White Water Rafting the Bow River in Canada
This post is a collaboration with Chinook Rafting. All opinions are our own. Please consider supporting companies that allow bloggers to create content that helps readers discover new places and plan amazing adventures.
Jon and I have found more than we could have ever dreamed of living life on the road. It turns out we weren’t the only ones! While chatting over tacos with friends, we came up with the idea to celebrate our friendship (made possible through life on the road), and all the “more” that we have all found on the road with a road trip we dubbed “The Road to More”.
We wanted to make this road trip really epic, so we decided to go international, and head to the Canadian Rockies. When we were planning we decided we would all meet in Calgary and go on to explore Banff, Yoho, and Jasper National Parks.
One of the things we knew we all wanted to do together was White Water raft. We’re so grateful to have found Chinook Rafting because the experience was fantastic from start to finish! If you’re thinking of White Water rafting in Canada here’s what you can expect.
Choosing Your River
Chinook Rafting offers three rafting options. The Kananaskis River tour is perfect for families and anyone looking for an introductory white water rafting experience. The Kananaskis River rafting trip features class 2 and class 3 rapids. (Chinook describes class 2’s as “you may get splashed” and class 3’s as “you will get wet”.)
We chose to raft on the Bow River, selecting the Horseshoe Canyon tour. We were looking for a bit more of a thrill, and as 6 adults, we had no problem meeting the minimum 90 lb weight requirement. This rafting trip features class 3 and class 4 rapids.
Both the trips above keep you on the river for 1.5 to 2 hours. For a bit of a longer trip, there is the Kicking Horse River tour which will have you on the water for 2-2.5 hours. This trip also has up to class 4 rapids.
Ample, RV-Friendly Parking
Due to a booking error we ended up having to drive to the meeting point in Nakoda Lodge in our RVs. Traveling with our friends, we are a group of 3 couples. Two couples have small Class C RVs, but one couple is traveling in a 35 foot 5th-Wheel.
We called Chinook and they assured us there was plenty of space for us to park, even with all of our rigs. Since it’s popular to travel through Banff in an RV, the ample parking is a major win.
FAQ Info Session
We were so excited about rafting that it wasn’t until the night before that we started to wonder what we needed to bring or wear. Of course, there’s a very handy FAQ page on the website that we had somehow missed.
But there’s no need to worry if you realize Canada is cold last-minute, and miss the FAQ page like us. Upon arrival, the guides gather everyone around and assure you that everyone has the same questions and they're happy to answer them.
All Gear Provided
All of the guides have an incredible sense of humor, and the FAQ group session was as entertaining as it was informative. Best of all Chinook definitely makes sure to keep you warm so you can enjoy rafting.
A full body wetsuit and booties are provided. On top of that they provide you with an optional fleece (during the early summer they recommend the fleece for anyone from Florida or Texas, so I happily opted for one), and a large puffy rain jacket. And, of course your gear is rounded out with a helmet and PFD (life vest).
Once we picked up our gear we were given the option to go change in our cars/RVs or their changing tents.
The Bow River
Alex, one of the funniest guides, continued to make us all laugh out loud while providing useful information on what to expect while we were driven to the river in school buses.
When you arrive at the river, one of the guides goes over safety information and river rescue. Basically, they explain all the possible scenarios that could occur if someone was to fall out. It’s very unlikely, but good to know in case of an emergency.
I rafted once in Colorado. The safety and rescue information was delivered on the bus ride. I have to say that I like what Chinook does. It’s easier to hear everything off of the bus.
The same goes for their instruction on rafting commands that your guide will give you so you know what to do and when while rafting.
Up to that point, I was wondering when they were going to go over the commands. Again, I loved that Chinook, waited until we were all divided into our rafting groups with our own guides to go over that information.
After a quick snapshot of your group is taken, the rafting begins. It begins with some practice paddling and acting upon the commands (like “forward paddle” and “lean in”). After the practice, we were met with a Class 4 rapid around the first bend.
It was a little bit nerve wracking on the approach, but as soon as we splashed through we all felt more confident and at ease. It was great to get a class 4 rapid under our belts so early in the trip.
Following that we stopped at a spot to do some cliff jumping. I wasn’t a fan of this being a part of the rafting trip because I don’t even jump off the side of the pool (much less cliffs).
There was a chance that perhaps some of our friends might not jump, but that was quickly off the table as one of our friends said, “Oh it’s not that bad, it’s kind of like a diving board.” Hmm… yeah… I’ve never jumped off a diving board… I’m proud to say though that I went for it. I jumped! There are two cliff heights to choose from: medium and really high. For me doing the medium cliff jump was a big win!
We climbed back into our rafts and we were happy to note that all the gear we had been provided did indeed keep us very warm. By now we felt like old pros as we went through a few more rapids. In between the rapids our phenomenal guide, Alex, shared fun movie facts. Alex pointed out where scenes from movies like The Revenant and Legends of the Fall were filmed.
He also gave us some history about the area and explained why the waters are so, so turquoise blue. He also shared a little bit about his own travels and his recommendations for what else to do in the area. We really were very impressed with how knowledgeable, entertaining, and friendly all of the guides were.
The trip ended with a relaxing paddle with jaw-dropping scenery all around us. It was fantastic to have the river all to ourselves–another benefit to rafting with Chinook that we loved. There were no other rafting companies along our entire route!
At the end of the trip we all helped carry the rafts back to the bus for the ride back. We were all pleasantly surprised to hear that there would be snacks waiting for us when we returned. To top it all off, there would also be hot chocolate, tea, and coffee.
We all changed back into regular clothes, returned our gear, and enjoyed the snacks while looking at pictures they captured for us while rafting.
We were blown away by the professionalism of Chinook Rafting. Jon and I highly recommend them for your Canadian Rockies rafting adventure. Everything was extremely organized, the guides were absolutely amazing, the gear was in great condition and fit well, and the ample parking and snacks were wonderful bonuses. For our small group, including some first-timers, rafting the Bow River through Horseshoe Canyon with Chinook Rafting was absolute perfection. What rafting companies and destinations do you recommend? Let us know in the comments below!