Beaver Lodge is a very short, easy and unique hike in Elbow Valley, Kananaskis southwest of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Actually, the word 'hike' is a bit of an overstatement. Beaver Lodge can be a special and emotionally enriching experience for those willing to take the time to breath deep and absorb the surreal beauty of this special, sheltered place adjacent to the shores of the June 2013, flood ravaged Elbow River.
The trailhead is clearly signed on the south side of Elbow Valley Road near the end of the road just past the entrance to Elbow Falls parking. The Prairie Mountain trailhead is nearby on the opposite side of the road.
For those unfamiliar with the area, the Gem Trek Map and Trail Guide 'Bragg Creek & Sheep Valley' documents the Elbow River Valley complex in Kananaskis Country and will be an invaluable aid for this and multiple future hiking missions. You can pick up a copy at Norseman XC Ski, Hike and Climb in Calgary or obtain a copy downtown or by mail from MapTown. These locations look forward to discussing your hike and providing assistance.
Weekend parking, including the roadside allocation for Beaver Lodge, is jammed by hikers tackling Prairie Mountain but the Beaver Lodge Trail is virtually empty. The Beaver Lodge Trail is one kilometer long, one way, between the highway trailhead and Beaver Flats Campground where no trail parking exists.
Following a short ramp descent past old growth forest and a short plank bridge over a flood damaged drainage, evidence of the Elbow River is partially visible through trees on the left. Soon, the trail levels and enters the series of ponds created by beaver dams. The secret now is to slow down and cease hiking, to focus and concentrate on the detail in each of these natural ponds. The beauty of the images is surreal and the natural aroma is palpable. Breath deep. Relax. Feel stress retreat. Stop hiking and begin wandering / strolling / observing or sightseeing at a slow, constantly interrupted pace.
This place is magic. The longer each person stretches out the experience, the greater the benefit nature can provide. A large beaver dam surrounds remnants of an old dead tree at the adjacent interpretive sign.
Listen to the flow of the water and marvel at perfect reflections in the still water of surrounding, forest, marshland and mountains. Focus on the snippets of dancing white water flowing over the dams. Interpretive signage, on this day at odd angles and awaiting repair from flood alteration, still provide helpful information about surrounding flora and fauna. Feathery, brilliant green and prehistoric horsetail is well on it's way to consuming portions of the damp forest floor. Soon there will be a cloud-like carpet of this spectacular plant surrounding taller shrubbery.
The stumps of ancient trees stand stalwart in odd artistic formations which complement reflection and beg for visual interpretation. Mother ducks teach energetic chicks all the lessons they will need to survive and prosper in their natural oasis. The ducklings dart about at surprising speeds with impressive agility weaving through reeds and negotiating waterfalls.
A plank bridge at the campground end of Beaver Lodge enters forest and marshland adjacent to the tributaries which provide the source of water for creation of beaver ponds. Brilliant green and lush, aromatic moss covers waterlogged driftwood and ancient stumps unsuccessfully impede perpetual water flow through and past lush predominantly evergreen forest surrounded and accented by deciduous brush brilliant in the sunshine.
Returning past the plank bridge begins the reprise of recent sights. The change in direction and angle provide entirely new perspective and appreciation of natural and peaceful splendor.
Towards trail ending, a diversion onto braided trail through tall evergreen old growth forest leads to the flood ravaged banks of the Elbow River which, four years later, show both signs of healing and the reality of permanent alteration. Nature will recover the land. Many old hikes are now new hikes.
A formidable teepee has been constructed in the forest and Seija graciously provides scale.
Considering this short hike was an impulsive addition to the earlier day hike on the Prairie Creek trail, the additional initiative has rounded out and created another outstanding hiking experience in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
Following are a few of Seija's photos captured with her cell phone camera. The quality is impressive considering the auxiliary function of the device. The excellent compositions belong to Seija alone. Excellent compositions.
Beaver Lodge is a special place where 'Leave no trace' takes on special meaning.
Photographs for this short, easy, unique and special hike, walk, stroll, religious experience are captured at Beaver Lodge in the Elbow River Valley region of Kananaskis Country southwest of Calgary, Alberta, Canada on Saturday, June 24, 2017.