An aerial view of the North Saskatchewan River Valley // © 2012 City of Edmonton
Trans Canada Trail
A portion of Edmonton’s River Valley trails system is also part of the Trans Canada Trail (TCT), a national trail system designed to link Canada from coast to coast. Construction of the 11,233-mile trail system began in 1992 for Canada’s 125th birthday, and it is now more than 70 percent complete. When completed, the TCT will be the longest recreational trail in the world and provide a way for people to travel on foot or bike across the entire country. www.tctrail.ca
Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River Valley Parks System is 22 times the size of New York City’s Central Park and one of the city’s greatest attractions — providing a natural corridor for all-season recreation. At more than 18,000 acres, the river valley is the longest expanse of urban parkland in North America, encompassing 22 major parks, numerous attractions and more than 100 miles of maintained multi-use trails for walking, running, cycling, cross-country skiing and other outdoor pursuits.
Edmontonians are very proud of the River Valley Parks System and work hard to keep it beautiful. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the annual River Valley Cleanup. In 2011, 122 groups, consisting of more than 3,000 volunteers, scoured the parks system, as well as the shoreline of the North Saskatchewan River, picking up litter.
Summer visitors to Alberta’s capital city should make it a point to spend at least one day experiencing this beautiful urban oasis. Unlike Central Park, there are no horse-drawn carriages to transport visitors around the park, but there are plenty of other interesting ways to get around this massive natural area.
Open year-round, the River Valley Adventure Company shop has mountain bike rentals in summer and snowshoe rentals in winter. The company also operates a cafe, which sells ice cream and snacks right on the trails system. One of its most unique adventures is a guided Segway tour of the river valley, which runs in both summer and winter. The tour includes a training session on how to operate a Segway PT and lets visitors experience the park and its trails while gliding along at speeds of up to 12½ miles per hour.
The Edmonton Queen Riverboat provides a unique way to see the river valley and the city onboard a genuine paddlewheeler. The boat sails four days a week from May through October and offers leisure cruises, dinner cruises and special event cruises. Advance reservations are essential for dinner cruises.
If speed is more your clients’ style, Black Gold River Tours operates a variety of river jet boat experiences on the North Saskatchewan River. The custom 22-foot jet boat features the most up-to-date technology, a low decibel rating, an all-weather canopy and a heater for added comfort on cold days. A gold panning experience or a ziplining adventure is also included in some of the package tours. On all tours, the knowledgeable crew explains the history, geology and culture of the region and its inhabitants.
Edmonton began as a fur-trading depot for the Hudson’s Bay Company and the earliest travelers to the area came by canoe on the North Saskatchewan River. Even today, there is something magical about traveling the river by canoe. You can book single-day and multi-day canoe tours with Haskin Canoe. They also offer canoe and kayak training courses and rentals. Guided and unguided tours, canoe rentals and a shuttle service are also available with Edmonton Canoe.
At Fort Edmonton Park, visitors can experience life as it was in Edmonton during four historical time periods between 1846 and 1929. Costumed interpreters help you walk through the Canadian fur trade and other time periods in Canada’s history. There is also an antique midway and a steam train for kids of all ages.
The four pyramids of the Muttart Conservatory are some of Edmonton’s most iconic structures. Each pyramid maintains a distinct environment and contains hundreds of plants relevant to a specific biome. Whether you are exploring the tropical pyramid or the arid pyramid, you are sure to encounter exotic plants you may not have seen before.
Visitors can get close to more than 300 species of exotic and native animals at the quaint Valley Zoo located on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. The zoo is currently undergoing a $50 million renovation that will update all facilities and include the construction of a new Arctic Shores Exhibit that will recreate an Arctic shoreline and serve as a home to seals, sea lions, Arctic foxes and ground squirrels.