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Canoeing Beginners at Lake Louise/ Lk Moraine -- is it safe?

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Canoeing Beginners at Lake Louise/ Lk Moraine -- is it safe?


My friend and I are planning to visit Banff and Jasper in the 2nd week of June. We are considering different activities during our stay aside from hiking. We want to rent a canoe at either Lake Louise or Lake Moraine. However, I have only tried canoeing once down a creek and my friend has no experiences at all.

Would it be a suicidal mission to try canoeing at the lake? Which lake would be more suitable for us beginners? Is the water rough? Would we be provided with brief canoeing lessons at the rental places?


Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Calgary
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82 reviews
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1. Re: Canoeing Beginners at Lake Louise/ Lk Moraine -- is it safe?

Almost all Canadian water is considered cold water for the purpose of survival; however, this is true in spades for Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in June, since the lakes thaw in early June and never really get more than a few degrees above freezing at any time of year. I would recommend novice canoeists wear full wetsuits in those situations. I took a dunking in Calgary's Glenmore Lake in late May - new sailboat, same old stupidity - and I was very glad indeed that I had my wetsuit on, as we later measured the water to be 3C. And *wearing* (not just having) a life jacket (PFD) should go without saying.

Here are a few links for you:

Cold water survival chart - coldwaterbootcamp.com/pages/1_10_60v2.html

Cold Water Boot Camp - a great, dramatic website that vividly shows the need for cold water protective PFDs in Canadian waters (not all PFDs provide cold water protection) - http://www.coldwaterbootcamp.com

Jasper, Canada
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for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
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2. Re: Canoeing Beginners at Lake Louise/ Lk Moraine -- is it safe?

I am not 100% sure about this, but don't think the canoe rental places offer wetsuits with their rentals. The glacial lakes of the Rockies ARE very cold even in full summer (they never get above 38 or 40F), so if you do get dunked and spend any amount of time in the water, hypothermia is a definite risk - which is why it's so important to wear a PFD (worst case scenario - it will keep you afloat with your face out of the water so that you can be rescued, even if you are unconscious from hypothermia). However, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are also quite small lakes (especially Lake Louise) and not likely to have really rough water - if it is a windy, miserable day, you probably won't want to be out in a canoe anyway.

I don't think it's a suicidal mission at all - lots and lots of people rent canoes or kayaks on the glacial lakes in the Rockies, including Maligne Lake here in Jasper NP (which I think is a lot more "iffy" than either Moraine or Louise, because the lake is large and subject to rough water, and there are cruise boat wakes to contend with as well, which is not an issue on either Louise or Moraine.) If you are nervous about it, I'd suggest going on Lake Louise, because it is the smallest lake, and also the busiest - there are hundreds and hundreds of people on the shoreline near the Chateau and along the shoreline trail, and the whole lake is visible from the shore. Talk to the boathouse attendants about your concerns and I am sure they will give you some pointers.

San Antonio, Texas
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for San Antonio
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3. Re: Canoeing Beginners at Lake Louise/ Lk Moraine -- is it safe?

They are both lakes, no fast water. Wear a PFD. Here's a tip, do not sit down, instead knell down (take basketball knee pads) and have your butt rest against the seat. That will place your center of gravity lower, reducing your chance of tipping over and getting wet.

Banff, Canada
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4. Re: Canoeing Beginners at Lake Louise/ Lk Moraine -- is it safe?


Just another option to throw into the discussion and that is canoeing in Banff on the Bow River/Vermillion Lakes. If access into the Vermillion Lakes (they need the creek to fill with water/runoff) is open by that time of year, the Vermillion Lakes are very shallow (still require life jackets, but no canoeing companies offer wetsuits). You are probably overnighting in Banff, so you can visit the canoe docks and make your decision - they also rent kayaks, which are much more stable. No reservations necessary.

banffinfo - Banff Lake Louise and Jasper Reservations

Edited: 30 March 2010, 12:14
Banff, Canada
Destination Expert
for Banff, Lake Louise
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5. Re: Canoeing Beginners at Lake Louise/ Lk Moraine -- is it safe?

A lot of visitors who paddle at Lake Louise are Moraine Lake are first-time paddlers. It will be a fun adventure for you. Moraine Lake is the perfect place for a beginner to start - and you couldn't ask for a more scenic location than Lake Louise or Moraine Lake. There is also the opportunity to try canoeing in Banff - the Blue Canoe has canoe and bike rentals on the Bow River within walking distance of downtown Banff. The Vermillion Lakes suggestion is a great idea.


6. Re: Canoeing Beginners at Lake Louise/ Lk Moraine -- is it safe?

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