Taking Alberta adventures to the max

Jet boats on Alberta waterways


A speed boat ripping along the river.

The scenery and wildlife viewed from the river is spectacular. — photo courtesy of Outlaw Eagle Manufacturing Ltd.

Dave Connell of Alberta Industrial Sheet Metal

Dave Connell of Fort McMurray, Alberta, has a passion for speed and horsepower. In the winter he spends time snowmobiling, but in the summer months seeks his fun on the water. Dave and his family are the proud and busy owners of Alberta Industrial Sheet Metal, which gives him easy access to the equipment needed to create the most unique river boats imaginable.

Two years ago Connell decided he needed a boat that was small yet agile, to navigate even tighter rivers and tributaries. Bigger jet boats can run in water as low as three inches, but this one was going to take it a step further.  

"This two seater boat we call the Tight Spot is like driving a sports car compared to a diesel truck,” Connell said. 

It's nine feet long with a five foot beam and is powered by a 951 Sea-Doo engine with a Skat-Trak pump, creating 166 horse of sheer fun and adventure and allowing Connell to navigate the waters around Fort Mac with ease. He has made two of these two seater boats to date, and has the ability to create more since the template of design is now complete.

"Jet boating can get expensive," said Connell, "as you will smash and bash the boat on various obstacles such as rocks and trees. Fixing the smaller boat is way less expensive than my big boat."

Connell's big boat is a 22-foot Outlaw Clearwater with a 496 big block and a Hamilton pump, worth an estimated $80,000. No wonder he likes to save the majority of smashing and bashing for the little boat. 

Connell’s big boat is large enough to transport passengers and even a side-by-side when needed, giving him access to incredibly remote terrain. He especially appreciated the large cargo capacity when accessing his family-owned lodge west of Dease Lake, B.C., which is known as the Stikine River Lodge and accessible only by boat or plane. Connell said his family enjoys every minute of their river boat ride to their own private paradise. 

Many are unaware of the limitless adventures in the Fort Mc Murray area. 

“Fort Mac is what you make it," said Connell. "You have to get away from the work to fully appreciate this land of adventure.”

The Athabasca River, Clearwater River, Christina River and all their tributaries are the chosen destination for river boaters in northern Alberta. You can boat all the way to Lake Athabasca, with plenty of adventure, fishing and wildlife viewing along the way.  Many choose to access remote destinations via river boat for hunting and fishing excursions.

Dale Whiteside of Outlaw Eagle Manufacturing

Also taking Alberta adventures to the max is Dale Whiteside of Outlaw Eagle Manufacturing in Red Deer, Alberta. Known as one of the industry’s leaders in innovation and design, Whiteside and his crew at Outlaw Eagle sponsor the whitewater jet boat world championship races. This point series is like a marathon, a seven-stop event in waters around northern B.C. and Alberta including Grande Prairie, Peace River, Fort St. John and Whitecourt. 

“If someone is thinking of getting into jet boat racing, get some familiarity and experience on the various rivers of Alberta," said Whiteside. "And definitely have two boats."

Once an avid racer, Whiteside now enjoys adventure boating, fishing, hunting and attending events such as poker runs, which occur throughout Alberta. 

“Whitecourt alone hosts two per season," said Whiteside, "with other events happening in Grande Prairie, Peace River and Fort St. John.”  

The Central Alberta River Boat Association has support and resources for those who enjoy the sport and those looking to test the waters. Contact Outlaw Eagle Manufacturing for more information.  Their helpful forum is a great place for information and a great way to meet fellow jet boat enthusiasts. 

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