‘Beautifully quiet’: RiverWatch floats tours through

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The sun shining above and the sound of flowing water all around you, floating along the North Saskatchewan River is a relaxed way to get a new perspective on Edmonton’s vibrant downtown.

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The 2.5-hour Eco Floats, funded by Epcor, take people on a 12.5-kilometre tour that floats under nine city bridges. The new 2022 route starts at the Laurier Park Boat Launch and ends at Dawson Park.

The tour is being offered every Wednesday to Sunday this August by the RiverWatch Institute of Alberta.

“On this route, we get to see different parts of the city, parts of the city that might be a little bit more recognizable to folks who are hoping to come experience what we have to offer,” said River Hoffos, interpretive raft guide with RiverWatch.

“I find that a lot of Edmontonians don’t have this opportunity to see the city from the perspective of the river. It’s a little bit of a historical view of the city, but it’s also just an enlightening view of the city because you start to realize how much green we have and how beautiful our river valley is.”

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As the raft passes some Edmonton landmarks, the tour guides will educate riders on the history of the city and the river, and will point out some parks and buildings of significance located on the route. Rafters will be asked to paddle periodically throughout the tour and will pass some well-known spots such as Accidental Beach.

“We say that it’s an interpretive trip because along the way we’re going to pass a lot of interesting things, and our guides are knowledgeable about the river, about the river valley, the history of the river valley and the city itself, and we try to share that knowledge with our guests,” said Hoffos.

Pauline Perrault was on one of three rafts on Thursday and she said she was happy to experience the new route.

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“What’s thrilling to me as a native Edmontonian is to be able to see the city from the river, the vantage point is just totally different,” said Perrault.

“You get to see parts of Edmonton that you don’t otherwise get to see from driving, or even when on the trails, so that was really exciting.”

Perrault said the North Saskatchewan River is a “gem” that Edmontonians don’t take advantage of enough. She added the guided float tour is a great opportunity for people to experience the river and the city.

The downtown experience from the water is completely different from the lunch-time buzz of the downtown roads and sidewalks, said Perrault.

“One of the things that we talked about on our float is it’s amazing being in the heart of the city how beautifully quiet it is,” she said.

“In the hustle, bustle of life, it’s nice to be able to get a spot to go away to and so many times, especially when we live in the city, we think we have to do that elsewhere to get that sense of peace and calm, and yet here we have it, right in the heart of the city, and that’s pretty cool.”

Anyone interested in joining RiverWatch on one of its Eco Floats tours can purchase tickets online at riverwatch.ca.

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