River Safety

Where there's water, there's risk. The importance of safety on our waterways is critical.

Planning a day on the water

It's important to check river and weather conditions before planning a day on the water.

River Conditions Weather Conditions

  • Know where you are going and what obstacles or water features are on your route. This includes bridges, underwater hazards, shallow spots, trees, rocks, and wind.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to navigate around bridge piers. Tying rafts together will make it hard to steer and could result in rafts getting caught or stuck.
  • Be ready to exit the water before you reach your destination.
  • Remember to tell someone responsible where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Call 911 in an emergency.
Know before going on the water
Always SCOUT, ASSESS and DECIDE from shore before going on rivers, lakes and waterways.
  1. SCOUT the river for current and possible potential hazards.
  2. ASSESS the level of danger.
  3. DECIDE if it is safe to raft or boat.
Wear your life jacket
Everyone should wear a life jacket or personal floatation device (PFD) while on the river. Tips to make sure your life jacket or PFD fits:
  • Check the size and weight restrictions.
  • Start with the buckles and straps loose then fasten them from the bottom of the jacket to the top to ensure a snug fit.
  • Once fastened, test the life jacket or PFD by holding your arms over your head and asking someone nearby to grab the tops of the arm openings and gently pull. Make sure there is no extra room above the arm openings and that the jacket does not ride up over your face or chin.

You could face a mandatory court appearance and up to $500 fine for not wearing a life jacket or PFD on waterways.

Checklist for a safe experience
  • Watercraft that is appropriate for river use and meets the weight capacity of your group
  • Complete water safety kit to carry in your watercraft
  • Properly fitting life jackets or personal flotation devices are required for everyone on board
  • Cell phone to call for help in case of emergency
  • Water and refreshments
  • Sunscreen and hats
What's in a safety kit?
Safety kits are required on all types of watercraft including kayaks, canoes, dinghies, inner tubes and rafts.
  • A bailing device to remove water from inside the watercraft
  • A paddle or oar to help you control your craft
  • A sound-signaling device to help with navigation, alerting others of your approach, or in case of emergency (this could be a portable air horn, whistle, mechanical whistle or bell)
  • A heaving rope or towing line (15 meters long) that floats to use for rescue or to pull your craft to safety
  • Navigation or safety light to be used at night or in poor visibility

Small Vessel Regulations

Keep kids safe around water
Remember to always keep toddlers or young children within arm's reach while in or around all bodies of water. This applies to rivers, lakes and backyard bodies of water like ponds and pools. Life jackets are critical for children and inexperienced swimmers. Encourage children to learn to swim and what to do in an emergency on the water.
Learn to swim

Swimming is a life-saving skill and gives you the knowledge and confidence to safely take part in water sports throughout your life. We offer year-round swimming lessons for all ages, as well as National Lifeguard Certification classes.

Swimming Lesson Registration

Intoxication on the water is prohibited

Being intoxicated, in possession of open liquor and/or drugs on our waterways is illegal. Intoxication by alcohol or drugs can impair your judgement while on the water.


The South Saskatchewan River is patrolled by Fish & Wildlife, RCMP, Police and Bylaw officers. Anyone engaging in unsafe or disrespectful behaviour while on the water will be subject to fines.

Understanding river flow rates

While the river can be hazardous at any flow rate, recreational floaters prefer a flow rate between 100 m³/s and 400 m³/s. Download the Alberta River Basins app for easy access to flow rates on the South Saskatchewan River or check their website. As the river flows increase the water levels rise, and the water moves faster.

Alberta River Basins

River flows are evaluated by year-round, especially from May to August during flood season.

River Flow Basics