MacKinnon’s Flats River Access – A Public Disgrace

MacKinnon’s Flats one of the major Bow River access points south-east of Calgary is cherished by fishermen and floaters alike as one of only 4 access points downstream of Calgary. In recent years the property that is classified as “Public Land” has not been maintained by the Province and has fallen into an ever increasing state of disrepair.

Following the 2013 flood access to the river and parking lot were reinstated by the Province. But nothing was done to other infrastructure. Maintenance to toilets and garbage disposal has been discontinued.

Alberta Environment & Parks is now planning to remove garbage cans and outhouses, install signage describing  the site as “User Maintained”. Users will be expected to pack out their own garbage and behave appropriately.

The Bow River once had a world renowned reputation as a ” Blue-Ribbon Trout Fishery”. But the lack of commitment by the Province of Alberta to support the fishery’s infrastructure has tarnished the Bow River’s reputation.

This is surely a public disgrace!

Bow River Trout

Calgary River Access Strategy – Approved by City Council


Calgary City Council approved the motion “Calgary River Access Strategy” on June 14, 2016. The motion was proposed by Councillors Keating and Carra. The motion directs City Administration ( Water Resources, Fire, Recreation and Parks Department) to address the short and long-term river access issues for recreation and commercial use. City Administration is to report back to City Council with a report no later than Q1 2017.  A copy of the motion is attached.

NM – Calgary River Access Strategy (002)

During City Council debate is was clear that all Councillors were in favor of the Motion. Two concerns were expressed:

  • Parks Department was asked to address the financial impact of the motion. It was encouraging to see that an assessment of boat access points was underway within the 2016 budget. Future infrastructure costs would be a part of the report to City Council  Q1 2017.
  • Water Resources was questioned on the environmental impact of new or improved river access. Council was assured that Federal and Provincial  environmental and habitat legislation would be met.

For river users and more specifically drift boat fishermen and raft operators of the Bow River, the “Calgary River Access Strategy” will address the short term issues. It is expected that a resolution to the Graves Bridge Boat Ramp closure will be found.

Calgary River Users Alliance (CRUA) as a river access stakeholder is expecting to be consulted on the infrastructure improvements needs to secure a comprehensive river recreation use policy.

Bow River Trout

 Calgary River User Alliance supporter

Calgary River Access Strategy – Motion to City Council June 13 / 14, 2016

City Council will be deciding on June 13/14 on whether to undertake a River Access Strategy, which is being proposed by Councillors Keating and Carra. This motion has been raised much sooner that we had expected, due primary to concerns express by the public for the Graves Bridge boat ramp closure. A copy of the motion is attached.

NM – Calgary River Access Strategy (002)

Please e-mail your support for the Strategy to your Councillor before the weekend. The following link will guide you to your City Councillor:

Calgary City Councillors

We can’t expect everyone  to have identical views but collectively we need to make a few points.  Here is some suggested text to send –

As a river user in Calgary I would like to emphasize the importance of river access to all citizens in Calgary.  Commercial, recreational, and educational use of the Bow and Elbow Rivers is cherished by Calgarians.

I appreciate that City Council has responded promptly and comprehensively to address this issue with the Motion to Council, “Calgary River Access Strategy ”, and I ask that you support this motion.

I ask that the Calgary River Users’ Alliance (CRUA) and my group be consulted by City staff as they undertake the requested “Policy Report and Implementation Plan”.  The CRUA was formed in response to the obvious need to identify, improve, and manage responsible access to Calgary’s rivers.

I also request that some immediate action be taken to re-open Graves Bridge boat launch and other boat ramps, and to install minimal amenities at some of the existing but poorly maintained hand carry access locations. I respect the need for a comprehensive river access strategy but do not want to delay some immediate needs. 

If there are no or few proper access points, some river users create their own access. This causes littering, erosion, damage to wildlife habitat, and trespassing, while respectful users are unfairly tarnished with the same brush.

Thank you:

Bow River Trout

 Calgary River User Alliance supporter




Bow River Access in Calgary

Calgary River Users Alliance

The Calgary River Users’ Alliance (CRUA) was formed in January 2016 to improve recreational boating access to Calgary’s Bow and Elbow Rivers.   It will also address other needs and concerns that are common to recreational river users.  The CRUA consists of representatives of recreation and conservation groups and businesses in the city, including canoeing, kayaking, rafting, paddle-boarding, river surfing, and fishing. We started on a venture to improve river access in the City of Calgary that would increase visitors to Calgary to fish the world renowned Bow River trout fishery and paddling activities in and around Calgary.

In May 2016, the City of Calgary closed Glenmore Boat Ramp, the last remaining public access point to the public in early May and began denying access to Bowness Park for paddling groups. These actions eliminated any drift boat fly fishing within the City of Calgary, made it difficult for RiverWatch to operate the school rafting program and prevented clubs and businesses from using the Bowness eddies. CRUA together with our member groups, Alberta Whitewater Association and Paddle Alberta issued a press release expressing our concerns with the actions taken that would have a serious impact to the commercial guiding businesses and recreational river use.

Since the Press Release CRUA has been working with Councillors Keating and Cara, the Parks and Fire Departments to find a way to solve short and long term river access. It is expected that City Council will address this issue in mid-June with a directive for city administration to look at a river recreation management strategy. In support of these actions CRUA was asked to supply the economic impact of recreation river use to the City of Calgary’s economy.

Attached please find the two documents that support the economic impact to the City of Calgary and a need for a River Recreation Management Plan.

CRUA is positioned as an organization representing 16-member river user groups to advocate to improved recreation river use that will offer local business the opportunity to grow and contribute further to Calgary’s economy. Well-designed river access will enhance Calgary’s image to all recreation visitors furthering Calgary as a vibrant community to work and play.

We would welcome your support to ensure that paddlers can utilize the Bow and Elbow Rivers in Calgary.

The Case for a River Management Plan.pdf

CRUA -Economic Position Statement to City of Calgary Revise 19 May 2016 (2).pdf


Bow River Trout – Mission


Bow River Trout has been formed out of a need for an organization to advocate for support of the Bow River’s world class fishery.

The fishery needs support to maintain access and support a sustainable fish population.

Bow River Trout is driven by a commitment to “Protect, Support and Advocate for the Bow River Fishery”


• To promote and support the responsible use and enhancement of the Bow River fishery and its tributaries.

• To commit to maintenance of access and responsible use of the Bow River for the fishing community.

• To support the sustainability and enhancement of responsible fishery management for the Bow River Basin.

• To promote, foster and develop sports fishing and sound conservation practices in the Bow River watershed.

• To advocate and support for improvements for fish and fish habitat that benefit the Bow River ecosystem and the fishing community at large.

• To cooperate with any authorities, public or academic or otherwise, and other organizations, whether incorporated or not, which have objectives similar in whole or part to the objectives of the Bow River Trout .

Bow River Trout actively supports the work of the    Calgary River Users Alliance