Police warn boaters of high water, driftwood on North Saskatchewan River

Edmonton police are warning boaters about less than ideal conditions on the North Saskatchewan River. The water is high and fast-moving, which, coupled with the floating driftwood, means watercraft users need to exercise caution.

'There are going to be some hazards'

Edmonton police Const. Derek Jones patrols the North Saskatchewan River Saturday. (Roberta Bell/CBC)

Edmonton police are warning boaters about less than ideal conditions on the North Saskatchewan River.

The river water is high and it's moving fast. Along with floating driftwood, that means boaters and other river users need to be cautious, Const. Derek Jones said.

"Visibility's not that great, either," Jones said Saturday at the 50th street boat launch, where officers were greeting boaters and making sure that they were prepared.

"There are going to be some hazards underneath the water. Islands have disappeared because of the high water. Landmarks that are familiar to us when we're going up and down the river are changing."

The Edmonton police marine unit inspected this couple's boat and found they were adequately prepared to head out on the water. (Roberta Bell/CBC)

The marine unit officially began patrolling the river on Saturday. During the course of the morning they responded to a capsized canoe and stopped a dinghy to tell its occupants to put on life jackets. 

Throughout the summer, Jones said officers will be on the lookout for liquor infractions and noise as well as conflicts between different watercraft operators. 

Different people have different ideas on how the river is used, he said, referring to jet boaters and paddle boarders.

"You get a lot of wake created by the by the boats and then a lot of instability created by the different paddle boats," Jones added.

Be prepared

Canoers John and Melissa Boyko headed out Saturday morning for their first trip of the season from the 50th street boat launch.

They carefully planned for their journey east to Vinca Bridge. 

Experienced canoers John and Melissa Boyko expect their canoe journey on the North Saskatchewan River to take less time because of the high, fast-moving water. (Roberta Bell/CBC)

Given the strength of the current, they expected to shave an hour or so off the normally four-hour voyage. 

"It's a little bit early. We usually wait until later. So the river's higher and faster and there's debris," John said. "We'll just have to be careful." 

The Boykos had life jackets, whistles, a bail pump and a rope.

They advise less experienced canoers to go on shorter trips, or in lakes, to build up their proficiency before embarking on longer trips.