River and Recreational conditions update

July 6th 2022 River Conditions update

United States Bureau of Reclamation diversion from the St Mary’s River to the Milk River is scheduled to stay at 600cfs for the month of July. Recent rains throughout the watershed ranged from 2.5 inches in the western portion of the basin to 1 inch in the east resulting in some higher sediment loads and flow. Flows east of the Town of Milk River are expected to stay within the 16-20m3/s range which is excellent for river recreation. If you are planning a trip down the river, be prepared, temperatures within the river valley are often 10 degrees higher that recorded on the upper bench. Though a great paddling river, hazards are often exposed with a lower flow and recent rock face falls near Poverty Rock have been reported to cause concerns for unexperienced and unexpecting river users. Please do not trespass and pack out all your garbage. Don’t forget to stop in town for supplies and support our local businesses!

Milk River at Milk River Yearly Graph

Recreational users – projected stable flows will make for ideal floating conditions for the entire summer and early fall season. Conditions can change rapidly so watch for updates before you go.

 A few notes regarding river safety:

PLAN your trip well in advance.

Ensure you know your route, access points, and have adequate supplies!

Know your limitations. Though it may seem like a sleepy prairie river, the Milk has many challenging areas and hazards to be aware of, if you run into problems there is often poor or zero cell service for emergency services to find or reach you and a hike out over dangerous terrain is common.

If you are planning on using any Alberta Parks services or camping such as at Poverty Rock contact administration at Writing on Stone Park for advice ahead of time. Space is limited.

RESPECT Private property, do not trespass or litter along the river.

Heat is as or more dangerous as cold! With temperatures anticipated in the low to mid 30s next week, users must understand that temperatures along the river valley and hoodoos are frequently 5-10 degrees hotter than above the valley floor. Pack sufficient water! Avoid early afternoon trips.


  • Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park (Áísínai’pi National Historic Site):


Random camping at Poverty Rock is now be permitted. To aid in reducing capacity as per regulations, you will need to call 403-647-2364 ext 301 to make your free reservation for use of the river-access-only site.

*As this is new this year, please inform other paddlers and people in your networks of this change.

Outhouse facilities will be open where feasible - be prepared with your own hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

 Please note there is a fire ban currently in place at all Alberta Provincial Parks and Recreation Areas including Poverty Rock.

 Paddlers planning multi-day trips who wish to leave their vehicles at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park must call 403-647-2364 ext 301 to obtain a permit and parking locations.


  Fire ban currently in place

  • Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park:
  • Del Bonita Campground:
    • Camping is by donation. There are camp shelters and outhouse facilities on site. This campground makes for a good stopping location for a North Fork canoe trip from a local crossing or the 501 bridge West of Del Bonita. Canoes are recommended to stop above the campground as hazards are located below the bridge deck.
    • Del Bonita County Association, Phone: (403) 758-6211
  • Gold Springs Park:
  • Eight Flags Campground (Town of Milk River):

Canoe Access Points

Canoe the Milk River

*The river will not be safe for paddling for summer 2020*

Canoeing the Milk River is one of the best ways of exploring the watershed! But conditions can change rapidly and often temperatures on the river can significantly exceed recorded temperatures above the river valley. Pre-planning your trip is critical to ensure a fun and safe adventure. Times between legal and safe take out locations vary significantly. Please use the following information to help plan your expedition: 


The Milk River watershed offers numerous opportunities for tourism and recreation. Hunting, hiking, canoeing, wildlife viewing, camping and other recreational activities attract numerous users to the area every year. With public use increasing, it is important to have access guidelines and conditions in place that protect agricultural operators and their livestock, that ensure the safety of recreational users, and that protect water bodies, riparian areas and other important landscape and environmental features which draw recreation users to the basin.

Access is also sought to private lands: by hunters pursuing waterfowl, upland birds or big game; and by recreational users who need to cross private land to gain access to the Milk River (or other water bodies), and to particular landscape features. Recreationists should understand that preserving the existing rights of landowners and leaseholders with respect to privacy, production value and commercial value of their land is crucial.

Due to the large area of public land in Alberta the province has developed a recreational access policy that ensures reasonable access to public lands for recreational users while ensuring that livestock/agricultural operators can protect their herds and the grasslands that sustain them.

The Recreational Access Regulation, which falls under the Public Lands Act, is legislation that provides for the needs of recreationists and disposition holders on public lands. The regulation outlines how recreational use of public land can occur in a responsible and sustainable fashion while protecting the rights and livelihood of disposition holders.

Water forecast

Due to the influence of the St Mary River Water on the Milk River it is critically important to watch river flow conditions before venturing out for water sports activities. Low flows cause significant hazards with exposed rocks and sand bars which can easily strand users in dangerous situations. A minimum flow of 18m3/s should be observed at the Milk River gauging station before attempting any trip on the river.

Milk River flow at Milk River Gauging station link: