Riverfest shows paddlers highlights of North Saskatchewan River Valley

Riverfest in Devon and Fort Saskatchewan was cancelled because of unsafe conditions due to weather, following a successful float down the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton on Saturday.

Organizers estimated 3,500 people were ready to float down the North Saskatchewan River this weekend

It cost $15 to sit on a raft and $10 for a canoe. Prices include life jacket and shuttle.

Nearly 3,500 people were expected to float down the North Saskatchewan River over the weekend, organizers of the second annual Riverfest in Edmonton said.

The second annual weekend event, organized by the River Valley Alliance, started with a bang on Saturday when 2,500 people stepped into rafts and canoes on the riverbank at Laurier Park near the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

Riverfest was supposed to continue in Devon and Fort Saskatchewan Sunday, but organizers cancelled those events because the rainy weather made it unsafe to be on the river. 

On Saturday, Brent Collingwood, executive director of the RVA, said the second-annual event was a hit, with many people getting on the river for the first time. 

The River Valley Alliance is a non-profit organization made up of seven municipalities that border the river in and around Edmonton: Devon, Parkland County, Leduc County, the City of Edmonton, Strathcona County, the City of Fort Saskatchewan and Sturgeon County.

Its goal is to create a sense of connection and accessibility with the river valley, one of the largest metropolitan river valley park systems in the world.

Brent Collingwood, executive director of the River Valley Alliance, says Riverfest is a chance to teach people how to enjoy the ecosystem of the river valley. (CBC)

"I think we take this a little bit for granted," Collingwood said. "We're trying to create more education, more awareness and more fun, getting more people down here enjoying ... the river valley."

Groups of people lined the banks with tips and tools for a successful day on the water. Mountain Equipment Co-op staff had tips for camping, as trail runners and cyclists passed by.

Cori Foged and Nancy Curtis have been living in Edmonton for several years, but they went rafting for the first time Saturday. 
Riverfest continues in Devon and Fort Saskatchewan on Sunday. (CBC)

"The river is a great resource that I think is totally underutilized in the Edmonton area," Foged said. "I think the Riverfest is an awesome way to showcase what we have here and to really celebrate water."

"I'll be doing it every year and I'm going to tell everybody to go," Curtis said. 

There will be more people on the river upstream in Devon and downstream in Fort Saskatchewan on Sunday, Collingwood said. 

Cori Foged and Nancy Curtis floated down the river in a raft for the first time. (CBC)

The event is sponsored by EPCOR. In a statement, president and CEO Stuart Lee called the river a "life source" for communities in Edmonton.

"Our hope is that the more people engage with it, the better they will understand it, value and care for it," Lee said.

This year's attendance is more than double that of 2017, when 1,500 people went paddling.