10 Best Lakes and Rivers Near Calgary for Swimming and Summer Fun

woman looks toward the camera holding a surfboard as a friend surfs Harvie Passage on the Bow River in the backgrounds
woman looks toward the camera holding a surfboard as a friend surfs Harvie Passage on the Bow River in the backgrounds
Beat the Heat

10 Best Lakes and Rivers Near Calgary for Swimming and Summer Fun

Beaches, swimming, kayaking & boating, all in and around Calgary

Looking to cool off from the summer heat and paddle, swim, or boat? These top lakes & rivers near Calgary are perfect for all sorts of aquatic summer activities. Summer adventure is waiting for you so dive into these top 10 places for fun in the sun in and around Calgary.

Please note: These bodies of water are not lifeguarded facilities. Use a life jacket and check for official safety rules before participating in any of these activities.


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Best Lakes in Calgary

 

Glenmore Reservoir

The Glenmore Reservoir is a large lake-like body of water in southwest Calgary and is a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, and even sailing. Take advantage of free parking and several accessible boat launch areas that make getting on the water easy. The Calgary Canoe Club offers canoe rentals on a first come first serve basis as well as annual memberships that provide free access to kayaks, canoes, and life jackets.

Features:

  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Non-motorized boat launch
  • Picnic tables
  • Sailing

Local Tip: Visit Heritage Park to sail aboard the S.S. Moyie paddlewheeler on the Glenmore Reservoir.

 

Bowness Lagoon

Nestled in Bowness Park lives the tranquil oasis of Bowness Lagoon. Great for a family outing, this off-shoot of the Bow River is the perfect spot to enjoy a calm paddle while being surrounded by towering trees that hang over the water. Rent canoes and paddleboats from the Bowness Park Boat House and enjoy an afternoon float.

Features:

  • Kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing
  • Picnic area
  • Wading area for kids

Local Tip: Visit the Seasons of Bowness restaurant for casual fine dining with views that look over the lagoon.

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Sailing during sunset on Glenmore Reservoir

Sailing on Glenmore Reservoir (Photo Credit: Travel Alberta)

Canoeing on Bowness Lagoon

Canoeing on Bowness Lagoon

Sikome Aquatic Facility is a man-made beach in south Calgary and is open to the public from June to September each year. The area is great for families with kids, with lots of shallow water to play in while being deep enough in the middle for a float or swim. The sandy beach and surrounding grassy areas create perfect conditions for both relaxing and sandcastle building. Sikome Aquatic Facility is located in Fish Creek Provincial Park, one of the largest urban parks in North America, featuring over 100km of walking, biking and hiking trails.

Sikome Lake has a small admission fee: Families $10.00, Adult $5.00, Senior $4.00, Child $3.00. Season passes are also available.

Features:

  • Beach volleyball court
  • Picnic tables
  • Sandy beach
  • Swimming

Local Tip: Visit the nearby Bow Valley Ranch Restaurant for an amazing meal in a heritage house while surrounded by the nature of Fish Creek Park.

 

Harvie Passage

Though Harvie Passage is not a lake, it’s one of the best places in Calgary to cool off on a hot day. This channel of the Bow River was redesigned to provide a more enjoyable experience for river-based recreationists and has become a sort of natural water park. Get carried down the small rapids for a fun ride or set up a chair on the shore to watch floaters and kayakers go by.

Features:

  • Small rapids
  • Kayaking, surfing, and floating
  • Picnic area

Local Tip: Harvie Passage is right next to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary where you can see a variety of unique birds also enjoying the river.

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Sikome Aquatic Facility

Sikome Aquatic Facility (Photo Credit: Parks Canada)

group of friends try river surfing at Harvie Passage

River surfing at Harvey Passage (Photo Credit: Colin Way)

 

Best Lakes Near Calgary

 

Quarry Lake

Just over an hour drive from Calgary you’ll find Quarry Lake, locally known as the warmest mountain lake in the area. The sandy beach at the shallow end of Quarry Lake is great for kids to play in, while the deeper parts are over 100 feet. The lake is also a popular spot for paddle boarders and you can rent paddle boards from Bow Valley SUP & Surf and pick up them up in Canmore.

