Have you been itching for a quiet getaway? Head to Kakwa River Provincial Recreation Area, where you can spend a few nights off the grid, alongside the beautiful Kakwa River. This recreation area is strictly user-maintained and as a result offers campsites free of charge. Located 100km (62 mi) south of Grand Prairie, Kakwa River Provincial Recreation Area is a great place to stop for the night. If you are lucky enough to get one of the four available campsites, you might even use this spot as a base to explore the area's beautiful surroundings.
The Kakwa River originates from Kakwa Lake in British Columbia, and it flows northeast through Alberta until it converges with the Smoky River. Kakwa, in Cree, means "porcupine," and it was aptly named due to the abundance of porcupines along the river banks. There are many outdoor activities to keep the whole family entertained here. You can go fishing for trout, hike along the river, or bring your equestrian friend for some exploring of the informal trails in the vicinity.
The closest city to Kakwa River Provincial Recreation Site is Grand Prairie, which is about 100 km (62 mi) north of the park. From Grand Prairie, head south on Hwy 40 for 95.7 km (59.5 mi) until you get to Kakwa River Road. Hwy 40 is nicely paved and maintained, so it should be an easy drive down to the park entrance. Turn left onto Kakwa River Road, and you'll head 0.5 km (0.3 mi) down a dirt road to the campground. The dirt road may be overgrown and narrow, so make sure to drive slowly and attentively as you head into the park. Luckily, the campground isn't too far, so you won't need to navigate carefully for too long.
Kakwa River campground is very small and only has four campsites in the park. It's also first come first served, so try to get there early, although you might not find much competition given how remote this park is.
This is specifically a user-maintained campground, meaning the only services available are vault toilets, firepits and firewood, and water through a pump. The rest of the maintenance of the park is up to its visitors, so make sure that you leave no trace and clean up all of your trash and food. The park also highly recommends bringing your own drinking water - although they do have a pump, it is not always certain that the water is potable.
The campground is pretty open and flat, faces the river, and is surrounded by beautiful trees to give some extra shade in the afternoon sun. Each campsite has its own picnic table and firepit, and pets are allowed only if leashed.
The best part about this campground, though, is that because it is so remote and user maintained, there's no fee for camping here, so pack up and get ready to go off grid.
If you need a break from fishing, take a hike along the river. From the campground, you'll find a trail that leads you to the river, and from there, you can explore the Kakwa riverbank. While you're hiking, remember that this park is user-maintained so tread carefully and pack out all of the trash you bring in.
There are also some hiking options outside of the park in case you're looking for more of a challenge. Since Kakwa River Provincial Recreation Site is free, it could serve as a great camping option while you explore the mountains southwest of the park. Head to Mt. Hammel, about a 45 minute drive south along Hwy 40, for a challenging 20 km (12.4 mi) hike that will climb 1371 m (4500 ft) to the summit. If you're not feeling like tackling an adventurous summit, drive about 3 km (1.8 mi) further south to the Twin Falls trailhead, an easy 3.2km (2 mi) out and back that will lead you to a nice waterfall.
Fishing is very popular along the Kakwa River, however, Kakwa River Provincial Recreation Area is strictly a catch and release area. While fishing in these flowing waters, you might catch some Arctic grayling, Rocky Mountain whitefish, rainbow trout, and bull trout. Bring your poles, revel in the solitude, and enjoy some sport fishing along the Kakwa River.
If you're not looking to explore on foot, horseback riding is allowed in Kakwa River Provincial Recreation Area. Although there are no developed trails in the area, there are some informal trails that you could follow and explore, so bring along your equestrian friends and get ready for an adventure. The campground has a corral for your horses as well.
While you are exploring, keep in mind the site's leave no trace principles and try your best to stay on the informal trails without disturbing the surrounding vegetation and wildlife.
Although Kakwa River Provincial Recreation Area is closed during the off-season, there are still many winter activities that you can do around the area. Wapiti Nordic Ski Club, just south of Grand Prairie, has about 35 km (22 mi) of cross country ski trails in the area. If cross-country skiing is new to you, they've got plenty of classes for both adults and kids, ranging from beginner level, refresher courses, and intermediate skate skiing.
Cross-country skiing isn't the only activity available on the winter trails around the area. Grab your snowshoes and poles and head out onto one of the many snowshoe trails to explore in the Alberta winter wonderland. Although both the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails are located and maintained in the same area, make sure you don't snowshoe on cross-country ski trails. Doing so would require much more labor in grooming and maintaining the trials.
Have you ever gone biking in the snow? If you've got a fat bike, or can rent one, there are new multi-use trails that allow biking around the Grand Prairie Area. Some of the trails can be found again in the Wapiti Nordic Ski Club, but there are also local trails at South Bear Creek, the Dunes paved trails and Crown land in Evergreen Park. Before you head out on the trail, go over the fat bike trail etiquette signs and make sure your tires have the correct tire pressure for the trail.