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Welcome to the

Cochrane River Wave Park

Information Site

Cochrane River Wave Park example of Mountain Wave facility

The Cochrane River Wave Park

Pictured here is Matthew Robertson on The Mountain wave during the first North American River Surfing Championships in 2017.

Wave by the Alberta River Surfing Association & Surf Anywhere. Photo by Robert Bishop Photography.

Excitement Ahead

Cochrane can have excellent surfing waves and an urban beach at River Avenue Bridge. This combination of recreational waves and the accessible beach will result in substantial cultural, economic, and environmental benefits that will last generations. This project will capture some of the global surf tourism which is valued at $50 billion a year.

The waves and urban beaches are expected to generate $2,200,000 to $6,200,000 per year in new economic activity from wave users alone and generate millions of positive impressions every year from around the world. The Bend, Oregon, river wave park generated $4,800,000 in economic impacts in 2017 based on an economic impact study. The waves will have no impact on flood risk or on river levels during a flood.

The total cost of the project including construction is expected to be just under $10M including 40% contingency.

Project Details

Areas of the Cochrane River Wave Park

WAVE

Cochrane River Wave Park rendering wave

The good wave is the driver of economic activity. Good waves are scarce and in very high
demand and global wave tourism is valued at $50B a year. Good waves create a spectacle for
people to come to the area and draw users, families, and businesses.

SUPPORTING FACILITY

Cochrane River Wave Park Supporting Facility

The supporting facility creates a complete experience for the area. The facility supports wave,
spectator and area usage assists with events and helps people stay in Cochrane longer.

People will be able to rent equipment, take lessons, warm-up, and cool down from river sessions, have some food and drink, and take part in educational courses on river environment, safety, and history.

Casual floaters on the Cochrane Water use the facility as an endpoint and a shuttle pickup location to return to downtown or to the launch at the riverside park.

RIVER ACCESS

Cochrane River Wave Park River Access

There is improved river access that provides an excellent exit for casual floaters on the
Cochrane Water Trail, easy access for people training in the flat water above the wave, and a convenient launch for people going downstream.

The river access encourages people to safely connect with the river.

NATURAL CHANNEL

CRWP Natural Channel

The south channel is a natural channel that ensures unobstructed fish and boat passage.
Portages will be built into the reinforced island along with improved riparian and fish habitat.

DOG PARK AND PATHWAY

Cochrane River Wave Park and Dog Park

The existing dog park and pathway will remain. The area will provide an improved experience
for existing users.

CONCEPTUAL LAYOUT OF THE COCHRANE RIVER WAVE PARK

Cochrane River Wave Park Concept Design

WATER TRAIL AND SHUTTLES

Cochrane River Wave Park Water Trail and Shuttles

Map of proposed water trail and shuttles that will open up the river for recreational use and
transport visitors around Cochrane.

Project Plan

Waves are in high demand globally and global wave tourism is valued at $50B per year. Cochrane is looking for new and effective ways to generate economic activity and improve the community. The Cochrane River Wave Park combines these opportunities into a major economic, cultural, and environmental benefit for Cochrane. The plan for this stage of the project is:

  • Feasibility and concept design by Surf Anywhere (Complete)
  • Receive approval from the Town of Cochrane and key other groups to proceed with this project
  • Confirm project funding and continue to build project support including additional stakeholder consultations
  • Engineering analysis to confirm there are no issues that would stop the project
  • The decision by the Town of Cochrane and key other groups on whether to continue with the project.
Project completion would be between 2024 and 2029 provided all approvals, funding, and support are received.
Cochrane River Wave Park Examples

We are ready

We have already completed a 200+ page feasibility study.

The Cochrane Tourism Association is working with Calgary based Surf Anywhere to develop this project.  The project is possible and we are in the stakeholder outreach, support building, and conceptual engineering phase.  In 2020, we completed a 200+ page Feasibility Study and Concept Design.  The next steps are completing conceptual and preliminary engineering and our initials requests for support from municipal, provincial, and federal governments.

The river conditions at the River Avenue Bridge location allow for world-class, adjustable waves all year except for during floods and heavy ice coverage.  The wave-making structures will collapse flat to the river bottom before and during flood season to completely avoid any effect on river levels during floods. The development will make this section of the river more enjoyable for all river users, will improve the river and riverbank ecosystems, will create a vibrant cultural anchor on the Bow River, and with result in millions every year in additional economic activity.

For more information or to support the project, contact Jo-Anne Oucharek, Executive Director of the Cochrane Tourism Association at info@cochranetourism.ca.

