Weaselhead Flats reside at the confluence of the Elbow River with Glenmore Reservoir in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The headwaters for the Elbow River begin at Elbow Lake, fed by the Rae Glacier, in Kananaskis Country west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The river wiggles its way east from the Rocky Mountains to merge with the Bow River in Calgary with one significant interruption.
In 1929 the City of Calgary gained public approval to construct the Glenmore Dam creating the Glenmore Reservoir which provides a reliable, urban water supply. The bonus has been peripheral development of popular recreation areas in North and South Glenmore Park hosting Heritage Village, the Calgary Canoe Club, the Calgary Rowing Club and boat rentals at the Glenmore Sailing School.
Where the Elbow River enters the Glenmore Reservoir, a wide river delta known as Weaselhead Flats, is a popular urban, wilderness recreation area, with a fascinating history, in Weaselhead Natural Environment Park which separates the west end of North and South Glenmore Park.
There is a civilized, paved path from Weaselhead parking at 37th Street SW and Lakeview Drive but my choice is to don hiking crampons and drop off the edge of the bluff on muddy, then icy, trail.
The labyrinth of wilderness path leads to the main paved trail, then abruptly to the footbridge over the Elbow River. An occasional cyclist joins the mix of hikers and strollers on this predominantly sunny and comfortably cool day.
Cliff swallows have constructed their mud nests on the sheltered areas beneath the bridge platform. This is a very popular and prolific area for bird watching.
Major trail junctions branch to more primitive wilderness areas on interpretive trails. Many formal trail options are intersected by paths into forest.
Shortly after crossing the main bridge there is a right turn to a series of interpretive trails beyond a lesser bridge over a canal feeding one of the main channels of the Elbow River. The hike proceeds along a variation of the 4.1 KM (2⅝ mile) Oxbow Trail which provides close proximity to the major river channel.
The flat river delta is vulnerable to the shifting water levels which provide a robust growth environment for the dense and widely varied collection of plant and forest specimens. Weaselhead Flats is the home to multiple avian and animal species.
Interpretive plaques, displayed in attractive stone pillars, inform visitors about the rich history of the indigenous people who originally settled the area. In the Blackfoot language the area was called 'moll-inistsi-in-aka-apewis' or 'Elbow Many Houses' to reflect multiple and changing river courses over and through the flat river plain.
Further along, another interpretive plaque beside a trench informs of the period beginning 1903 when the Tsuu T'ina Nation leased this portion of their land to the Canadian Military for military exercises. Sarcee Camp became an important summer military training facility which remained in operation from 1920 to 1945.
There remains an ongoing initiative to locate and report non-exploded munitions. Many trenches and foxholes punctuate the landscape as evidence of past military exercises.
Significant evidence remains of damage inflicted by the June 2013 flood event. Displaced bridge decks and accumulations of debris require an impromptu shortcut to find better established trail for the return loop.
On the final stretch along the canal, a series of wooden boardwalks provide protection from most of the mud on the sun exposed route. After re-crossing the main bridge over the Elbow River, a walk on ice beside the main paved trail leads to the top of the bluff.
There is a convenient bench near the top to remove the hiking crampons from hiking boots. At the top, on the approach to the parking area, there are grand views into the valley from the Glenmore Pathway.
Weaselhead Flats provide a major benefit as a wilderness area of this dimension within an urban environment. There are huge spring, summer, and fall opportunities for inner-city cycle journeys through a wide variety of terrain. A significant snowfall could make snowshoeing a possibility.
Weaselhead Natural Environment Park, Glenmore Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
There are many access points which are clearly documented for North and South Glenmore Parks and the Weaselhead Natural Environment Park on the City of Calgary's website.
There is good parking for access to the west end of North Glenmore Park and Weaselhead Park at the bottom of 37th Street SW south of Glenmore Trail. Another longer access to Weaselhead Flats could be made from 90th Avenue SW near the Glenmore Sailing Club.
There is no documentation supporting the source of the name 'Weaselhead' but speculation suggests the label may have been the name of an ancient Native Chief.
Photographs for this hike into Weaselhead Flats, at the west end of Glenmore Park in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, were captured on February, 17, 2015.