Kayaker makes harrowing journey from Lake Louise to Sundre
Local kayaker Keegan Smith has completed what may be the first-ever solo descent of the Red Deer River from Lake Louise to Sundre.
The sometimes harrowing four-day river journey saw Smith take on several steep canyons and waterfalls – at one point even having to jump out of his boat and scramble for safety.
“I just about went over a 40-foot waterfall that probably would have killed me,” said Smith, 32. “I was coming up on the waterfall too fast. Usually we will use eddies and slow areas of the river to get out, but this time it was a very narrow section and very quick so I couldn’t manage to stop my boat. I had to jump for the shore and let my boat go without me.
“Just by luck the boat actually lodged on a rock above the waterfall so I was able to go retrieve it. I was very apprehensive because there I was 10 or 15 metres above the waterfall trying to get my boat back.”
He said he lost his shoes during the waterfall incident, forcing him to go barefoot for the rest of the journey.
He started his river trek on June 30 with a 16-kilometre hike from the Lake Louise ski hill to the confluence of the Red Deer and Little Stovepipe Rivers.
“They are both very, very small at that point, maybe a metre across,” he said. “And from there it was three days of paddling and it was quite an adventure.”
Smith, who has been kayaking since he was 12, used a 6-foot 8-inch river kayak for his journey, camping along the riverbanks at night.
“It (his kayak) was probably on the small size for a trip like that, just as far as having to carry all my food and camping gear in it. But I guess it was suitable,” he said.
Now that he’s completed his journey, Smith says his landmark Red Deer River trip was certainly worthwhile.
“It was quite an adventure and there was some big juicy whitewater. It was kind of cool,” he said.
Although the river from Lake Louise to Sundre has been hiked and followed by packhorses over the years, Smith’s journey is believed to be the first solo kayak trip of that length of the river, he said.