comments: 

This route is good for novice canoers and does not require camping if you wish to shuttle.
The scenery is of coulees, cottonwood groves, coloured clay cliffs, and sandstone walls. There are many islands and sandy or gravelly bars and beaches.
Good viewing of pelicans, hawks, deer, ducks, coyotes, and prairie wildflowers.