Government of Alberta announces new $5.2 Million investment in Lower Kananaaskis facilities

A $5.2 million government plan to enhance recreation and tourism in the Lower Kananaskis River-Barrier Lake area will support popular water-based activities.  https://www.albertawhitewater.ca/sites/albertawhitewater.ca/files/LKR-Barrier_Project%20Plan_Post-Consultation_PUBLIC_FINAL._short.pdf

As Alberta celebrates the 40th anniversary of the creation of Kananaskis Country, the Government of Alberta is making a $5.2-million investment in land based infrastructure in the Lower Kananaskis River-Barrier Lake area to enhance recreation, conservation and tourism.

“Kananaskis Country holds a special place in the hearts of Albertans. By investing in important improvements to recreation, we are ensuring future generations of Alberta families can continue exploring the outdoors and making new memories. As we celebrate its 40th anniversary, I’m proud to say this plan will ensure K-Country remains a global destination that lives up to the legacy and vision of the late Premier Peter Lougheed.”

Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

The redevelopment project includes upgrades to several day-use areas and a group campsite along Highway 40 between Canoe Meadows and Barrier Lake. The plan will continue to develop the Lower Kananaskis River and Barrier Lake area into a world-class water-based recreation destination.

“The Alberta Whitewater Association (AWA) is very excited to see Alberta Parks Lower Kananaskis River Redevelopment Plan. In 1985 the Alberta Whitewater Association began a process to develop the Kananaskis River into a whitewater park that is free to anyone to use. Over the past 33 years the AWA, our Lower Kananaskis River Users Associations partners, Lafarge Canada, the Alberta and Federal Governments have invested over $2 Million in building a worldclass whitewater park with rapids, pathways and a slalom race course that have made this river into Alberta's hub for whitewater paddlers. Prior to 1985, the river was paddled by less than 1,000 people each year. Now over 75,000 people kayak, canoe, raft and surf on the Kananaskis each year. This has contributed over $500 Million to the Bow Valley economy over this period in increased visitor retention, tourism spending and recreation expenditures. 

The Redevelopment Plan to enhance the land based day use and campground facilities will bring these important components up to the world class standards that the AWA has created in the river. We applaud the Government of Alberta for recognizing the importance of investing in Alberta's sport, recreation and tourism infrastructure. 


Chuck Lee, executive director, Alberta Whitewater Association

Alberta Parks will work with a whitewater association to build a new whitewater training facility at Canoe Meadows to serve as a hub for special events and support athletes training on the river. 

River enthusiasts will benefit from formalized river access points, a water-sports staging area and “standing wave” area at the Barrier Lake Visitors Centre, a mixture of heated and open-air change rooms, gear-drying racks, and a hand-launch for paddleboards, canoes and rafts at Barrier Lake. Other commercial opportunities include plans for small-scale lodgings and an equipment rental hut.

In addition, significant infrastructure upgrades will improve enjoyment, accessibility and safety for the public in various areas. This includes bookable campsites, expanded and paved parking sites, picnic areas, trail improvements to support visitors with limited mobility and signage to improve wayfinding, provide ecological education and boost safety.

The plan also improves the wildlife corridor by focusing visitors close to the river and away from Highway 40, giving wildlife as much space as possible to navigate the area and reducing encounters with vehicles or people. Development between Widowmaker and Barrier Dam was avoided because it is an important pathway for multiple species, including moose, bobcat and black bear.

Recognizing these ecological sensitivities and the social carrying capacity of the region, the plan has been created to represent the ultimate build-out of this area. There will be a five-year moratorium on future development outside the scope of this current plan to ensure protection of wildlife movement.

Construction will begin in phases next spring, continuing through 2021.

Project sites highlights

Canoe Meadows day-use area and group camp

  • Expanded and formalized public parking area.
  • A new camping area with individually bookable walk-in tenting sites.
  • A training and meeting centre (private sector opportunity).
  • Upgrades to the group campground, including a new group shelter and formalized tent pads.
  • A trail and river put-in for people with limited mobility.
  • Formalized pedestrian access to the river.
  • Installation of two open-air change rooms – one in the main parking area and another in the camping area.
  • Installation of gear-drying racks in the day-use area.

Barrier Lake Visitor Centre and day-use area

  • Expanded parking and designated parking areas for carpoolers and visitor centre users.
  • A river surfer staging area with small parking area, surf board rack, and picnic opportunities.
  • Installation of a heated change room at the surfer staging area.

Widowmaker day-use area

  • Formalized public parking.
  • A new commercial operator put-in upstream

Barrier Lake day-use area

  • A new hand boat launch and associated road access.
  • A water sports equipment rental hut (private sector opportunity).
  • Expanded parking. 
  • Decommissioning half of the access loop road, under-used pull-out parking and under-used trails.
  • Construction of a Connection Corner trail
  • Potential small-scale tourism accommodation (private sector opportunity).