This page is always under development as the project progresses and more details will be added.

Cochrane River Wave Park Logo
Cochrane River Wave Park Examples

Project Supporters

At the feasibility study stage, the Project already has strong support from the government, business, not-for-profit, community, and river user support that is expected to expand as the project develops.

Supporting organizations and representatives include:

Government

  • Cochrane Mayor Genung
  • Cochrane Town Councillor Fedeyko
  • Cochrane & District Chamber of Commerce
  • Economic Recovery Task Force
  • Town of Cochrane Business Development
  • Peter Guthrie, P. Eng, MLA Airdrie-Cochrane
  • Blake Richards, MP, Banff-Airdrie

 

Business

  • Aquabatics
  • Cochrane Business Network
  • Gypsy Caravan
  • Hunter Valley Adventures
  • Bruce Kendall, Business Developer’s Liaison
  • Surf Anywhere

Not for profits

  • Cochrane Environmental Action Committee
  • Cochrane Rotary Club
  • Cochrane Tourism
  • Spray Lakes Family Sports Centre

 

Provincial Wave User Associations

  • Alberta River Surfing Association
  • Alberta Whitewater Association

 

National Sports Organizations

  • CSA Surf Canada
  • Canoe Kayak Canada

Frequently Asked Questions

Latest Update - February 17, 2021

Economic Benefits, Costs & ROI

The Cochrane River Wave Park is a proven large driver of tourism that will attract new people to visit Alberta and encourage businesses and families to move to Alberta. The planning and construction process will employ Albertans.

Once operating, the project will generate over $5M each year in economic activity. This project aligns with the Alberta Government Economic Development, Trade and Tourism: Ministry Business Plan 2020 – 2023. In particular, the project aligns with Key Objective 4.3 to “grow new, expanded and refreshed tourism products in support of destination and seasonal diversification.”

Global surf tourism is valued at $50 billion per year. The waves will generate between $1,800,000 to $6,000,000 a year in new economic activity from wave users alone. Alberta has only minimal surf-related economic activity and this will be a new economic activity. Existing river waves around the world generate millions a year in economic activity for the surrounding areas.

The Bend, Oregon, river wave park generated $4,800,000 in economic impacts in 2017.

As of 2020, the early budget cost is $9,970,000 including 40% contingency.

Payback is expected to be between 3 to 7 years. Return on investment is based on 9 months of usage and two waves in parallel or one wide wave. The 3 year ROI includes either all river wave park users including spectators and families with 30% wave usage capacity or 100% wave usage capacity and no other users. The 7-year return only includes wave user spending with usage at 30% of capacity.

 

The spending is created by wave users and spectators coming to the area. The average surfer spends $62.50 per surf session and makes $75,000 per year. The spending is based on lodgings, food, gas, equipment, and additional local spending.

There will always be at least two operating surf waves at this location. The two waves provide a total of 100,000 two-hour-long surf sessions from March to November each year. This spending only includes wave user spending and does not include spectator spending.

Spending numbers come from major US and UK studies of surfer spending.

Yes. River wave parks are proven economic activity generators with examples going back 35 years. Good, free to use river wave parks consistently generate millions in economic activity each year.

Every year there are new pumped wave facilities being constructed around the world that cost tens of millions of dollars and generate profits. There are multiple private, pay-to-use river wave parks around the world.

The current market rate for wave riding at a commercial facility is $1 / minute which means the wave usage at the Cochrane River Wave Park has a market value of over $3M at only 30% capacity

The Cochrane waves will be predictable, if you plan a vacation a year in advance and spend thousands of dollars you know the waves will be there when you arrive. Wave users and spectators get more time with waves in one day in Cochrane than in a month at the ocean because river waves are always working.

Cochrane offers a huge variety of high-quality and other accessible attractions.

Yes, the economic impacts have taken Cochrane’s weather into account.

The winter months have no usage, spring and fall have reduced usage and the flood season has reduced usage. Wave users travel for predictable waves in cold weather.

There is heavy usage of the existing Kananaskis surf wave all winter even at night. Bend, Oregon, with a similar river wave park has similar weather, and the park generated $4.8M in economic activity 1 year after opening. In the summer of 2017, the first full summer after opening, the Bend River Trail had 181,000 users. In all of 2017, the Bend River waves were estimated to have 17,000 to 33,000 visits and many times that the number of spectators.

