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Floating on the Lazy River

by Dean Johnston

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 cheesesticks, 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 there? – 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. This spot is about half an hour drive from the Waskesiu townsite, which is about an hour north of Prince Albert.

Where do you start? – There are two launch points. The first is at the river portage, 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. However, more adventurous types can continue on another 10 minutes or so to the other end of the trolley. From here the float takes 30-45 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.

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 and lifejackets, we have seen people using inner tubes, boogie boards, inflatable loungers, or 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 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).

4 Things to Combine with Your Lazy River Float

1. The walk to Kingsmere Southend campground is less than 4 km return and it is a great place for an afternoon picnic.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.

Dean Johnston is the author of three travel books, including Roam: The 9 Greatest Trips on Earth. He is currently getting lightheaded from blowing up an inflatable popsicle, but while you wait you can read about all his travels at routinelynomadic.com.

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