This “urban” hike we follow a route which parallels the Bow River southwards from a point just east of downtown Calgary, a journey that takes us through a huge number of varied environments. We pass though and by grimy industrial areas and railways yards, neglected city parks, wooded river flats, beside and under many busy and noisy roads and more. It’s got multiple personalities, not knowing minute to minute just what it’s supposed to be. This of course helps to keep things interesting.
This outing takes place along official city of Calgary paved pathways. There is a huge network of them, so many in fact that if one did a hike a day, it’d be some time before you’d see the same stretch of trail twice. We use these convenient walking paths a lot in the winter, when the mountains are off limits due to heavy snow and the like. Many pathways are plowed this time of year, but one should always look out for icy or slippery sections.
We start at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, a facility closed since the spring 2013 floods.
We take the pathway that runs right beside a train track. Some damaged freight cars, some with dents, some showing signs of being sideswiped or having derailed, sit on those tracks awaiting repair at a nearby railcar service facility. A sign proclaims that radio controlled locomotives can be found working this area. Any time is train time!
In short order we come to the CPR’s huge Alyth Yard. Oddly, the place is nearly empty and the only thing seen moving are a couple locomotives shunting cars about. A huge concrete gain elevator towers over the facility.
We pass under, in quick succession, two railway bridges, one belonging to the CNR, and the other, the CPR’s Bonnybrook Bridge, which during the spring 2013 floods, failed in a bad way. Some spans shifted and almost fell into the river, while a train crossed. Fortunately, the railcars remained upright.
The structure was so badly damaged that it was only in 2014 that repair work on it was finished.
Passing under a road bridge (Ogden Road) we then use the same structure to cross over to the other side of the river. Lots of anglers were seen along this stretch of river.
Just east of here is a detour. Normally one walks beside the river, but since there is flood mitigation work going on, we take to the streets for a few blocks. The skies this day are a nice blue and very clear and as such we have a good view of the mountains in the west.
Paralleling the super noisy Deerfoot Trail for a bit we soon enter the Old Refinery Park, the former location of (you guessed it), a refinery. That complex is long gone, but I understand it’s legacy, yucky stuff in the ground, remains. The land is not suitable for housing or businesses, but I guess it’s okay as a park. Oddly, this is a dog off leash area and also doubles as a disc golf course. I wonder how many Frisbees have gone missing due to over zealous pooches snatching them while in play? I’d like to try my hand at this sport some time.
Passing under a railway bridge we enter Beaverdam Flats Park. This and the Old Refinery Park, both seem to be forgotten by the city and in places are a bit run down.
So far we’ve been roughly at river level, but we soon climb an escapement, only for a time though, before dropping back down again. Along this “lofty” section we pass behind a housing complex. To the north is the notorious community of Lynnview Ridge, now a series of vacant fields. That neighbourhood was built atop a section of that refinery land we spoke of earlier. Naturally nasty toxins were found in the soil and a decade of so all the residences there were torn down. Lesson here: old dirty industrial sites and housing generally don’t mix.
We pass under Glenmore Trail, another busy, busy thoroughfare before plunging into peaceful Carburn Park, the noise now behind us. Along here there used to be a large backwater pool, a big pond of sorts beside the Bow, but the spring 2013 floods (remember them) washed that all away and today there is a new river channel here. Someone has set up a kayak course at this spot.
Passing a section of trail that has mostly washed away (need we saw flood damage) we come to a series of ponds, one set up for ice skating and another, which we loop around before heading back the way we came. Of course, we take time at this turn around point for lunch. A nearby sign warns that liquor is prohibited in the park. Oh-oh, we bring wine on every hike. What are we do? Thumb our noses at authority? Or do we simply not partake in this wonderful elixir? Connie and I, defiant rebellious rule breakers to the end, enjoy our bottle.
The trip back was pretty uneventful although watching a couple fellows crossing a train bridge, one we passed under earlier, was interesting. It’s a long drop down to the icy Bow River below! Fortunately for them I guess, this line, which serves some nearby industries, sees few trains. As a young stupid/fearless/invincible teenager I, along with my deviant friends, crossed many train bridges. It’s a wonder I made it to adulthood.
By the time we got back to the car, the sun had nearly set. The deep blues of the shadows contrasted nicely with the yellows of the sun. This time of the year, the days sure are short.
Was this trip exciting? No, but it had its charms and it was good exercise. So in that respect, how could it be bad?
To read about the Bonnybrook train bridge, go here…
Collapsed Bonnybrook train bridge.
If you wish more information on this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: December, 2014.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Height gain cumulative: >100m.
NOTE: all heights and distances are approximate.