Milk River: Milk River Town to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park (3 days / 73 km)

Beautiful clay rocks in Milk River to Canoe

Alberta may be landlocked, but there are plenty of waterways to explore. I was thrilled to finally plan a canoe trip on the infamous Milk River. Lewis Meriwether (of the Lewis and Clark expedition) named this river after its opaque and milky appearance. Once you see the water, it’s easy to understand where the name came from. The Milk runs from Montana through the southern Alberta Badlands and is around 1,173 km long.

Paddling 73 km from the town of Milk River to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is an excellent 3-day canoe trip. I’d highly recommend this route for intermediate river paddlers, as class II and III rapid sections require some canoe skills. Due to the number of boulders, you’ll want to make sure the water levels are high enough before heading out. There’s even a stretch called The Rock Garden.

Blackfoot Indigenous communities thrived on the land surrounding “Kináksisahtai” or “Little River” for thousands of years. That’s the Blackfoot name for the Milk River. Today, you can still find cultural signs like rock carvings and paintings near the river.

Trip Completed: June 2021

Trip Summary

Starting Point: Town of Milk River—Under 8 Flags Campground

Ending Point: Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

Total Distance: 73 km

Duration: 3 days

Difficulty: Intermediate

Location

If you’re driving from Calgary, head south through Lethbridge and then take Highway 4 toward the town of Milk River. It’s about a 3-hour drive. The Milk River town is only half an hour from the Alberta-Montana border.

Wendy and Ken Brown will provide their address if you plan to rent canoes or use their shuttle service. Otherwise, head straight to the boat launch at the Upper 8 Flags Campground next to the bridge. You’re permitted to park at the campground.

Traditional Territory: The Milk River flows through the traditional territory of the Blackfoot/Niitsitpiis peoples.

Maps & Resources

Guidebook: Mark’s Guide for Alberta Paddle...

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