Paddling in Banff National Park

Banff National Park

Important information:

Rules and regulations
  • An AIS Prevention Self-certification Permit or Parks Canada AIS Prevention Inspection permit is required for all non-motorized watercraft and water-related gear (e.g., canoes, kayaks, stand up paddle boards, fishing gear).
    • The Self-certification Permit requires mandatory clean, drain, dry of all non-motorized watercraft and water-related gear, and attestation to these actions. Permits will be available online and at visitor centres and self-serve kiosks at waterbodies in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks, or at Parks Canada watercraft inspection stations in Banff National Park.
    • Non-motorized watercraft and water-related gear users that do not meet Self-certification Permit requirements, but still wish to use their equipment within a park should visit a Parks Canada watercraft inspection station. Inspections and issue of a Parks Canada Inspection Permit will occur on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of inspectors.
  • Parks Canada Inspection Permit is mandatory for motorized watercraft on Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park.
    • Parks Canada will no longer accept provincial inspection permits for motorized watercraft launching on Lake Minnewanka.
  • Dry time requirements - Parks Canada Self-certification and Inspection Permits will require watercraft that has travelled outside of BC, AB, Yukon and Northwest Territories to dry for 30 days and those travelling within BC, AB, Yukon and Northwest Territories to dry for 48 hours.
  • Inspection of non-motorized watercraft and water gear will be available at inspection stations in Banff at Lake Minnewanka (motorized and non-motorized watercraft and water-related gear) and Lake Louise overflow parking lot (non-motorized watercraft and water-related gear only).
More on aquatic invasive species rules and regulations
  • Choose a trip suitable for your level of experience and current conditions such as weather and water levels.
  • There are several guidebooks and how-to books on canoeing available in the bookstores in Banff.
  • Limited route information is available at park information centres.
  • Changing river levels, fast flow, sweepers, heavily wooded undercut banks, and shifting gravel bars mean that the location of hazards is unpredictable.
  • River water contains glacial silt, fecal streptococci or giardia, so it should be filtered and then treated or boiled before drinking or bring along your own drinking water.
  • Water temperature seldom rises above 10° C (50° F). A capsize in these chilly waters can result in hypothermia. Read up on hypothermia and how to treat it, before you set out.
  • Leave word of your plans and when you expect to return.
What to Bring
  • Take along wet weather gear to keep you dry, warm and to protect you from the wind.
  • Carry a complete change of clothing, just in case you fall in.
  • For whitewater trips wear a wetsuit or drysuit and wetsuit boots or neoprene socks with runners.
  • Use a waterproof bag or double bag your gear in two heavy-duty plastic garbage bags (sealed individually), to keep spare clothing and gear dry.
  • Carry waterproof matches in a waterproof case, as well as rescue gear such as a throw bag, a saw and a first aid kit.

Where to paddle:

The park's mountain lakes and rivers provide easy flat water to advanced whitewater, and almost everything in-between. Rowboats, canoes, kayaks, sailboats, and other non-motorized boats are allowed on all lakes and rivers in the park. Boats with motors, both gas and electric, are restricted to Lake Minnewanka only.


  • Banff area: Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake and Vermilion Lakes
  • Lake Louise area: Moraine Lake and Lake Louise
  • Icefields Parkway: Herbert Lake, Hector Lake, Bow Lake and Waterfowl Lake


Wind warning: Beware of the very sudden strong winds and waves on big lakes such as Lake Minnewanka and Hector Lake; especially in the afternoon.

Date modified :