– Jeremy Derksen
Athabasca, AB – Descending into the Athabasca River Valley with its green river banks, relaxed rural pace and deep flowing water always fills me with an immediate sense of ease and calm. Maybe that wide, mighty river makes everything just, slow, down – including me.
From Centennial Park on the north shore of the river, it’s easy to just stand in one place, spin slowly and pick an activity. Will it be an historic downtown stroll, or a hike along a wooded trail? Will I go for a paddling adventure or splash on a jet boat or go ride a horse at the local stable. Maybe I’ll just settle in for some beach time. Whatever you choose you’ll find yourself relaxing into the timeless feel of this place like I did.
To see how a couple locals do it, I caught up with Lisa Stocking, a local paddleboarding instructor and guide, and Heather Boucher, co-owner of River Meadows RV Park and co-organizer of the Kapâwinihk Wilderness Triathlon held in September that includes mountain biking, paddling and running.
- Set up basecamp in your own natural paradise
Just beyond town you’ll find camping and B&Bs to stage your day from. For extra comfort and delicious breakfasts, you can stay at Tawatinaw Valley Retreat B&B, with its own lakeside access. If you have an RV, enjoy the ‘plein air’ camping at River Meadows RV Park backing on the Athabasca River.
- Browse the local market and pick up some fresh snacks
Once settled in, grab some goodies from the Athabasca Farmers’ Market open every Saturday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. from May through October.
- Paddle the river
The Athabasca River is calm but swift flowing in the county area and you can put in right from town. “Paddling the Athabasca is one of the most peaceful places,” says Nancy Tarrant, of PaddleURway Rentals, which offers kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals in the area. “I like the fact that the river is moving, so you can kind of be lazy and just enjoy the view and see the wildlife as you go.”
- Kick back with a waterside view
Set on a sprawling forested acreage on the Tawatinaw River is the Tawatinaw Valley Retreat. Shawna and Rex Vollema fell in love with the landscape and knew anyone else travelling this way would want to stop for a spell too. So they opened their retreat for everyone to enjoy. “It’s so peaceful here, there’s not a lot of traffic,” says Shawna. “I go for a walk every morning and we see moose and deer, and the lake is awesome for birds.”
There’s few things quite like a refreshment by the river in Athabasca.