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No problems on Red Deer River from recent rain

Rafting season on the horizon
Red Deer Emergency Services’ rescue airboat is used for open water and ice rescues. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Red Deer River is flowing at a faster rate through the city after this week’s rain, but hasn’t risen to a level of concern for city officials.

The flow on the Red Deer River was at about 54 cubic metres per second on Friday morning compared to 25 cubic metres per second at 9 p.m. on Thursday, according to river basin data available online from Alberta Environment and Parks at

Curtis Schaefer, assistant deputy chief with Red Deer Emergency Services, said emergency management monitors the river regularly for any significant changes.

“When things increase, if it gets to a rate that increases the danger level, we’ll do public safety messaging about staying away or staying off the river,” Schaefer said.

Alberta Environment and Protected Areas says most of the snow from the upper headwater has melted, and the Red Deer River has been generally below normal to normal range for the past few weeks and is now within normal for this time of the year. There are no flooding concerns at this time.


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But Schaefer said people should always practice water safety on or near the river.

“Even though our river in Red Deer runs low a good part of the year, there are still deep spots that can cause trouble for people. So always be cautious of the depth and the movement of the water anytime you’re operating around it. It doesn’t look fast in spots, but it can be faster under the surface and deeper as well than we perceive.”

He said activity on the river typically doesn’t increase until July when school is finished and more people are taking holidays.

So far no water rescues have been required.

“Every summer we seem to have a couple of floaters getting stuck on a sand bar or rock bar and need help.

“The flotation devices they purchase from various stores, they’re not all necessarily designed to be in moving water. They’re designed for pools or lake activity without the current so they can become punctured on a rock or they’re difficult to steer.”

Later in August when the sun sets earlier, people can also get caught out on the river when it starts to get dark and may need assistance, he added.


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Red Deer Emergency Services acquired an airboat in 2019 for water rescues, which can also be used on ice.

Also known as a fanboat, or swampboat, the propeller on the flat-bottom boat is above the water, making it suitable for shallow water. The craft also does well in flood situations because it is not as affected by debris.

Schaefer said airboat crews are out regularly on the river for training during summer.

Red Deer River flows into Gleniffer Reservoir and through Dickson Dam, and Alberta Environment says reservoir levels are average for this time of year, while outflows from the dam are currently slightly below average for this time of year.

Other natural uncontrolled rivers also enter the Red Deer River below Dickson Dam, such as the Medicine, Little Red, and Blindman Rivers.

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Susan Zielinski

About the Author: Susan Zielinski

Susan has been with the Red Deer Advocate since 2001. Her reporting has focused on education, social and health issues.
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