My eyes followed the direction my sister was pointing. Soon my parents, niece and brother-in-law were all sharing her excitement. We were sitting in a large rubber raft, bobbing ever so gently on the turquoise waters of the Bow River downstream from the Canadian Rockies town of Canmore. And we’d just spotted a wreath-sized osprey nest high atop a power pole (these birds love to nest in man-made structures).
For weeks my sister and I had discussed ideas on how best to celebrate Father’s Day, and we were thrilled to know we’d picked a winner. Now our whole family was experiencing the magic of watching an osprey mother feed freshly caught fish bits to three fuzzy chick heads poking up from their nest with their tiny beaks wide open. It was truly an amazing sight.
Smooth Water Rafting
Our Bow River Nature Float launched from a small gravel beach just a five-minute drive east of Canmore on a fine summer’s evening. While we parked our car, other guests arrived from Banff in the shuttle bus provided by Canadian Rockies Rafting. Our group of six, ranging in age from five to 70, were joined by a family from Germany with a teenage son and daughter and our certified guide, Ben.
Before we pushed away from shore, Ben fitted each of us with a life jacket. Given we’d booked the evening tour, we’d been advised to dress in long pants and to bring a jacket. To make extra sure we were comfortable, Ben handed us blankets too.
Most importantly, he explained everything we needed to know to stay safe on the raft; especially, not to grab any branches hanging over the water near shore. My dad was particularly pleased to be assured we’d stay warm and dry for our entire two-hour nature float.
Floating Through a Nature Documentary
As we were lulled by the rhythmic sound of his oars dipping, plunk, plunk, into the slow-flowing water, Ben entertained – and amazed – us with stories of how the nearby hamlet of Dead Man’s Flats earned its name. He also described how Bow River means the place from which bows are taken, as First Nations fashioned their hunting bows from saplings growing along the river banks.
We found out the Bow is the longest river in Banff National Park, flowing east from its headwaters at Bow Lake, about 90 minutes northwest of Canmore. And my parents were delighted to learn how finely ground bits of rock in glacial melt water refract the sunlight, giving the Bow and other glacier-fed rivers and lakes their stunning turquoise jewel tones.
Then, with the evening light casting a rosy glow on the snow-tinged triple summit of the landmark Three Sisters, our tranquil surroundings were interrupted by a splash. A fat brown beaver had entered the water and was swimming toward its dam, a giant mound of sticks and twigs and leaves planted in a marshy pond just off the main river.
I’m sure he was posing for our cameras.