Nov 262015
St Patrick's Island Bridge

Calgary’s Pathway Network is extensive. There are hundreds of kilometres of them heading to and from all corners of the the city. The route we’ll describe here makes good use of some sections, forming a good-sized loop that parallels the Bow River, both coming and going, just east of downtown. It takes in wooded areas and green spaces, some residential neighborhoods, but a fair bit of the backdrop is gritty, urban and industrial, and sometimes even sketchy, which strangely, is how we like it. Nature is nice, but I dare say, so are train yards. Look, I don’t get it either.

You could enter the loop anywhere, but we stated in the historic community of Inglewood just east of the Elbow River. There is non-permit parking right beside the old Alexandra School. We head south and intercept the pathway and then turn right. The adventure begins.

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If make a winter visit like us, keep in mind some of the paths used are plowed, others not. Since Calgary has not seen much snow yet, that’s sort of a moot point. We did encounter a LOT of ice however.

This initial section of the pathway sits atop the roadbed of the former Grand Trunk Pacific (GTP), later Canadian National Railways line into downtown Calgary (present day East Village). We dip down under the St George’s Island/Zoo bridge, a fine old structure that may have to be replaced soon. It’s open to two lanes of traffic, two very, very narrow lanes. Soon after the path trends away form the river for a time and enters a residential area. There are many old houses here. And a Boler!

We turn back towards the river and enter wooded area, and soon on, after passing under a train bridge, enter Pearce Estates Park. It’s home to the Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery and at the river, the Harvie Passage kayak course. The latter was only built a few years ago but is out of commission after being damaged by the 2013 floods. In the past, this was the location of the deadly Calgary Weir. It was a legendary taker of lives.

The river and path bends southward. We pass under a road bridge and enter another residential area. Continuing on, we come to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary (also closed due to those floods) and parallel some train tracks – the furthest section still in use of that GTP line we spoke of earlier. Some beat up rail cars await repairs at a nearby facility.

Back beside the river, the CPR’s huge Alyth yards come into view. They’re eerily empty. Even so, it’s a noise place. We spot a string of stored locomotives. It might be due to the sluggish economy or maybe they’re due for retirement. All are rather old.

We duck under two train bridges, one of which is rather famous for having failed, while a train passed over it, during those nasty 2013 floods (that subject keeps reappearing). It was national news. Both of these structures are around a hundred years old.

We cross over the Bow on a road bridge, follow Ogden Road for a time then go up and over over some tracks, the CPR’s east/west mainline and a canal. Doubling back we follow the path squeezes between both. This is a good train spotting location…if you’re tall enough to peer over the fence.

More steps behind us, we get another good look at those same two railway bridges passed earlier. We love old structures like these. There is a small park where you can watch the trains (and have lunch). We notice some trees here have buds and no doubt they’re confused by the unseasonably warm weather.

We leave the river behind and follow the canal for a time. On the left is a golf course and on the right, far side of the canal, an escarpment. The din builds as we come close busy Deerfoot Trail, which we pass under then parallel for a time. Bring ear plugs! Admittedly, this is not the most bucolic setting. It’s a quiet path here, not in the noise sense of course, as it was deafening, but rather with users. We saw no one along this stretch. Most other sections we saw many.

At 17th Ave SE, just beyond the Bow Waters Canoe Club facility, cross over the canal on a road bridge. Or if the water has been drained and it was on our visit, it always is each winter, simply rock hop across what little water is left behind. Directly east is Max Bell Arena. Not far away is the old Firestone Tower.

We come to a foot bridge and pass over Deerfoot Trial, that noisy, busy roadway that’s been our close companion for the last click or so. There are good views of downtown from here and the Zoo not far away. That canal we’ve been walking beside splits away from the Bow River here and provides water to farmers in a dry belt region east of Calgary.

Continuing on, we pass under a train bridge we saw earlier. In the 1970s, friends and I often used it as a pedestrian bridge. Let’s see: get hit by a train or possibly fall into the river and drown at the nearby weir (once caught in the undertow, you’re toast). Smart, yeah? How do teenagers make it to adulthood?

