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Elevation change pumps up the Rafting

At an elevation of 2200 meters the Red Deer River leaves the Red Deer Lakes and starts its eastward flow. 45 kilometers later where it exits Banff National Park it is at an elevation of 1640 meters. There are no falls and remarkably few large rapids on a river beginning in such a rugged area. Cutting through 3 mountains ranges, the river enters into the accessible Ya-ha-Tinda Valley. Only the front range of the Rockies and foothills separating it from the prairies.

At the lower end of the valley is Mountain Aire Lodge at an elevation of 1440 meters. From Ya-ha-Tinda Ranch to Mountain Aire the river has a class #2 rating. It is heavily congested with log jams and dead fall with many tight blind corners.  It is a beautiful float trip with no rapids through a narrow valley. Being very dangerous it is not often paddled.

At Otter Rafting we vary our launch site as the rate of water flow changes. If we launch within 6 kms of Mountain Aire our take out at the end of the day will be Cache Hill. One of Otter Rafting launch sites (#1) is 1 kms upstream from Mountain Aire. The second choice (#2) is 2 kms downstream of the lodge. The most common launch site (#3) we use is 6 kms downstream.

Rafting in the Foothills, Elevation changes matter

The 1st and the 3rd launch sites are on opposite ends of a valley. It is a pleasant float through the valley. There are good views of the front range of the Rocky Mountains and the transition into the foothills. However, there are no rapids in this sections now. At one time the famous “Big Rock” added some action to this section. Due to recent years flooding the river has rerouted around it. At lower river levels we skip this valley to get the paddling excitement that starts in the foothills.

The elevation at launch site #3 is 1400 meters. Cache hill is at 1300 meters giving a gradient of 5.26 meters per km over the 19 kms. Something unusual about the Red Deer is that it has a fairly consistent drop over the whole run. There are several ledges, drops and tight corners that are quite challenging. With this kind of vertical drop one can anticipate there is always some action coming up. It makes for many exciting, fun events throughout the day.

Most rivers are considered a pool and drop river. They have long sections of slow moving water then a drop over a ledge forming rapids. Then comes another long section requiring floating and paddling. The consistent drop of the Red Deer means there is always some river features just ahead. This keeps you focused on the day’s adventure.

This constant excitement on the Red Deer has made many paddlers come time after time to enjoy Alberta’s best and most favorite river.

Over the Ledge

The drop at Gooseberry ledge