By: Britt Schroers
Two years ago, I took up kayaking as a new outlet for physical activity and a way to spend more time outdoors, and I fell in love with it. The sense of peace I feel from paddling on calm waters in the early mornings is a meditation all on its own and a time to connect with nature and let go of my to-do list if only for a moment – much the opposite of the adrenaline rush from rowing through rough or rapid water, which also leads to greater enthusiasm for the sport. Through my paddling experience, let me lead you to the water and introduce you to the local spots to paddle out, in the queen city.
Wascana Lake, Wascana Park
The adventure starts in Wascana Park, a beautifully landscaped park surrounding a 120-hectare lake located in the heart of the queen city. You can get a taste of the great outdoors in the centre of the city by visiting the Wascana Centre Marina, just west of the Broad Street Bridge for an afternoon or evening on the water. Rentals of single and double kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards are available, and all rentals include life jackets, paddles and safety kits. The marina is open seven days a week, May through September and getting out on the water is just another way to explore everything Wascana has to offer. Wascana Lake is one of my favorite spots of convenience for paddling. It provides easy access to the water and what seems like constantly changing scenery throughout the paddling seasons.
When renting a watercraft, paddlers launch onto the lake from the Marina docks alongside the Marina and Bar Willow Eatery. You can launch your watercraft can from the sand bar right off the Marina parking lot nearest the lake, utilize the boat launch, or carry your watercraft to the docks and paddle out from there. A full paddle around the Wascana Lake perimeter is around four kilometres and will take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour at a leisurely pace. There are three Islands in this section of the lake you can explore; pass under the bridge at Pine Island and view the waterfall that provides aeration for the lake and watch for birds and waterfowl around Spruce Island and Willow Island.
Things to know for safely navigating Wascana Lake:
- ALWAYS wear a life jacket. If for any reason you end up in the water a lifejacket is your best chance of staying afloat and getting to safety. Lead by example and wear a PFD.
- When paddling with kids, make sure they wear a lifejacket, are seated comfortably and remain seated throughout your time on the lake to avoid capsizing your vessel. Keep them entertained by singing songs, watching birds and playing games like ‘I Spy.’
- When paddling with pets, have your pet wear a life jacket. If your vessel capsizes or they are spooked and jump out of the watercraft, saving both yourself and your pet can be a struggle, even if you are both strong swimmers. A life jacket can make the difference between losing your fury friend and laughing on to the next adventure. You can bring a floating leash attached to the pets lifejacket in case of capsize and separation and to prevent too much distance from you in case they jump overboard. Bring small treats to keep them content and interested in the ride, bring drinking water for yourself and your pet and ensure they can drink from a small bowl or largemouth bottle. Talk to your pet to keep them calm, train them continually to ensure good behaviour on the water. If you plan to stop on an island, bring poop bags and a snack for your furry friend. Pay attention to your pet’s reaction to the water and changing weather, if they chase balls or birds, avoid getting to close to the waterfowl and buoys– you know them best and sometimes they just aren’t as adventurous as you think they are!
- Pack snacks – if you plan to be on the water for an hour or more, pack some healthy snacks. Foods like carrot sticks, snap peas, cheese, crackers and granola bars make for simple snack foods and can be easily packed into a small dry bag. Bird seed can be a nice addition if you want to feed the local wildlife along the shorelines. Bring drinking water as the water out of the lake is not fit for human or animal consumption. Please remember to pack out what you brought with you and do not litter.
- When paddling on Wascana Lake be sure to avoid the Albert Memorial Bridge dam draining into Wascana Creek and refrain from entering the East Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary at the Broad Street Bridge crossing.
- Pay attention to changing weather conditions and know when it is safe to be on the water. High winds and dark skies can lead to scary situations on the lake. You can check in with the marina or check your local weather network for conditions before making the trek on the lake.
- Bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen or wear UV protective clothing.
- Throughout the summer, the lake is a shared space for both leisure and competitive paddlers, always ensure you are aware of any rowing club training at the time of your paddling and avoid interaction in the marked lanes when paddlers are near. Be kind and courteous to others on the lake and keep your distance. As always, please enjoy the Wascana Centre safely and respectfully.