Kayak Gardiner to Outlook

Best paddling by a dam site

Gardiner Dam to Outlook on the South Saskatchewan River makes an excellent day trip, for even the novice paddler. 

Old Guys Need Practice

In the last few years my dad and I have gotten into kayaking. So far this has been a matter of buying gear and taking lazy afternoon trips on the nearby water with our family.


This year we’ve sought to broaden our horizons a bit. Looking for a good test-run before tackling multi-day adventures (as a gauge of paddling fitness, a gear check, practice loading the boats for transport, and so on), we figured the Gardiner-to-Outlook trek was as good as any. 


Fortunately, the trip serves this purpose perfectly. 


Great Trip - But Watch for Low Water

 Everything about the trip is pretty straightforward:


  • We left from the east bank of the end of the Gardiner spillway. The water was calm and the beach accessible. 
  • Access to the beach comes from a road just past the spillway on the east side. You head past the power station and end at the very end of the spillway. There’s a trail going back but you can also turnaround (including with a trailer, like we did), and head back on the gravel. 
  • We did our trip in early May. The Alberta melt waters don’t come in until late June, so the river was quite low—a condition exacerbated by drought in the area.


  • You can find the daily outflow data from the Sask Water Security Agency here.
  •  While we never had to get out and portage, we did run aground in numerous spots. It was necessary to stay on a constant lookout for the deep channel (usually around 1-2.5m). This task was made easier by the calm conditions, allowing you to generally spot the faster (and thus deeper) water. 
  • The result, as shown by our GPS tracks below, mean we rarely travelled in a straight line, meandering every now and then to avoid the low water. 
  • Neoprene paddling gloves will save your paddle head (and keep your hands from freezing) as you work to get yourself unstuck.


  • There are plenty of islands and sandbars, so you’ll never find yourself short a place to spot. I recommend bringing camp chairs, though. They’re a bit of comfort a kayak easily affords, and they’ll help keep the sand of you (and out of your boat).
  • The route is covered in the ‘South Saskatchewan River - 4’ topo map, which I got from GoTrekkers


  • The Meewasin Valley authority has come up with an incredible guide to the trip (all the way past Saskatoon, in fact). A great—and often fascinating—read. 


Get Out Your Paddles!

  • It’s always a great sight when the Outlook train bridge rolls into view. (Maybe some day we’ll be able to go on it again…)


  • I’ve uploaded this trip onto the GoPaddling app


  • I encourage anyone interested to take advantage. There’s nothing like being on the water in your own backyard. 

Trip Data



May 9, 2021


10:30 am - 5:45 pm


4.5 km/hr total average


~6.5 kph average in good moving water


~2 kph current



Diefenbaker Discharge

75 m^3/sec


Low wind and 16 degrees C high


70 min lunch & 20 min break


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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Sean Clark (Saturday, 29 January 2022 13:12)

    Came across footage of the dam from 1967 via YouTube and the ‘Historic Saskatchewan’ Facebook site. Fantastic footage, available here: https://youtu.be/vsnw09on2c8