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Did you know that Calgary is a semi-arid region? This means that we typically get between 250–500 millimeters of precipitation each year (for our American friends, that’s 10-20 inches). As a result, we get to enjoy lots of dry, sunny summer days and cool, clear summer nights.
However, it definitely does not mean that we lack excellent water holes in which to enjoy these hot summer days!
From the Bow River to great community lakes and reservoirs – we have enough bodies of water to dip all your toes, feet, water wings, and canoes in. With this in mind, and picking up on our last blog post, we've got a wet & wild list of our 8 top outdoor Calgary water spots for maximum summer fun... So let's dive right in!
The Surf is Up in YYC!
There’s something about hot weather and sunshine that makes us want to grab our swim gear and sandals and head to the nearest body of water. It’s a primal urge to splash around in water when the temperature climbs, and it’s an activity that every summer-loving Calgarian looks forward to.
Calgarians are lucky enough to have a vast plethora of choices when it comes to outdoor (and indoor) aquatic adventure areas. Some of these spots are 100% free for anyone to enjoy, like the Bow River, but there are also some spots that charge a small admission fee that goes to the upkeep of the area, like Sikome Park.
There are also a number of community beaches that require you to have a community membership or a community member accompanying you in order to access that particular beach.
For this post, we’ve decided to include a mix of public access swimming spots with private community lakes. This is because we want to cover the best of the best in terms of outdoor fun, facilities, and community friendliness.
A Healthy Mix of Public & Private Calgary Beaches & Lakes
Public Calgary Beaches:
Sikome Aquatic Facility
Every summer, Sikome Lake opens to visitors who want to enjoy a fun and safe family atmosphere. This year, Sikome is open 7 days a week from 10am–7pm, starting June 23 and running through til September 3.
Located near the communities of Sundance, Midnapore, and Cranston, Sikome has to be one of the very best publicly accessible beaches in Calgary (in our humble opinions, it’s #1). Its sandy beaches and relatively shallow water levels, combined with picnic benches and maintained public restrooms create a welcoming, fun environment for everyone.
You can go there to float or swim, and you can bring the whole family with you. Have someone who wants swimming lessons? Sikome has that too! Entry prices are more than reasonable, and with the great mix of sunny and shaded spots you’re sure to find the right picnic location for your preferences.
For more information on Sikome Lake, including entry costs and swimming lessons, check out the Alberta Parks’ website.
The Bow River
If you’ve lived in Calgary for at least 1 summer then you know full well how popular rafting down the Bow is! For many Calgarians, it’s a right of passage. For many more of us, it’s an annual ritual to get out on the Bow at least once each summer.
Rafting on the Bow is great fun...So long as you’re prepared. As such, there are two hugely important things to remember when rafting down the Bow:
1. ALWAYS wear a life jacket
2. Leave the booze (and other intoxicants) at home
Float leisurely down the river and chat with fellow rafters. Take an invigorating dip in the cold mountain waters. Check out the happenings along the shoreline. No matter how you do it, rafting down the Bow is hands-down one of the best (and most cost-effective) ways to spend a hot summer afternoon.
Here are a few helpful Bow River rafting tips, based on personal experience:
• Bring and apply LOTS of sunscreen! (Seriously. Use it. Love it. Apply it generously.)
• Bring & drink lots of water
• Have a bag with you for your trash and recycling (nobody likes a litterbug!)
The Glenmore Reservoir
We should let you know right away that swimming in the Glenmore is not allowed (it’s our main source of drinking water, so this makes sense). However, you can kayak, canoe, and sail to your heart’s content there all summer long. You can even learn to sail on the Reservoir from some of the best instructors in the province!
Located next to the well-established neighbourhoods of Palliser, Bayview, Oakridge, and Lakeview, the Glenmore Reservoir is a hub of activity – especially during the summer. With a comprehensive pathway system for walkers, joggers, and bicyclists/tricyclists/unicyclists alike, the Reservoir is a great place to get outside while enjoying spectacular views along a beautiful lake, all while staying in the city. It even has a truly awesome splash park at the 90th Ave and 24th St. SW location!
Heads up though: This summer, the Glenmore Reservoir is undergoing some maintenance so water levels will be kept at lower levels than is normal… So boats that need a trailer launch are out of luck this year.
Luckily, canoers, kayakers, and those who want to learn to sail can take heart knowing it’s still smooth paddling/sailing for them this season!
Paddling around the Glenmore Reservoir is a great experience and we strongly recommend you try it at least once. You can either bring your own kayak, canoe, or small hand-launch boat, or you can rent canoes on-site from the Calgary Canoe Club. Then you can wrap up a rewarding day on the Reservoir by literally strolling over to Glenmore Landing or Oakbay Plaza to enjoy a nice coffee, a patio pint or 2, and some delicious food at one of the local pubs, coffee shops, or restaurants.
