Bragg Creek Provincial Park can be accessed off Hwy 758 near Bragg Creek, Alberta, Canada.
Bragg Creek Provincial Park is located along Hwy 758 linking Elbow Falls Trail (Hwy 66) to the hamlet of Bragg Creek just east of the Kananaskis Country boundary and west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Tiny Bragg Creek Provincial Park has been passed hundreds of times, over three decades, on the way to other hiking missions. From the second, and last, parking area, there is a trail-head directly in front of the car as packed lunches are shared while the light rain diminishes before drifting away. There is still time for another hike after exploring flood damage and pristine forest at Paddy's Flat west of Allen Bill Pond. The Bragg Creek Provincial Park Trail is a short loop which skirts the Elbow River. Perhaps the tiny park has been affected by the June 2013 flood.
The trail descends through old growth evergreen forest past a picnic area to raised banks above the Elbow River. The June 2013 flood has widened the river. A series of small, newly constructed rock dams along a parallel tributary creates wading areas along the flood restructured shoreline.
The trail takes a turn right through forest on a rise above the flood damaged plateau beneath us. Conversation is discussing the good fortune of having the trail on higher ground just prior to the trail's descent into and onto the flood plain. For the next hour the hike will tour spectacular, fascinating and devastating flood damage.
The extent of the damage is overwhelming and sobering. Bits of red flagging tape help to locate a course through the flood debris, indicating possible passage, or where the trail may previously have been. In spite of the devastating damage, tiny plants are establishing themselves in new ground. Small alcoves of shrubbery and a few trees survive against all odds amidst surrounding chaos. Nature is recovering its rightful place. This inspirational experience is similar to a recent hike to Wasootch Creek Outhouse.
The north shore of the Elbow River hosts images of flood damage beneath colorful cliff formations and huge deposits of timber debris accumulated along river banks. On the south shore, powerful water has inundated the adjacent land leaving a new plain of random damage previously occupied by organized forest.
Sections of a boardwalk that likely assisted passage over a wetland area have been scattered randomly over newly created sandbanks. The wetlands have been filled in and the boardwalks no longer have any relevance other than to further demonstrate the destructive forces which facilitated this change a year earlier. A disheveled bridge over a small and incredibly beautiful creek delivers us from devastation to nirvana. The change in terrain is remarkably palpable as the transition proceeds from chaos to pristine old growth forest rising true from thick, green, moss carpets.
The old growth forest has miraculously escaped the wrath of flood water. Evergreens tower over carpets of deep moss and delicate shrubbery. Many decades of blow down and dead fall create natural geometrical sculptures throughout the forest. The rich aromas of damp moss complement reflections in the still water of tiny ponds along streams through the forest. Idyllic visions define the peace of this place.
Although the main trail through the old growth forest is fairly obvious, there are many side routes. On the approach towards the more populated area of Bragg Creek Provincial Park, one of the side trails is chosen for the climb through the forest until arrival near the entrance to the park. The return to the car passes a trail sign which reads 'To Alder Trail'. A tantalizing dirt path leads from the sign into the shade of a tall evergreen forest. The Alder Trail vision is obviously a calling; an opportunity which cannot be ignored.
Photographs for this post were captured on June 15, 2014.