 

Bend, Oregon, average temperatures

 

Cochrane, Alberta, average temperatures

There is no competition outside of the coasts and the southern United States. The closest good waves are over 1,000 kilometers away on the Pacific ocean.

The map below shows surf waves and is from MagicSeaweed (https://magicseaweed.com/). The light blue markers are ocean waves. The blue dots are consistent river waves. The red dot is the Project location.

A 2015 study on housing prices within walking distance of a surf break showed that houses close to a surf break had an increased value of $100,000 (about 10% of the average house value in the study) compared to houses further away from a surf break.

The money for the project will come through a combination of community fundraising, local donations, local partnerships, corporate donations of goods and services, events, grants and public funds.

Well built river waves have very minimal ongoing costs.  The design will make the minimal seasonal maintenance very easy to perform. There maybe large costs following major flood events but the Alberta RSA will permanently maintain a large fund to cover these costs.

The lifespan is at least 25 years.

The supporting facility will generate enough income to pay for the upgrades at the end of the lifespan as well as annual operating costs. Funds will be put away every to pay for upgrades at the end of the lifespan.

As per the recommendations in the feasibility study, the River Wave Park will be operated by a newly formed, local organization.

Indoor waves powered by pumps cost millions to build and when operating require the same amount of electricity as an entire neighbourhood.

Outdoor pool based waves cost tens of millions and also have high operating costs. Powered wave generation facilities have high user fees.

River wave park projects have minimal operating costs, improve the environment, operations do not contribute to climate change, can provide both free and pay-to-use wave recreation, and create a river trail.

Community Consultations

Feedback is currently being collected via the feedback button on this website. Extensive community consultations and stakeholder outreach will be completed in future stages of the project. Community consultations and stakeholder outreach are a very important part of this project,

The feasibility study focused on technical considerations, economic impacts, and environmental impacts to determine if the project was worth pursuing. Community consultations were outside of the scope of the feasibility study.

Earlier this year, project information was distributed to all community associations listed on the Town of Cochrane Community Associations Webpage.

Using the Cochrane River Wave Park

The river wave park is designed and planned for all to enjoy and will be used by large numbers of Cochrane Residents and visitors with thousands of visitors & users each year.

The river wave park will be used as a meeting place, like a river access point, as a recreation area, as a classroom, as a research area, as a place to appreciate the river and many other users. The river wave park will be enjoyed by youth, adults, the elderly, surfers, rafters, swimmers, sunbathers, SUPers, casual floaters, paddlers, walkers, waders, environmentalists, and anyone who enjoys experiencing the river. The area will include access to the riverside for both river entrance and exit. The access will mobility friendly.

As the best river access in Cochrane, the area will become a regular take-out and put-in point for Bow River floats and paddles.

Spectators and Sunbathers

The beautiful look and sound of the waves will provide a great background for people to enjoy the river. The river recreation will create lots of action for people to enjoy while relaxing on the sunny river banks and bridges.

Rafters & Floaters

The area will be safe for rafters and floaters and provide easy and safe entrance and exit from the river. The river upstream of the wave will be slow and deep making it easy for unskilled rafters and floaters to paddle to the bank. There will be ramps both upstream and downstream of the wave that allow easy river exit and entrance with small rafts. There will be signage notifying rafters and floaters of the wave and the river exits. Rafters and floaters will be able to avoid the wave by taking the south channel or getting out of the river and walking around. If rafters and floaters go over the wave, they will have a fun ride and may fall out of the raft and will then float downstream.

Swimmers

The area upstream of the wave will be slow-moving and deep and will provide a swimming area. Swimmers can go over the waves and will float through the waves and downstream without stopping.

SUPers & Paddlers

The flat and slow-moving water upstream of the wave and the access and exit ramps will provide an easy way for paddlers to leave and enter the river. Paddlers will be able to float over the wave and downstream.

Environmentalist and Nature Lovers

The eroding riverbanks will be stabilized and habitat improvements around the wave will create a small and accessible natural area. The signage about the river ecosystem and positive river experiences will create good connections between people and the river and more people with care about protecting our rivers.

Students

The Cochrane River Wave Park will provide an engaging classroom for students to learn about how river the works, about river ecosystems, river safety and about the physics of wave formation. The area will also allow for school surf competitions. The summer junior river safety & surf program will provide youth training on river safety, river usage, and provide improved river safety for all users.

Research

The river wave park will allow ongoing research into successful urban beach strategies and different ways to shape river waves.

Surfers, kayakers, and wave riders

The waves will provide excellent waves for all levels and types of waves user and become a major wave tourism destination.