Private Community Lakes:
Lakes and waterfront property may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Calgary real estate, but we’re lucky to have some wonderful lake communities in this beautiful city! What’s more, these lake communities have some of the nicest beaches this city has to offer.
In total, Calgary has 11 lake communities within its city limits… But for the sake of this blog post, we’ve just chosen our top 5.
Lake Bonavista, in the heart of the aptly name community of Lake Bonavista, has to be one of the best and most established community lakes in Calgary.
Like the rest of the lakes listed below, you need to be either a resident of the community or a resident’s guest to access it. But should you have either of these qualifications then you’re in for a treat!
The lake itself is 52 acres, with another 25 acres for the park and beaches that surround it. This makes Lake Bonavista one of the largest man-made lakes in the city.
Lake visitors can swim, fish, float, and boat in this beautiful lake. On top of that, its sandy shores are great for sandcastles, cartwheels, and sinking your toes into. It’s also literally a stone’s throw from the Lake Bonavista Promenade – a quaint mini-mall with a pub that has a nice patio, a number of restaurants, a grocery store, coffee shop, and a bunch of other interesting small businesses and shops.
As you might have guessed, Mahogany Lake is located in the relatively newer community of Mahogany in Calgary’s SE quadrant.
This is a truly beautiful lake, and is also the largest in Calgary. It’s a 63-acre body of water with 21 acres of sandy beaches split between 2 locations – the West Beach and the Central Beach. Mahogany Lake's West Beach has picnic tables, volleyball and basketball courts, a playground, and a firepit. The Central Beach is a bit larger than the West Beach and offers everything the West Beach offers, and then some.
In the summer, Mahogany residents and their guests can swim, fish, float, boat, and paddle across this large urban lake. In the winter, the community association hosts winter skating parties and other seasonal events.
To top it all off, the Mahogany Beach Club is an exceptional facility. Boasting a full-sized gym, attractive and remarkably well-maintained meeting rooms, as well as storage and shower facilities, it makes buying a home in Mahogany a very tempting idea! (Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.)
In our last blog post, we listed the Father’s Day Fishing Derby at McKenzie Lake for one of the fun Calgary events worth checking out this summer... But that’s just one of many cool events happening at this calm, picturesque community lake!
There’s a Canada Day celebration on July 1 between 12-4pm, a Family Fun Day on July 6, and even a luau on July 28 – all of which take place on the sandy shores of this hidden gem of a lake.
What we love about McKenzie Lake is that it’s got a low-key feel and a lot of space to spread out along the sandy shores for a picnic with friends & family. The water is just the right temperature when then intense summer sun is at its height, and it's never too crowded or too loud.
Midnapore Lake, in the friendly and well-established neighbourhood of Midnapore in SE Calgary, is another hidden treasure tucked away in the heart of an awesome community.
We really like how the community has chosen to keep it clean, natural, and uncluttered while still managing to offer enough amenities and activities to make for a great day at the local lake!
There’s a playground, docks, and sandy beaches along its shores, as well as tennis and basketball courts, canoes, kayaks, and even water bikes (which, if you’ve never tried, are loads of fun). You can even fish at Midnapore Lake – they stock the lake annually with a healthy supply of brown trout, grass carp, and rainbow trout!
Midnapore Lake has also recently made a fully accessible shore fishing area available for people with disabilities and limited mobility issues, which we believe is a huge step in the right direction for making this community truly inclusive and welcoming. Kudos to Midnapore Lake!
We saved one of the very best lakes for last. Arbour Lake in Calgary’s NW community of Arbour Lake is another one of the newer community lakes in this city, but it’s already established itself as a truly great community resource.
Offering everything from parks and pathways to trout fishing and concession stands, this pristine 10-acre lake has absolutely earned its place in our list of Calgary’s top water spots!
You can find all the “regular” activities at Arbour Lake, including swimming, boating, fishing, BBQs, movie nights, and some spectacular picnic spots with gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains. But what truly sets this lake apart is that it also offers a wealth of winter activities, from polar plunges and ice fishing to skating and winter holiday festivities the whole family will love.
Be Sure to Make a Splash This Summer!
Whether you’re looking for an awesome publicly accessible aquatic adventure this summer or something in a more private setting, our amazing city really does offer something for everyone. All the fine agents here at Elite Home Real Estate hope you’ll take the time to go out and enjoy at least one of the lakes or rivers listed here – we know you’ll be glad you did!
Looking for a home in one of Calgary’s lake communities? Then get in touch with us to get the full scoop on what each of these great communities has to offer! Our decades of combined experience can help you find the perfect neighbourhood to call home, and we’re always happy to be of service.