River & Water Safety
The South Saskatchewan River flows through the heart of Saskatoon, providing leisure and spectacular scenery. Residents are reminded to be cautious near the South Saskatchewan River and large bodies of water.
The Saskatoon Fire Department and Saskatoon Police Service operate a Joint River Patrol within the city to promote safety and enforce respective laws, acts, bylaws and regulations.
If you experience an emergency on or near the river, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Know before you go
Evaluate weather, equipment and water conditions from the shore before going on rivers, lakes and waterways:
- Assess the water for changing currents
- Plan your route using the River Zoning Map
- Scout potential hazards or obstacles
- Check the weather conditions and note any river advisories
- Inspect your watercraft for safety preparedness
In the event you witness someone in distress in the river:
- Call 9-1-1 immediately to report the incident, noting details about the individual, time and situation.
- Keep track of recognizable landmarks around the area where the individual was first seen in distress in the water.
- Coach the individual from the shore’s edge on the below tips for water self-rescue.
In the event that you are in distress in the river:
- Stay calm.
- Keep your head above the water.
- Remove any heavy or bulky clothing items.
- Move with the current as you work your way to the shore’s edge.
The Saskatoon Fire Department Dive Rescue Team can perform surface rescues in high current but diving underwater is dangerous. For the safety of the diving team, water rescues must be suspended when the flow is more than 450 cubic meters per second.
Swimming prohibited in the South Saskatchewan River
Bylaw No. 4433 prohibits swimming in the South Saskatchewan River within city limits. Wading or walking through the water is permitted unless otherwise posted. Protective footwear is recommended when walking along the river’s shore or sandbar to avoid cuts and abrasions from sharp rocks or other hazards.
Watercrafts & public boat launch
Operating watercraft on the South Saskatchewan River is permitted where posted and requires proof of competency. Watercraft operators are required to have a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD) on board for each person on a watercraft; this includes both human- and motor-powered crafts.
River users should maintain proper river etiquette, and be considerate of others on the waterway by:
- Operating your craft at a safe speed
- Maintaining a respectful distance from other river users
- Not operating a craft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Ensuring your craft is equipped with appropriate markers and lighting
- Caring for the environment by properly launching, fueling, starting, and loading your craft
When launching a pleasure craft or boating on the river, operators should be familiar with boating regulations and follow the Transport Canada Safe Boating Guide.
Saskatoon's public boat launch closes when flow rates meet or exceed 1,000 cubic metres per second.
Engaging in the consumption of drugs and/or alcohol when in or around the river presents an increased risk to one’s safety. These substances are capable of influencing your ability to function and increase the likelihood of a water-related emergency.
Changing flow rates
The speed of the South Saskatchewan River through Saskatoon has been known to change from 50 to 2,300 cubic meters per second within a very short period of time. As a general rule, when the river flows increase, the water levels rise, and the water moves faster. Residents are reminded to obey all public warmings about flow rates and never go near the river when flow rates are high.
The South Saskatchewan River is equipped with a weir to alter the flow and discharge of water along the river. This barrier produces a powerful backwash of water that is capable of trapping objects and people. The weir must never be approached and should only be viewed from a safe distance.
During the winter, the ice on the river is unstable. It is never safe to walk on the river’s ice.