Flood Risk

The wave will reduce flood risks because it creates more space in the river for water to flow. The structures that make the waves completely collapse to the river bottom.  When the structures are flattened there is a decrease in current river levels.  The structures will be flattened well in advance of flood times.

The aim is to reduce ice jam formation. There will be an extensive study of ice jam formation in the area and on the effect of the river wave park on ice jam formation. The design will be adjusted to minimize ice jam formation.

Yes, the technology has been used across the world and functions extremely well in rivers like the Bow with high flows and lots of material being moved downriver.

The waves and beach will return to normal operation shortly after the high water recedes.  These types of waves have gone through major floods many times and in many different locations around the world and come through with no or minimal problems.

The structures are designed so that if there is a failure then they fully collapse.  When the structures are collapsed they do not affect river levels.

No. During reservoir normal operating levels, the river wave park is 2.5m higher than the level of the reservoir. During major flood events, the reservoir would submerge the river wave park. The project area is outlined in red below. The dark blue line is the reservoir’s normal operating level. The light blue area is the maximum reservoir capacity during large flood events.

 Key Technologies

River waves are created by controlling how the water flows from a high point. There are two key technologies involved, a water level controlling technology and a wave creating technology.

The water level technology controls the water level upstream of the waver and controls which wave(s) get water. This technology also makes it easy for future inspection and maintenance. The water level controlling technology is intended to be Obermeyer Gates or the equivalent.  The gates consist of large plates anchored to a concrete foundation.  The plates are raised and lowered by large bladders or hydraulics or pneumatics. There will be a way to mechanically and manually raise the gates should there be any equipment problems.

 

Side profile diagram of Obermeyer Gate

 

Lowered Gate

 

Raised Gate

The wave creating technology shapes the flow of water going from the upstream high point to the downstream low point. There are a number of different methods for creating waves with new methods under development. Existing wave shaping technologies will be identified and analyzed during the preliminary engineering phases.

The wave shaping technology will take advantage of the year-long research project into river wave formation by Surf Anywhere and the University of Ottawa.

Wave Details

Absolutely, good wave design and good construction result in good waves.  Good river waves have been built in major rivers all around the world and good waves can be built in the Bow.

Cochrane Tourism Association is working with Surf Anywhere, a Calgary river wave consulting company, that has extensive experience building successful river waves in Canada and around the world for over a decade.

There will be one primary channel that is 20m wide. The channel can form a single 20m wide wave or multiple smaller waves in parallel. The waves can be up to 1.5m high from trough to peak.

Yes, the waves will be fully adjustable.  The waves can be changed to make different shapes of waves and to make the best waves at all flows.

Yes, there will be boulder groins creating teaching eddies upstream of the wave, downstream of the wave, and on the island in both the river wave channel and the natural channel.

The beach will be public and free to use. Some wave times will be pay to use and some wave times will be free to use. This combination of free and pay balances accessibility with project sustaining revenue.

The waves are adjustable allowing for ideal features for all river users that want to ride waves including surfers, SUPers, bodyboarders, kayakers, body surfers, and others.  The waves can be smooth green faces for big carves, whitewater holes, and other shapes.

The waves will be usable all year except for times of heavy ice coverage. pre-flood days and during floods.  Current wave usage in Alberta and other locations shows that the waves will be used whenever they are operating.

Yes, the Alberta River Surfing Association and Surf Anywhere built an excellent surf wave in the Kananaskis called The Mountain in 2014 and upgraded it in 2019.

Surf Anywhere helps surfers and other river users build waves across Alberta, across Canada, and around the world.  Surf Anywhere projects include the Mountain wave in the Kananaskis and the best-manufactured river surfing wave in North America in Bend, Oregon.

In 2020/2021, Surf Anywhere is conducting a year-long river wave research study with the University of Ottawa. Surf Anywhere also provides a wide range of other services to improve river wave experiences.

Safety

Yes, the Alberta RSA is developing a river safety program for the River Wave Park that will provide trained river safety personnel. There will be a junior river safety and surf program for youth each summer that will train young people on river safety, river rescue, river recreation, provide positive river experiences and develop a healthy culture of river safety and respect.

The river upstream will be slower and deeper, there will be an easy and safe exit for rafters, there will be easier river access and easier river exits.  The river passage through this section will be much safer for rafters and other river users.

The wave will be designed to have a deep section immediately after the wave. The adjustability of the wave will allow some control over river depth after the wave. The river will be deep immediately after the wave due to the movement of the water around the wave.