Features:

  • Sandy beach
  • Picnic area
  • Swimming (depending on temperature)
  • Paddle boarding
  • Nearby walking trails

Local Tip: The Canmore Nordic Centre disc golf course is only a 3 minute drive from Quarry Lake and free to use.

 

Chestermere Lake

Chestermere Lake is a beautiful, 4.8 km long lake that offers a range of activities to help you cool down on hot summer days. Buoys are placed near Anniversary Park and John Peake Park that mark shoreline areas where you can enjoy a comfortable swim. Chestermere Lake also welcomes motorized boats, and you can expect to see several wakeboarders skimming across the water on any given day. You can also use non-motorized boats such as canoes, kayaks, sailboats & paddleboards.

Features:

  • Boat launch
  • Kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing
  • Picnic area
  • Motorized boating
  • Sandy beach
  • Swimming

Local Tip: Book rentals right on the lake at Hyperactive Watersports

 

Barrier Lake

Barrier Lake, glacially fed and man-made, is a wonderful spot for paddle boats and is large enough that you can spend a whole day exploring out on the water. You can rent paddling equipment, like canoes and paddleboards, from the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre or Kananaskis Outfitters, like canoes and paddleboards. Bring your portable chairs and barbeques for a beach side picnic while you enjoy picturesque views of Kananaskis Country. The pebble ridden beach is full of perfect skipping stones, try your arm at skipping one across the lake.

Features:

  • Boat launch
  • Kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing
  • Swimming (depending on temperature)
  • Picnic tables

Local Tip: Hike the Prairie View Trail for a great lookout over the lake. From above, the lake takes on a breathtaking turquoise hue. 

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Two girls paddle boarding on Quarry Lake

Paddle boarding on Quarry Lake (Photo Credit: Travel Alberta/Katie Goldie)

Family of four paddle boarding on Barrier Lake in Kananaskis Country

Paddle boarding on Barrier Lake (Photo Credit: Travel Alberta/Karl Lee)

 

Johnson Lake

Drive an hour-and-a-half west of Calgary and you will find Johnson Lake, a pristine and hidden gem that features Banff’s only beach. Take in unbeatable views of some of the largest mountains in Banff as you enjoy a chilly but enjoyable swim. This lake is also a popular spot for paddle boats, with lots of parking and easy access to the water from your vehicle. You can rent paddle boards and inflatable kayaks from Bow Valley SUP & Surf.

Features:

  • Swimming (depending on temperature)
  • Kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing
  • Sandy beach
  • Picnic area

Local Tip: For adventurous travellers, take a plunge into the lake on a rope swing. Look for it on the south side of Johnson Lake.

 

Ghost Lake

Ghost Lake is less than an hour from Calgary and the beach location offers spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains. You can access the water from several points off of Bow Valley Trail. Here you will find a marina with a boat launch and several docks which have turned the lake into a watersports playground. Popular activities include wake boarding, sailing, fishing, and all sorts of paddle boating.

Features:

  • Kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing
  • Boat launch
  • Motorized boating
  • Wakeboarding
  • Sailing
  • Fishing

Local Tip: While you’re in the area check out the nearby Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, to get an up and close education about these majestic animals.

 

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park and only 90 minutes from Calgary. The lake is one of the best sightseeing spots around, offering stunning vistas all the way down its 21 kilometre long corridor through the mountains. There is an unloading ramp and parking area for boats. See the Parks Canada website for detailed information about bringing your own boat to Lake Minnewanka. Small open motorboats, kayaks and canoes can be rented at Lake Minnewanka through Banff Jasper Collection.

Features:

  • Lake Cruise
  • Kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing
  • Picnic area
  • Boat launch
  • Motorized boats

Local Tip: Book a tour of Lake Minnewanka on a lake cruise through Banff Jasper Collection.

 

Recreational River Access in Calgary

From the serene shores of Fish Creek Park to the lively waters of Harvie Passage, exploring Calgary's river access points offers unique opportunities to float and swim in the Bow and Elbow Rivers. Here are some of the top spots in Calgary:

Visit the official City of Calgary river access webpage for a map of all river access points, notes on river safety, and more resources.

 

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groups enjoying the beach at Johnson Lake
Lake Minnewanka Cruise boat

Lake Minnewanka Cruise (Photo Credit: Brewster Travel Canada)

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