Edmonton Tourist: Pembina River Provincial Park

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When I woke up this morning (Saturday, October 12) it was sunny and lovely out. It isn’t going to be this way for long because the nights are getting colder. I anticipate snow sooner than later. With this in mind, I figured The Captian and I needed to head west to see what we could see. I googled Provincial Parks thinking I would go to Wabamum but Pembina River popped up.

First of all, I had no idea Pembina was a provincial park. Secondly, I hadn’t been there since 1988 when I would drop off a truck and trailer for the young paddlers upstream learning how to negotiate river eddies and snags while at summer camp. The truck was their ticket back to YoWoChaS, a YWCA camp located at Fallis on the shores of Wabamum Lake, where they would get a meal of fried chicken and bannock as their reward.

All I could think about was the river and how much fun it was at camp. I loved those people and that was a very special time for me. I learned a lifetime of things that stuck with me. Obviously, I needed to share that with Cap. I packed water and checked Waze. I live 109 km away. Totally doable. Had I planned my day better, I could have done two provincial parks, but I will get to Wabamum another day.

The Yellowhead Highway 16, is rough. Full of ruts and bumps until Spruce Grove. After that it was fine. It was the kind of day I thought I would like to keep going until Jasper but I needed to be home so Chatterbox could use my car for her volunteer gig.

I remembered the turnoff to Entwistle and easily found my way down into the river valley. I thought I remembered an old single-lane bridge that spanned the river so you could cross over to Evansburg, but I could be wrong. Maybe it was replaced? At any rate, I remembered the valley and the steep high banks of the river. I found the sign and pulled into the Day-Use area.

There were signs pointing the way to the beach.

Beach?

People who live in Ontario or near the ocean would laugh. The ‘beach’ is the shore with a bit of sand and rock. It’s lovely, but not what one would think of when you say ‘beach’.

Cap and I parked in the vast parking lot, I noticed there is an overflow lot. This is a swimming river because it is slow-moving and shallow. This river is popular with people who bring tubes or rafts and put in upstream and drift along. The perspective for Alberta from any river is amazing. If you get the chance to explore river valleys via the water, do it.

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Near where we parked is a playground and picnic shelter. There were signs that gave direction to the beach but you could see it from the parking lot, so it was obvious. There were signs saying no dogs on the beach…but… it isn’t summer and Cap can’t read.

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There is a parking lot by Entwistle 3km away and you can hike in if you look at the trails from P to P. It is hilly but I think it would be a great hike in the early summer or early fall. Cap and I parked and took the stairs to the picnic area near the beach.

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The hill we drove down was quite high, plus there are stairs and steep hills to get closer to the water. The picnic spots are fantastic, this should be a place I bring my famjam for a picnic.

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We kept walking upstream through the trees to get the to river. I didn’t feel steady enough to to take the short cut to the river.

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This was an easy gentle slope to the river. The first thing I noticed was the lack of leaves on the trees. The ground was abundant with crunchy leaves. The orange trees are tamaracks, they turn colour in the fall and drop their needles before winter. There are quite a few conifers still holding onto their needles plus the green lodgepole pines are straight and narrow still showing off their green needles that last all year long.

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We made it to the river bank and I remembered how easy it was to pull the canoe out from here. I think this must be where the rafters pull out too. The sign is easy to miss though, so first-timers pay attention once you pass under the bridge.  The big RIVER EXIT sign isn’t really big enough and is quite far from the water.

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Cap and I went further upstream to the park boundary.

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It is essentially at the bridge.

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Bridges that are accessible by water in Alberta have some sort of stamp or art on the structure below. Most are wild roses or the Alberta crest, but this one had a paddler dude. I love these signs along the waterways. I loved being on the river. I think I was a voyageur in a past life. The Pembina meets up with the Athabasca River which will take you to Lake Athabasca but there were forts along the way, so it was obviously used by voyageurs.

We turned around and headed downstream to the bend where the campground is located. This campground is gorgeous. I highly recommend staying here if for nothing else but the view.

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We climbed up the bank instead of heading back to the gently sloping path, Cap pulled me out because he is the best dog ever. Once back in the car, we made our way up the hill to the park entrance and stopped to look at the four monoliths.

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Part of the Canadian Northern Railway bridge. Ugly but historic.

I investigated the campground a bit more and learned camp spots are $33 a night and most have hook-ups. They aren’t all treed but they do have great views of the river valley.

Pembina River Provincial Park is about an hour west of Edmonton on Highway 16. Come in the summer for a float and I am sure a lot of people will join you, or come in the fall and be the only one walking on the shores. The choice is yours.

Just get out and explore your neighbourhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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