Are you looking for something fun and different to do in the Prince Albert National Park for the whole family? A float down the Kingsmere River has that lazy river feel while still being surrounded by tall trees and tall banks. It is extremely relaxing to slowly float down the winding river and enjoy the feeling of being out in nature, without actually having to do any work. Sure, the water’s inevitably going to be cold but, hey, it’s Waskesiu. All in all, a float down the river is a great addition to the many things to do around the lake. Higher water levels this year have made the river deeper, the “rapids” less problematic and the overall journey much smoother.
Kingsmere Lake is a large, clean and quiet lake in Prince Albert National Park. While Waskesiu Lake offers a full service townsite, beach, golf and a myriad of terrific cheese sticks, Kingsmere is mainly known as the gateway to Grey Owl’s cabin, historic home of the famous pioneer and environmentalist. A less well-known attraction, however, is the Lazy River Float, as it is known, a scenic, relaxing water journey down the Kingsmere River that can be enjoyed by all ages, from grandparents lounging in comfortable dinghies to boisterous children bobbing along in nothing but a lifejacket. As a fun, free outdoor activity, the Kingsmere River is perfect for families looking for new ways to enjoy the pristine wilderness and make themselves cold despite the outstanding summer weather of northern Saskatchewan.
How do you get to the Kingsmere River?
Waskesiu Lake is located about an hour’s drive north of Prince Albert. The trailhead for the river float is located at the Kingsmere River parking lot, 32 km (but a 30-minute drive) north of the Waskesiu town site on Kingsmere Road. Kingsmere Lake has a 40hp limit for boats but is also very popular for canoeing and kayaking. The Kingsmere River flows south from Kingsmere Lake to Waskesiu Lake and about halfway between the two is a parking lot and boat launch used by fishermen and campers looking to cross between the two. The parking lot has been recently expanded so there is now always space to park there.
Where do you start the lazy river float?
Look for the sign for the Kingsmere River Trail and Grey Owl Trail, they both follow the same path for a couple hundred meters and then you need to pick the left option at a clearly marked fork. Shortly before that there is a great overlook photo op of the river. Directly after are the newly installed stairs to the bridge.
This river portage is where you will find the first of three launch points, about a 10-minute walk from the parking lot. This is where watercraft headed for Kingsmere Lake are loaded on a hand trolley to portage past the slippery and shallow rapids farther up. Most people carry their various floatation devices to this spot, jump in the (admittedly frigid) water to start the 15-minute float back to the boat launch. This choice is best if you have smaller children or want a shorter walk/float. From here the river is relatively calm and there are no large rocks or submerged trees. On this section you can use any kind of floatie from a small boogie board up to a large dinghy. Smaller children can even float down in just a lifejacket. There is a sandy bottom and most children can reach the bottom and stand up if they want.
More adventurous types can continue walking past the bridge another 10 minutes or so to the other end of the trolley. From here the float takes 30 minutes and involves some wild rides through narrow channels and over shallow rapids. You shouldn’t take small children or delicate vases on this section. There are some rocks to steer around and a couple of trees partially submerged that you have to get over. It is best to not take small children on this section and you should have hardier inflatables and that keep most of your body out of the water. Boogie boards are not recommended for this section.
The third option will give you the most floating time, about 45 minutes, but requires you to continue on for another 500 meters along the Kingsmere River Trail to the Southend campground on Kingsmere Lake. From here you need paddle along the lake to the river entrance, which will take extra effort as well. There will also be slower parts of the river and more dangerous parts if you start from here. Again, not recommended for small children.
What should you take?
The beauty of the Lazy River Float is that you can do it just about anyway imaginable. Along with the previously mentioned dinghies, boogie boards and lifejackets, we have seen people using inner tubes, inflatable loungers and even just treading water as the current softly sweeps them along. Although anyone considering the longer version should take something fairly sturdy and cushioned (a large inner tube works well) because things can get a little rough scraping over rocks and bouncing off encroaching trees. You should bring at least one dry bag to hold flip flops and anything else you don’t want getting wet, although it is possible to make the walk barefoot if you watch your step.
How much time do you need?
Even though the basic float is fairly short, once you factor in driving, walking and repeating the process at least 3-4 times (depending on how many energetic kids are hounding you for another go), you should allow at least 3-4 hours. Adults who have had enough of the chilly water after a couple tries can volunteer to stay back at the viewpoint along the trail to take photos. Also, keep in mind that you’ll need to bring any food and water (and bug spray) you’ll need as there are no facilities out there (except a basic outhouse). And, just a heads up, there have been bears spotted in the area, so don’t let kids run ahead and be sure to make plenty of noise (usually not a problem).
Regardless of which entrance point you choose you will get out of the river at the parking lot boat launch next to a set of picnic benches slash spectator seating. And repeat.
Keep in mind that conditions on the river can change from year to year, and even month to month. Water levels change quickly and new obstructions can pop up with little notice. Bear feces is a constant concern for those going barefoot. Always make sure an adult leads the way to look for possible dangers and to make sure no kids go whizzing past the exit point. Unless you have enough to spare a few, of course.
4 Things to Combine with Your Kingsmere River float
- The walk to Kingsmere Southend campground is less than 4 km return and it is a great place for an afternoon picnic.
- Hardcore hikers rave about the classic 20 km one-way trek to Grey Owl’s cabin. Most people camp in one of the several sites along the way to break up the trip. It is also possible to mountain bike out and back in a single day but make sure you’ve got full suspension and prepare for your arms to take a beating on the rough, root-covered trail.
- A 2- or 3-night canoe loop from Kingsmere to gorgeous little Bagwa Lake is a relaxing and memorable undertaking offering isolated camping, wonderful sunsets and good fishing.
- Just before you reach the river parking lot when driving out from Waskesiu you’ll pass the Narrows Peninsula trailhead. This easy 3 km loop is our favourite short hike in the area, offering surprising diversity with dense forest, marshy boardwalks, placid ponds, narrow ridges overlooking the lake and even a few small sandy beaches.
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