Flowing Water Trail through wetlands in Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada.
Willow Rock Campground is accessed from the TransCanada Highway west of Calgary via the exit to Hwy 1X followed by a right turn into the clearly signed Willow Rock Campground entrance. The Bow Valley Provincial Park Visitor Centre provides a map for the campground with instructions to get to the Flowing Water Trail. This small, but geographically unique, scenic trail offers many unique and fascinating features.
The trail-head is on the left just past the upper level campsites 35 - 47 and the comfort station. There is out-of-the-way parking near the trail-head. The 0.5 KM (¹⁄₃ mile) link to the main trail-head makes an overall round trip distance of 2.4 KMs (1½ miles) with minor elevation change. The link trail follows a babbling brook past the amphitheater before crossing a campground road to the obvious trail-head.
The Flowing Water Trail proceeds into forest above the west shore of the Kananaskis River where the ice curtains reside as shown in photos taken earlier on the way to the Many Springs hike. To the left is a large marsh vibrant with many species of birds.
Flowing Water Trail, Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada.
The hike tracks the Kananaskis River at the beginning of the loop. Bridges over drainage from the swamp reveal these are locations of Winter and early Spring ice falls.
There is evidence of off trail, flood damage. Past the marshland, the trail breaks into open ground with outstanding views of the Kananaskis River which are not visible from the highway. The Flowing Water Trail climbs briefly to higher ground where, on this sunny spring day, prairie Crocii are beautiful and abundant on the sun-drenched hillside. At the top of a few log steps, views along the Kananaskis River back to the TransCanada Highway are spectacular. A lone fisherman wades in the river.
Water drains more freely from the top of higher ground. Following a short hike on drier ground the trail descends back to the marsh where boards assist passage over wet areas.
From the marsh, which is large and quite beautiful, a viewing platform provides the opportunity to examine and learn about a long-established beaver dam.
The final portion of the Flowing Water Interpretive Trail is on boardwalk through the marsh where a unique and interesting experience observes channels of flowing and standing water up close and personal. Some of the views are absolutely spectacular. The marsh is alive with a wide variety of plant life, birds, and small, well-hidden animals.
This easy hike, in the Willow Rock Campground across Hwy 1X from Bow Valley Provincial Park, is ideal for beginning hikers, recent transplants to the Calgary area, or for families with young children.
Photos for this post were taken on May 12, 2014.