The Community of Bowness in Calgary, Alberta enjoys close proximity to a trio of interconnected parks adjacent to the Bow River.
Welcome spring weather provides the opportunity to witness the transition from winter within walking distance from the northwest Calgary Community of Bowness to individual or combined excursions in Bowmont Natural Environment Park, Baker Park and the newly repaired, renovated and substantially improved Bowness Park. Inner city hiking is an excellent Spring approach to preparing for more aggressive missions in the mountains when hiking trails are clear for use. There is a broad selection of inner city hiking opportunity within Calgary.
The walk north from the Bowness Community Hall along 77th Street leads to the Bowmont Bridge approach near the rail line crossing over the Bow River. Pedestrian traffic may benefit from the use of walking cleats to safely manage early season icy path. The two popular bridge crossings over the Bow River are the 1989 Bowmont Bridge and the more westerly 85th Street Bridge near the dividing line between Bowmont Natural Environment Park and Baker Park on the north side of the Bow River or Bowness Park along the south shore.
In mid-March the ice sealing the Bow River is beginning to break up. Within a short time the blanket of river ice will be gone. It is common to witness the roar of railroad traffic on the black bridges over the Bow River adjacent to the Bowmont Bridge.
The riverside walk west through a portion of the Bowmont Natural Environment Park ducks under the 85th Street bridge and reveals excellent views of a riverside beaver dam potentially combined with a display of avian activity.
New interpretive signage has been installed at Baker Park which adds interesting information about the original site as the location of a major hospital and sanatorium facility in early day Calgary. The information provided is courtesy of the long-established Bowness Historical Society, formed in 2001, long after the time when Montgomery and Bowness were small towns west of Calgary. Original residential families and subsequent generations have worked hard to preserve their history and memories. It is always more difficult to know where you're headed if you have no knowledge of where you came from.
Features in Baker Park include The Commons southwest of parking off Scenic Bow Road NW. Other highlights include Wildflower Mount just east of The Commons and Scenic Bow Arbour further east from Wildflower Mount. The Sun Bowl, not represented in this post, provides a dramatic view facing south across the Bow River and Bowness Park towards Canada Olympic Park on Paskapoo Slopes. Weddings are often booked for this photographically friendly location and the waiting list can be quite lengthy.
Back at the Bowmont Bridge and the pond bridge structure, there is an option to hike along paved path that ducks under the second railroad bridge to riverside features in Bowmont Natural Environment Park. This small area includes a fenced area containing a dog walk park around a storm pond and just to the east another storm pond with forest to the east. Tucked away in a secluded corner of fenced area, accessible by dirt trail, is a quintessential spring-fed pond where the peace is palpable and attention to motion, sound and sight can become transcendental for those willing to wait for the experience. This immaculate and tranquil pond is typically alive with ducks and a wide variety of birds singing in the trees. Families of ducks and a beaver dam have embraced the sheltered water sources of the lower storm pond.
A major paved path intersection, north from the storm ponds, provides three routes from the bottom of the Bow River Valley to the top. The steep gravel option with rustic beam steps through and past wooden fence will provide passage to trail along the valley edge along the south and west perimeter of Silver Springs. The middle paved trail leads on gentle elevation through a lengthy, forested coulee into Silver Springs. The third option is a paved path with more aggressive elevation and a metal guard rail to the top of the river valley and dramatic lookout stations along the top south over the river valley and Bowness Park to Canada Olympic Park perched against the opposite side.
Back in Baker Park, the sunlight sparkles through ice stranded along the edges of the Bow River as multiple paved path options provide walking and cycling opportunities through parkland hosting the ghosts of prior structure and occupants. The large empty lots remain surrounded by decade old hedges which largely conceal a popular Frisbee Course perched above the north bank of the Bow River.
Grand views of the Stoney Trail Bridge spanning the Bow River are available from the emergency boat launch ramp adjacent to the Bearspaw Water Pumping Station gathering water for purification and domestic water supply for a significant portion of Calgary's citizenry. The Bow River a recreational paradise for recreational rafts, canoes, paddle boards and kayaks. Year 2013 flood waters altered natural river channels and depths substantially. Gradual reconstruction and recovery with plans for new entry and exit locations are continually making the long course more safe for recreational rafters. Signage at the boat ramp advises and warns boaters of potential challenges downstream where Harvie Passage offers routes from walking around to serious Class 3 kayaking routes requiring proper gear and experience to avoid serious injury or death.
Heading west along paved path approaches the massive Stoney Trail Bridge where the hanging pedestrian bridge beneath provides transportation between Baker Park and Bowness Park where a natural river bend skirts the fenced and private premises of the infamously charitable Al Azhar Shrine Centre.
A failed photograph is captured of new spring growth pushing it's way through the colorful layer of fallen leaves from the previous Autumn. What the earthy and colorful picture fails to show is the image is submerged beneath 5 CM (2 inches) of crystal-clear water which in hindsight could have been easily corrected by finding an angle to show the reflection of overhead tree branches.
Winter to Spring transition photographs captured from the deck of the pedestrian component of the Stoney Trail Bridge illustrate this special time when the sunny north side of the Bow River is largely free of snow and protected areas on south slopes along the Bow River are still heavily laden with snow soon to disappear through melt and evaporation. This Spring experience provides special imagery, scent and solace before summers heat and crowds potentially reduce the profound sensual impact of the natural relationship.
Photographs in this post were captured on three walks between March 17 and March 22, 2017 from the Community of Bowness into Bowmont Park and Baker Park along the north side of the Bow River running through Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The entire route might consume an entire walking day for the average person or it can be done in a shorter, differently rewarding day on a bicycle.