Open Water Trips

Adventures in Open Water in Small Boats

Icy cold river trip today

Greetings, Y'all

Today is the first day of a 14-day holiday stint I scheduled for the end of this year. I used the day to head off onto the river to do some very cold weather paddling on the good old North Saskatchewan River, which is largely frozen over except for one stretch which has inexplicably remained open. I wanted to go out today to relax and to set a record for coldest day paddled...my own record, that is. I beat my old record (-10 C) by 12 degrees...ambient temperature was -22 C at the start of the river run. There is only one place to launch in Edmonton right now, that is beside the sewage treatment plant. I expected to launch beside the shore where the outfall is located. It usually spills water out and keeps the river easily accessible from shore. Not today. There was no water pouring out of the effluent pipe so I had to trudge across 75 meters of top ice to get to where the open water was. Today I did something unusual for me: I dressed up in dry pants, dry top, neo booties with two pair of socks, neo gloves with pogies and a balaclava with my Filson wide brimmed hat over top. The weather was just too cold for me to dress lighter and I wanted nothing to do with wetness so I made certain that there would be none, at least from the river. The temperature was a lot colder than I have paddled in previously and I wanted to take no chances.

The rest of this trip was simple hard pulling to keep moving upstream while dodging the odd large piece of ice. Most of the floating and submerged ice floes were composed of slush with gravel embedded in some. The fog I experienced today was at times so thick that I could not see past the bow. One interesting bit of unexpected fun occurred just when I was plowing through the worst of the fog. Before I knew it, I was plunging over a one foot waterfall...must have been water over submerged ice or, because the river level was so low, a rock ledge not normally seen during higher summer water levels.

Not 15 minutes into todays adventure, my shoulders started feeling very sore. I initially thought that was because I had not paddled much at all this year and I was pulling hard today. Took me a few minutes to realize that the paddle blades were icing over badly and I was actually using a one pound paddle (approximate weight) with about 5-8 pounds of ice on each end. I had to smash the blades on the riser to knock off the ice build up every 10 minutes.

I did see a few ducks on the water, a few mallards and a golden eye.

Every once in a while the sunlight would burst through the forest and fog to give me a decent scene to view and photograph.

The end of my day trip came after 2 hours of paddling...I simply ran out of open water.

I found some interesting ice formations along the inside edge of the shore ice. I was wishing I could have used my big camera to get some closeup shots but it froze and was not working properly.

During my return trip, the fog got thick as pea soup but I still managed to get off some interesting photos.

The fog caused heavy frost to form on the trees along the shoreline

Ice formed on the deck quickly so I had to routinely bang it off with my paddle. The water did not flow off the deck, it simply froze as soon as it touched

This is one of my favorite photos taken today.

The Vj picked up quite a lot of ice after this trip. I am guessing that it weighed 20 pounds heavier than its dry weight of 52 lbs. Ugh!

I will give y'all a word of advice when trying to remove dry pants: take the booties off first. I wanted to keep them on to keep my toes from freezing instantly but that did not work.

I had to yank the pants back up, remove the booties, then yank the pants off and scramble into the car to get warm. All in all, I really enjoyed the trip once I could feel my fingers. They were frozen so badly when I started off that I couldn't feel them but I knew that after 5-10 minutes of paddling, they'd be ok. Will I do this again before the end of the year? I am already thinking of when, not if.

Nick, I love the new format. Nice going!

Robert N Pruden