Winding its way east out of the Rocky Mountains and through the town of Red Deer, Alberta, lies a hidden gem, the Red Deer river. I started my adventure by the Content bridge, peddling, paddling, floating and fishing my way down towards Drumheller, Alberta. Starting mid June, while the last of the spring runoff was running through, and the water was still high, spending four days and three nights alone, on my Coosa FD having a blast on the water.
I started planning for this adventure way back around Christmas, pouring over any maps I could get my hands on, reading articles, and watching videos on other peoples experiences. As well as trying but failing to get a partner or two to accompany me on this trip. That didn’t stop me as I have plenty of experience on the water and camping solo, from my days as an avid canoeist. I felt with the rivers lack of extreme whitewater, public access spots, and my insistence on wearing safety gear, it was a safely calculated risk to go it alone. The amount of hull storage in the Coosa FD is unreal. Allowing me to easily pack everything I need for this adventure.
Day one consisted of putting in at the Content Bridge campground. (the stellar gentleman working let me launch without charge) and working my way down to the Trenville bridge campground 36 km away. This is the only section that contains any whitewater. The whitewater section is rated a class 2 but there is a chute on river left that allows one to pass through unscathed. Now, I use that term loosely, because while taking the recommended left side around the rapids, the front of my boat caught up on a rock and the current pushed me around quick. I was able to jam my paddle into the rocks and work the front of my boat loose, which prevented me from going down the chute backwards, I should have gotten out of the boat to scope it out before running, but didn’t. it would have prevented this mishap. I only caught about 6 goldeye on the first day. The lack of fish was easily replaced by the amazing river valley scenery and the constant nagging on my mind of what amazing things lay around the next bend.
Day two, was uneventful, the scenery was breathtaking and the water is still moving quite fast at this point. I was landing goldeye all day log without issue. But only goldeye. I know there is walleye in here somewhere, but they wanted nothing to do with the lures and bait that I was throwing. I made it to the Toleman West Campground around 7pm setup camp and was quick to bed after an exhausting day.
Day three was fun. The river is moving slower now. I am consistently catching more goldeye and had the pleasure of landing my first ever and personal best Sauger. The scenery keeps getting better now that I’m in the heart of the badlands, it feels like I’m floating down the middle of some primordial river, Just waiting for the orcs and hobbits to come out of hiding for a battle. I stopped in at the Dry Island Buffalo Jump provincial park for lunch and its worth the stop as the scenery is breathtaking and there’s also a chance to fill up on fresh water and an actual washroom. I made it to the Bleriot ferry Campground just after supper.
Final Day. The river gifted me a fishing rod today, it ironically was the same make and model of rod that I lost a week previous at another fishing tournament I was participating in. I was washed up to the bank far from any river access or settlements. I caught more goldeye and fished the river close by the campground as my ride home (let me tell you how awesome my partner is for helping with this) was picking me up at noon.
Sunscreen and lots of h20 is a must on this trip as its basically a desert environment. The fishing was decent landing numerous goldeye throughout the trip and I would definitely attempt it again. Company on the trip would be nice. I would also take a longer period of time to do the same distance. Focusing more on some of the deeper holes found along the river. The Coosa FDs ability to bump up the prop automatically was a lifesaver. Unless your kayak has that feature I wouldn’t recommend peddling as there’s spots where the river changes depth fast and the current is even faster.
This will be a trip I remember for a long time and with some minor revisions hope to do again next year. See you on the water!
– Andrew Watt