We head over Nose Creek and pass behind the Calgary Zoo. At the far end of St Patrick’s Island (the western part of St George’s Island), we turn and cross a new pedestrian bridge.

We enter the grounds of Fort Calgary. To the right is an old warehouse and factory district, which is now a trendy yuppified residential neighborhood complete with all the usual trappings, including, yes, food trucks serving up all the cliched fare. There’s fish tacos, brick oven pizzas, every manner of edible cooked in duck fat, fusion this, fusion that, all of it painfully expensive. And the people come in droves.

Many tall condo towers are under construction here but with the economy in the pooper, I wonder if all will get completed? Some people must be nervous.

We cross over the Elbow River on a new pedestrian span. Nearby is the 9th Avenue road bridge, another oldie from around 1910 or so, that may be due for replacement soon. It’s things like that structure that make Inglewood very special, yet for some reason, the powers that be and developers all together seem hell bent on taking them all away and gentrifying the crap out of everything. Okay. I’ll stop.

A block later, with the winter light fading, we’re back at the car, our ears still ringing due to all that traffic noise from the earlier our run-in with Deerfoot Trail. Even in spite of that, we had a blast on this walk. But we always do. Where ever you go, make it interesting, make it fun.

Read about that failed train bridge…
Collapsed Bonnybrook train bridge.

More urban treks like this…
Calgary Pathways – Bowness ‘n’ back loop.
Ice cold urban hiking.
Cochrane river path.

If you wish more information on this trail, by all means contact us!

Date of adventure: November, 2015.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Distance: 18km.
Height gain maximum: Negligible.
NOTE: all distances are approximate.

St George's Island bridge

The St George’s Island bridge might be replaced soon.

Hobo ghost

Hobo ghost?

17 Foot Boler


Boler spotting game

That’s three points…

Calgary Pathways walk


CPR Bow River bridge

In the 1970s we used to cross this railway bridge on foot (I know, stupid).

Railcars waiting repair

These rail cars are awaiting repair.

Stored locomotives

These stored locomotives may reflect the sluggish economy.

Pathways in Calgary

We had to deal with lots of ice.

Superman shirt

Superman’s lost his shirt.

Calgary Urban Hikes

Up and over.

Budding trees

This tree is budding! In November. In Calgary.

CPR train

A looooong CPR train.

CPR Alyth Yards

The bridge the train is on made the news a couple years back.

Canal spillway

Hi Connie!

Calgary Pathways Canal

Beside a canal.

Stop Harper

A political statement from recent elections.

Low bridge


Mariah Carey Rules

Of course she does.

Under Deerfoot Trail

We spent an unusual amount of time under bridges this trek.

Bow Waters Canoe Club

At the Bow Waters Canoe Club.

Pedestrian Bridge

A shadow cast.

Deerfoot Trail

Looking east down Deerfoot Trail.

Making a time lapse

Making a time lapse.

Calgary Skyline

Photo bomb!

CPR Bridge Calgary

Passing under yet another bridge.

Calgary Zoo Eagle

An Eagle bum.

Calgary Zoo Dinosaur


Old Zoo Bridge

The old Zoo foot bridge is no longer used.

Bloom St Patrick's Island

The sculpture Bloom on St Patrick’s Island.

St Patrick's Island Bridge

The new St Patrick’s Island Bridge.

Calgary's Skyline

Calgary’s Skyline from Fort Calgary.

Elbow River Pedestrian Bridge

The new Elbow River Pedestrian Bridge.

Mountie on Horseback

The statue Mountie on Horseback.

Little Free Library

We see these Little Free Library boxes all over town.

Calgary Pathways

Our route…


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6 Comments on "Urban Trek – Bow River Loop"

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Connie Biggart
Connie Biggart

Always a fun time on these walks!

Jason Paul Sailer
Jason Paul Sailer

(via Facebook)
I’d love to go along with you guys and see all these railway bridges and former railbed paths! Would be fun!

Joseph T
Joseph T

Did that on the weekend. Loved it!