Thursday, July 19, 2018

Family Camping in Pembina River Provincial Park

We traveled north to Yellowhead County for the July long weekend and camped in Pembina River Provincial Park, west of Edmonton.

Riverside camping in Pembina River Provincial Park

Pembina River Provincial Park is located an hour west of Edmonton, just outside the towns of Entwistle and Evansburg. It is a fun park to explore in the summer months when the river is safe for family tubing and floating. We also discovered several fun bike parks in surrounding towns and took a day trip to the Town of Edson.

Floating down the gentle Pembina River 

Camping in Pembina River Provincial Park 

We had one of the riverside sites in the Pembina River Campground (Site E-89 to be specific.) We loved our site for the river views and for the relative privacy. And trust me, this is a campground where privacy is KEY.

Many of the sites are extremely open and you'll feel as if you're camped on top of your neighbors if you don't choose wisely. If you're camping with friends or with a group of other families though, you'll love the open feeling of this campground. 

Playground with campsites backing on to it

There were several sites that backed right on to the playground (sites in the F loop from 109 - 113 would be premier sites for this) and I could see this being prime real estate for families who want to sit back with a beer while supervising the kids from their campsite. 

Once you get further back from the river (loops A-C) the sites get a bit bigger (and more private) but you'll lose the riverside feeling. 

Of the 132 sites in the campground, 96 can be reserved. Loops B and C are first come first serve.

Riverside site in the E loop 

The only other caution I'd give is that this was not one of the quieter campgrounds we've stayed at. We didn't find much enforcing of quiet time hours and most campsites were playing music (often quite loudly.) If you cherish your peace and quiet when camping, you might want to consider a peaceful mountain campground instead. 

If however, you want to spend your days playing in the river, sending the kids off to the playground, and chilling at camp - and you're content to listen to a bit of good natured noise around you, this is a great campground. It is also a fabulous spot for groups of friends since many campsites are very close together. 

The river was a lot of fun to play in at the Pembina River Campground

Trails for Hiking and Biking in Pembina River Provincial Park 

My son loved the wide riverside trail that took you from the far end of the campground in the E loop to the other end where there's a public day use area, playground, and ice-cream truck. He found a dirt jump along the trail where he spent hours every day with other kids, all riding back and forth trying to get air on the small jump. It was great entertainment and made for easy supervision on our part.

Playing on the dirt jump located on the riverside pathway through the campground

We biked all the way to the day use area and also enjoyed this trail for evening walks. One evening we also took a short hike to a viewpoint over the river from nearby trails, taking the Peregrine Falcon Trail from a parking lot outside Entwistle.

Viewpoint from the Peregrine Falcon Trail in Pembina River Provincial Park 
Biking through the Pembina River Campground

Floating the Pembina River 

This is the main reason most people visit Pembina River Provincial Park and we were determined to get on the water - even though it was a very chilly weekend for spending hours in cold water.

We drove to the Pembina River Tubing parking area and started from there. We didn't need to rent anything but the company takes care of every need you could possibly have should you arrive without tubes or rafts. You can rent tubes, pay for a return shuttle from the Pembina River Provincial Park Campground, pay to get your own tubes inflated, or just pay for the shuttle if you have your own tubes.

Know that there is a $5 parking fee even if you have your own boats or tubes. (and I can't remember if they took credit cards for parking so best bring some cash.)

Chilling out along the Pembina River

Other important things to know about floating the Pembina River:

  • You'll end at the public day use area in the campground. We actually continued past the day use area right to our campsite. From camp, it's a short bike ride back to where you've parked your vehicle if you don't want to pay for a shuttle. My husband biked back and it took him 15 minutes to complete the ride (plus driving time.)

  • Bring bug spray!!! The path that you'll take down to the river is dreadful for mosquitoes and we ended up with several bites all over our arms and legs. Once you're on the river, it's fine. It's just the walk down (which takes about 10 minutes.)

  • It's best to take lightweight tubes or inflatable boats. I can't imagine carrying heavy kayaks, canoes, or even stand up paddleboards down to the river.10 minutes is a long walk when carrying boats.

