Some days you just want to do nothing or at the very least close to nothing. So this day finds us taking short stroll and follow it by some watching kayaks doing their thing at Harvie Passage on the Bow River. This is the former location of the infamous Calgary Weir, a once very deadly spot. Now tamed, somewhat that is, it’s still a place that begs one to take extreme care.
This day the river is swollen and running high and almost as busy as Deerfoot Trail behind it.
It’s fascinating to watch these fearless athletes tackle the boiling waters in their brightly coloured steeds. It’s amazing how much control they show and interesting how they use the water to do much of the work for them. They bob and weave and move around in what looks to be a chaotic manner, but in actuality the whole thing is a carefully choreographed dance. What nerve and skill.
The Bow River here is directly below the CPR train bridge just east of downtown Calgary. The structure acts to divert water into a canal located on the north side of the river. Belonging to the Western Irrigation District, this water channel is used to supply farmers in the dry areas well east of the city. Without this life bringing water there would be little chance of farming being a success – it’s just too dry there. This system dates from well over a hundred years ago and some old structures relating to the original operation still exist on the north side of the river, right next to Deerfoot Trail. You can visit there, a bike path goes right by it, but it’s a noisy place.
Harvie Passage has two channels here, one class two and and the other a harder class three – the fellows seen here were on the class two rapids. These should only be attempted by knowledgeable, skilled and properly equipped kayakers or those rare canoeists who have what it takes to tackle something this daunting. Rafters and most canoeists should still use the portage route, which is clearly marked. There is also a boom upstream.
Over the years many people have been killed here – in spite of the many warnings and barriers that did and still do stand in place. Admittedly the weir does not look all that dangerous from the top, but once inside it was and still could be near impossible to escape the churning waters. Even with the modifications this place can still be very nasty and care should be taken.
I believe the correct spelling is Harvie, although I have seen other reports naming it Harvey Passage. That’s an easy mistake to do I guess.
Update: July 2013. Harvie Passage has been damaged by the spring 2013 floods and will likely be out of service for the rest of the summer while repairs are made.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: June 2012
Location: Calgary Alberta, Harvie Passage.