Kayaking at Elk Island National Park is a popular summertime activity and relaxing way to enjoy the Astotin Lake Recreation Area. Whether you bring your own canoe or kayak, or rent one in the park, you’re sure to have an enjoyable time paddling around the treed islands and scenic shores of Astotin Lake.
Elk Island Kayaking- Astotin Lake
Astotin Lake is the largest and most accessible lake for kayaking in Elk Island National Park.
The best put-in spot is just north of the main beach area at the boat launch. Here you can conveniently back your vehicle up to the boat launch, unload your boat, then park in the nearby lot.
People also launch their kayaks directly from the beach, but this would require you to carry your boat from the parking lot. At minimum it’s a 74 m carry, if you’re lucky enough to snag parking in the first row facing the lake. If you plan on renting a canoe or kayak, you can do this by the pier at the beach.
Once you’re on the water, there are several interesting places you can explore along the shoreline and out near the middle of the lake.
If you paddle north from the boat launch and beach, following roughly alongside the Lakeview hiking trail, you’ll come to a sheltered bay that’s great for bird watching.
As you paddle around the emergent trees, keep an eye out for red-necked grebes. You may even see their floating nests tucked away among the vegetation.
This part of Astotin Lake is also home to a beaver lodge built from sticks, grasses, and dirt. It’s just one of several beaver lodges you can get an up close look at while kayaking Astotin Lake.
One of the most popular parts of Astotin Lake to kayak is around High Island, the slightly crescent shaped island that’s the subject of countless photographs, especially at sunset. Densely treed with a high spot of land tapering down to the far end of the island, it’s definitely a photogenic spot to paddle.
Heading south and west from High Island will bring you to calmer waters as there are numerous islands and peninsulas to block the wind.
The largest island in Astotin Lake is Long Island, which sits near the southwest shore. East of that is a chain of smaller islands including Lamont, Crane, Griesbach, Pine, and Archer, sheltering the lake’s southern waters.
You may be wondering where Elk Island, the park’s namesake, can be seen. Well, there is no Elk Island anymore because it has turned into a peninsula. Although the name no longer fits, Elk “Island” can be found just east of Long Island, attached to the south shore by a narrow strip of land.
The south side of Astotin Lake is especially great for kayaking not only because it’s very beautiful with calm water, but there are many great opportunities for spotting wildlife. Red-necked grebes can be seen floating around here and there’s evidence of beaver activity too, with another beaver lodge in one of the bays.
If you want to take a break from paddling, a nice place to land is on the peninsula across from Griesbach Island and next to Pine Island. As you approach the peninsula from Griesbach Island, you’ll notice an opening in the trees with a bench and dirt trail. You can pull your boat onto shore here and take a walk around the peninsula where you’ll find some picnic tables, fire pits, an outhouse, and a pair of Parks Canada’s beloved red chairs looking out on Beaver Bay.
After visiting the peninsula, it’s worth paddling around the nearby bays to look for more birds and beaver activity.
On your way back to the boat launch, you could pass by Archer Island, the Living Waters Boardwalk, and Astotin Theatre. As you get closer to the beach human voices start to replace the sounds of birds, signalling the end of a great day kayaking at Elk Island National Park.
Review of Kayaking at Elk Island National Park
As far as kayaking spots near Edmonton go, Astotin Lake is one of the best.
The drive-up boat launch makes lake access hassle free, the forested islands and peninsulas provide plenty of visual interest, while the flat water and prohibition of motorized boats allow for calm waters and easy paddling.
There are also a lot of opportunities for bird watching while kayaking at Elk Island National Park and the size of Astotin Lake makes it easy to spend 2 or 3 hours out on the water.
The ability to rent a canoe, kayak, or paddle board right from the beach is a bonus for those who don’t own their own gear. However, this convenience does make the lake busier than other nearby kayaking areas, like Islet Lake in Cooking-Lake Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area.
Overall, kayaking at Elk Island National Park is a fun and active way to view the local wildlife and enjoy the park’s scenery from a different perspective.
Tips for Kayaking Astotin Lake
Location: Astotin Lake is located east of Edmonton in Elk Island National Park. It’s about a 50 min drive from central Edmonton to the Astotin Lake Recreation Area, which is near the north end of the park.
Getting There: Elk Island National Park is most conveniently accessed from Highway 16 (the Yellowhead Highway). Once in the park, drive north until you reach the turn into the Astotin Lake Recreation Area.
Launching Area: There is a boat launch you can drive right up to north of the beach area, past the campground registration kiosk. After unloading your boat, you can park at the nearby lot.
Rentals: Canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards can be rented at the kiosk by the pier. Rentals are available by the hour from May to September on a first come, first served basis. If the wind is gusting over 20 km/hr rentals may not be available. For more information, prices, and hours visit this site.
Facilities: The Astotin Lake Recreation Area has picnic tables and restrooms with running water.
More Tips: Have a look at Astotin Lake on Google Maps (satellite view) so you can see all the islands and peninsulas and decide where you want to paddle.