  • There are a LOT of rocks, many sections with small waves and rapids, and sections where you will likely get stuck if the water is low. I can't recommend doing this on a stand up paddleboard (I contemplated it until I did it first in a tube.) You're also going to want to make sure you have a GOOD solid tube (not a $5 Walmart special.) 

My husband used an inflatable raft with a real kayak paddle to help  steer our family down the river

  • Make sure you have something to steer yourself with (even if tubing.) There are calm sections where you won't move without a bit of light paddling, and then there are rocky sections where you'll want to be able to steer around boulders. You'll also pass under one bridge that has giant pillars (and you don't want to run straight into a pillar!) If you rent a tube from the company there, you'll get frisbee paddles that are attached to the tube (so you can't drop them in the river and lose them.)

  • Even if you're tubing with the kids, I recommend at least one member of your party have an inflatable raft so that you can carry a dry bag, water bottles, snacks, and extra layers of clothes or towels.

  • Check the recommended age limit before planning a trip down the river. The Pembina River Tubing company lists what they recommend on their website. By July it's usually open for all ages. (Before that, it might be recommended for adults only or for youth 12+.)

  • Prepare to spend at least 3 hours on the river. Pack water bottles and snacks with you, and plan ahead for how you'll handle it if the children get cold. My son was freezing and in hindsight we should have packed him a towel to wrap around himself. It also started raining when we were on the water and I wish we would have had rain jackets with us.

    Know that this might also be too much for some kids. My son doesn't really have the attention span to sit in a tube for 3 hours. If your kids won't enjoy a long float consider just floating through the campground, bringing larger rafts with water guns and other toys, or try taking breaks along the banks to throw rocks in the water.

  • Passing under the large double bridges along the Pembina River

  • Tie boats together so that you don't get separated from each other. Just pay attention as you go under the final bridge and consider separating yourselves so that you don't clothesline yourselves around a pillar.

  • Pay attention to the weather report!! We started early because we knew there was a risk for thunderstorms later in the day. We saw many people out on the water later in the day and I'm positive some of them would have been caught in the storm that did eventually blow through.

  • Good water sandals or shoes are a must because the river is quite rocky in spots.(though my son had to eventually take his off because his feet were cold.)  Life jackets of course are also imperative and I don't recommend floating down the river in nothing but a bikini! The water is chilly and storms can blow through. 
Floating through the campground 

Exploring the Bike Parks and Concrete Pump Tracks of Yellowhead County 

Visiting the area bike parks will be a highlight of our entire 2018 summer season. 

There are 5 concrete pump tracks in Yellowhead County, with the closest one in the nearby Town of Evansburg right outside the campground.

Evansburg Pump Track near Pembina River Provincial Park

The parks are located in the small towns of Evansburg, Wildwood, Niton Junction, Peers, and Marlboro. There is also a concrete flow track at the Edson Skatepark for a total of 6 interesting parks you should visit. (we hit 5 of the 6 while camping at Pembina River Provincial Park.)

The pump tracks are fun for the entire family! 

While all of the parks are fairly similar, there are a few highlights to note:

Evansburg Park - the Biggest! 

Niton Junction - Has an AWESOME playground beside it! There's also an older school playground right next door along with an outdoor swimming pool.

Niton Junction Pump Track + Playground 

Peers - Has a fun little playground beside it as well.

Edson - Play on the concrete flow track and at the skatepark, both at the same location.

And you'll find directions for each park on Google Maps. Just search "name of town + pump track."

Edson SkatePark and Flow Track 

Road Trip Stops En Route To and From Pembina River Provincial Park 

Below are some of the suggested stops I have for you (based on experience from our previous road trips north from Calgary.)

Devon Bike Park en route to Pembina River Provincial Park 

Visit the Alberta Parks website for more information on camping and exploring in Pembina River Provincial Park

Disclaimer: I am an Alberta Parks Ambassador and received complimentary camping in this park. As always, all words and opinions are my own. 

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