There can't be many more relaxing ways to spend a few hours on a summer's day than floating in a boat along the Bow River with the sun shining and clouds skittering across the blue sky, the silence broken only by the sound of curious young ducks and the occasional bark of a dog playing at the water's edge.
Lazy Day Raft Rentals makes it easy for you to enjoy this simple pleasure. All you need do is turn up at Calgary Curling Club along Memorial Drive, where they are based, pay for your raft rental and shuttle and Lazy Day's friendly staff take care of the rest.
The inflatable rafts come in four sizes, the largest accommodating up to 12 people, and comprise five sections requiring inflation. If you decide not to take Lazy Day's shuttle, or if it is not available, you will need to inflate the boat yourself with the pump provided when you reach the launch area. Inflating the boat takes about 15 minutes. If you drive to the launch point yourself you will also need a means of transport to take you back there after your boat trip.
We opted to take the shuttle truck, so we left our car at the Curling Club and were transported by Lazy Day, with our already inflated boat to the slipway at Baker Park, about 14km west along the Bow River. If you prefer a shorter trip down river, they will drop you off at the Shouldice Park slipway, only eight kilometres from the Curling Club.
Paddles, life vests, a pump and a rope for tying the boat up if you want to stop en route are all provided. The only advice they give you is to steer from the back of the boat and enjoy your ride!
As the name of the rental company suggests, very little actual paddling is required during the three hour journey down river towards Calgary as the current takes you downstream. If it is a windy day you may find yourselves not moving very fast, in which case a little muscle power may be called for. Otherwise, you can simply lie back and relax.
I spent quite a bit of time sitting on the front of the boat dangling my feet in the water and taking photographs while my companion steered. The water is fairly shallow and very clear so you can see the bottom in most places. There are plenty of little rapids along the way, which add a bit of excitement.
You can take a picnic with you and eat it on the boat as you float along or stop off at one of the parks on the north bank of the river. We stopped near Angel's Café for an ice-cream. Just make sure the boat is grounded and/or roped to an appropriate immovable object on the bank so it doesn't float away.
Don't be tempted to take off the one-size-fits-all life vests as a police motor launch patrols the river and they will fine you if you are caught without a life jacket.
Our Lazy Day Raft at the Baker Park slipway, Calgary
If there is a large group of you and you don't fancy all sharing a single boat, you can hire two and attach them to each other so you stay together but don't feel cramped.
Lazy Days lets you know at the start where to take the boat out of the water on the approach to Calgary, and it is easy to manoeuvre into the south bank and lift the boat out on to the Bow River pathway. From there it is a five minute walk with the boat, still inflated, to the grassy bank behind the Curling Club where you can slide the boat down the bank and return to your car at the front of the building.
Remember to wear bathers or shorts and sandals that you don't mind getting wet as you are likely to stand in the water getting into and out of the boat, and water tends to splash off the paddles into the boat. It is also worth taking a waterproof container or rucksack for your phone/camera/sandwiches.