Searching online for a short day hike in the Calgary area, I am surprised to find a previously-unheard-of gem on the website ‘Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies’. Access is off Glenmore Trail (Hwy 8), west of Sarcee Trail. The first left turn (south) is at the stoplights onto Discovery Ridge Boulevard and, continuing straight past the circle, arrives at a left turn near the bottom of the slope onto Discovery Ridge Link. It is a short straight ride through the clearly-signed Griffith Woods arch to ample parking. Interpretive signs and a trail map near the washrooms (open May through November) quickly orient the natural environment park’s layout and nature. Log fences and Park Boundary signage mark the north border of Tsuu T’ina Nation land.
Griffith Woods is a relatively thin band of land stretched out along the meandering shores of the Elbow River with urban development to the north. The natural environment park is upstream from Weaselhead Flats and the Glenmore Reservoir. The short branch to the east initially tracks beside an arm of the Elbow River before arrival at a storm pond.
The paved path continues a short distance past the storm pond to the Discovery Ridge Wastewater Pumping Station. Gravel trail continues to the top of the ridge. There is little snow for this uncharacteristically warm day in mid February. Ice adjacent to the paved trail is easily and securely navigated with my K10 crampons on hiking boots. The few people here, on this Wednesday afternoon, are walking their dogs.
On the return from this short stretch, there is an opportunity to investigate the periphery of the storm pond where a bevy of beavers have been busy felling a substantial number of trees to build their dam in the centre of the pond.
An interpretive plaque at the storm pond does a good job of explaining the processes involved in keeping the river water healthy as it flows into the reservoir.
Back at the parking area the trail continues west. With the time available today, I will be limited to investigating a short distance of this much longer trail with paved and gravel options. The gravel trails lead through terrain reminiscent of Weaselhead Flats. The best way to cover all the trail options will be to return in summer and cycle the entire labyrinth of paved and gravel pathway. The greatest distraction is overhead power lines along the urban development side of the park.
A brief incursion on predominantly iced trail into the gravel path component reveals dense wilderness terrain. The multiple channels of the Elbow River twist and turn their way through flat terrain nurturing a broad variety of plant, avian and animal life. The experience is a relaxing interruption from the hustle and bustle of urban existence. The air is fresh, the breeze is refreshing on the face and subdued sunlight mellows the cool air.
Griffith Woods was established in the 2000 millennium year after Wilbur and Betty Griffith donated part of their property to The City of Calgary for preservation as a nature reserve. The unique characteristics of the area support healthy stands of White Spruce. The unique nature of the soil in the area encourages healthy growth of plants less commonly experienced in the Calgary area. This park is a mecca for bird watchers with specific emphasis on Red-breasted Nuthatches and Gray Jays (Whiskey Jacks). Abandoned, ancient channels of previous river flow form oxbows in the land which become spring flooding channels promoting wetlands and vigorous growth in an independent ecosystem. Periodic flooding of the wild river oxbows encourages growth of Balsam Poplar. Griffith Woods is a gem hosting an inner-city, wilderness natural environment, adjacent to a ‘wild river’ and worthy of a visit. There are multiple access points into the park. Consult the City of Calgary’s online Pathways and Bikeways map.