As river users move downstream, the river will become more shallow and be very similar to current conditions. The depth of the river will be heavily impacted by flows with higher flows making the river deeper and lower flows making the river shallower.

The waves are adjustable and can be quickly and completely flattened at anytime.  If night time usage is not desired, the waves can disappear every night and reappear every morning.

There will be a number of spots for floaters to exit the river before the wave.  The river before the wave is deep and slow making it easy to exit.  Boats can safely float over the wave.  There will be signage indicating the different routes and exits.

The RCMP, rescue, and fireboats can completely by-pass the waves via the north channel which will be unchanged.  The waves can be completely flattened allowing the RCMP, rescue, and fireboats to go over the wave’s location.

Environmental Benefits & Impacts

As part of the construction, the nearby river habitat and the riverbank habitat will be improved.  The improvements will make those areas better for the animals and plants that live there and that are there seasonally.

The project will be self-compensating meaning there will be an increase in good river habitat and riverbank habitat as a result of the project.  The improvements at the wave will protect the area from further erosion while retaining natural elements of the area.

Large sections of eroding riverbank will be stabilized including the creation of habitat. Habitat on the island will be improved as part of the project.

The waves and urban beach will bring a lot of people to the area and create very positive and memorable experiences with the river.  The more people are aware of the river and have positive river experiences, the more they will care about protecting river health.

The area will be an excellent river ecosystem education location including signage for a large number of visitors and educational programming.

Yes, fish will easily be able to pass the waves and beach.  The Bow River has existed here for over 100 years.

Yes, the project will include a full environmental assessment. The environmental assessment will be used to help improve the area’s river (aquatic) and riparian (riverbank) habitat and avoid negative environmental impacts.

The feasibility study included a desktop environmental assessment based on the Alberta Government Landscape Analysis Tool (LAT) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Aquatic Species at Risk Report (ASRR).

The desktop assessment identified the following areas that need further review: endangered and threatened plant ranges, key wildlife and biodiversity areas, other sensitive and endangered species, sensitive raptor range, sharp-tailed grouse survey, chinook grasslands, foothills parkland grasslands, grassland, and parkland natural region and bull trout. This project is an opportunity to improve habitat and have a substantial positive environmental impact.

Cultural Benefits

This project will take a minimally used section of the Cochrane riverfront and create a vibrant public gathering space and cultural anchor for most of the year.

Good recreational river waves are proven draws for users and spectators and become regularly used spaces for public events.  The urban beach will create a low-risk space for people to enter, exit, experience, and connect with the Bow River.

The urban beach will be usable by everyone.  Wave usage is a low impact and low-cost recreation.  This means the waves can be enjoyed by all ages from children to seniors.

Yes, the design of the riverbank area will include sloped access between levels to allow for wheeled access such as wheelchairs and strollers.

The waves provide an excellent training ground for surf and other wave riding athletes.  The waves are free to use, very high quality, and are available for most of the year.  This combination means athletes of all ages can spend many hours improving their skills and entertaining the spectators and beachgoers.

Wave users could easily start in Cochrane and end up representing Canada at the Olympics and other international events.

The dog park will remain but there will be better river access, the area will be a lot more interesting and the area will be safer.

Parking and access management will be thoroughly examined in future stages of the project. Detailed parking solutions were out of scope for the feasibility study.

There are a variety of possible access solutions including on-site parking, parking on the neighbouring lot if approved, off-site parking with shuttle access, parking near the Spray Lakes Sawmill Family Sports Centre, other options, and a combination of options.

Noise and other impacts will be studied in detail during future stages of the project.

To manage noise, the Cochrane River Wave Park can be closed at night and at other sensitive times. The river waves are adjustable and the primary attraction which means the river waves can be made to disappear at any time and the area usage will be minimal.

A variety of access options will be investigated to minimize the impact of usage on area residents.

The Town of Cochrane has published a Traffic Plan to improve traffic in Cochrane. An analysis of current and expected traffic patterns will be part of future stages in the project and the project design will incorporate the findings to minimize traffic impact.

Existing Area Plans

Yes. Many planning documents were reviewed and the project aligns with the following planning documents.

 

Provincial & Regional Plans

 

Town of Cochrane Plans

How to Support

We are looking for sponsors and partners for this high visibility legacy project that will permanently improve Cochrane. Supporters & Partners can provide funding, donations of services/materials, or other assistance.

For more information, please reach out to us directly at info@cochraneriverwavepark.com

Have any questions or comments?

We value everyone’s opinion and welcome all comments and questions!