Fish Creek Provincial Park in south-central Calgary contains a treasure trove of natural attractions.
Although a 'city' park, Fish Creek Park will not show up on the list of City of Calgary Parks because Fish Creek Park is provincially administered by Alberta Parks within the city. This magnificent, natural area stretches across the south-central part of Calgary and contains over 80 KM (50 miles) of maintained trail. Thirty kilometers (18¾ miles) are paved and 50 KM (31¼ miles) are shale surfaced trail. In addition there are many good, unofficial trails which are not maintained and likely at least double that distance.
Bebo Grove occupies a west portion of Fish Creek Park between Shannon Terrace and Votier's Flats. Parking for Bebo Grove is accessed from Anderson Road, SW with a turn south on 24th Street, SW to parking down past the entrance gate at the end of the line. Check hours of availability. The parking area is adjacent to a washroom facility and there are nearby ruins of old infrastructure in the form of a large chimney and an old basement or cistern.
Contrary to potentially speculative opinion, Bebo Grove does not contain a grove of Bebo trees however, down past the stairs there is an impressive and formidable stand of majestic White Spruce which host picnic areas adjacent to the shoreline of Fish Creek. The land was originally part of the Willans Family ranch complex including Bow Valley Ranch, Shannon Terrace and the Willans Beebow Ranch.
The east side of the parking area is the beginning of this hike which has been specifically architected for me by professional hiking guide Justin Howse. The adventure begins from the parking area by hiking east on clearly signed, paved path towards Votier's Flats. Aprons along the edges of the pavement have been groomed to provide alternate, more foot and leg friendly path over grass and gravel. Beginning trail travels relatively straight through a large, flat, grass field to a curl on gentle descent into forest.
A small dirt trail exits left. Although designated as a bicycle trail, it is understood all trails in Fish Creek Park are available to everyone with the expectation all will cooperate to foster positive symbiotic experiences. The dirt trail is initially flat through dense forest still protecting patches of snow and ice before gaining more aggressive ascent past sandstone bluffs into a narrowing ravine which rises past sandstone cliffs and ends near the top of the valley. Only a few minutes in the ravine negate any sense of surrounding urban development.
Return descent from the ravine finds Bridge 4 nearby along the paved path. Crossing the uniquely-molded, bridge platform provides great up and downstream views of rapidly running water, currently brown with Spring runoff. Periodically, handy posted location maps assist and inform.
Good paved trail heads east through forest, with several branching dirt and gravel alternatives, until the paved path turns north for arrival at Bridge 5 where easy access to the creek bank reveals graphic evidence of 2013 flood damage, towering sandstone cliffs and a flat rock heavily adorned with fossils from ancient life on the planet. The large, heavy rock is likely used for interpretive guided hikes through the park.
Crossing Bridge 5 soon leads to a four way junction for a left turn on red, shale brick trail towards the protected Raven Rocks towering above the opposite side of the sharp S bend in Fish Creek.
There is no evidence of ravens this day but the sound of honking geese is overwhelming. My presence has resulted in a colossal clatter far exceeding the reasonable output for the number of geese visible. Closer examination of sloping ground at the base of Raven Rocks on the opposite shore reveals the ground is moving with hundreds of well-camouflaged geese stirring in or near their nests. Personal efforts to reduce anxiety with slow and quiet movement appear to have marginally beneficial impact.
Completion of the loop back to the four way junction is followed by a left turn towards wooden stairs ascending to the top of the creek ravine. A path beside the stairs makes it easier to achieve the short, but steep, elevation gain to spectacular views across the river valley with rustic, scenic dirt trail (or better quality but less scenic trail) along the top of the river valley with expansive views west over the park and beyond to snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the distance.
Near the beginning of the rustic trail a section of cliff is sinking away and eventually will tumble into the creek valley far below. The fracture held this day as refuse cleanup occurred to improve the photograph but avoiding the section would be best and most sensible.
Sparse Crocuses in magnificent bloom are always the sure sign that longer, brighter days of summer are surely on the way. Vistas from the top are spectacular.
The narrow and rugged dirt trail continues southeast along the top of the valley swinging southwest to west behind, and close to, fenced urban development prior to arrival at an important decision point. Along the rustic valley top route, there have been tantalizing views of a large, isolated pond and substantial marshland secluded at the bottom of the valley.
The plan continues along the top to a viewpoint a short distance further but the pond and swamp below are drawing me in. I decide to go rogue. At this decision point, near a major entry point from the Community of Evergreen, there are two alternatives for descent into the valley. The first is a wide, well-groomed path descending on reasonably angled grade to the bottom of the valley. The second is a steep plunge straight off the side of the ridge that no-one in their right mind would attempt.
Off the edge it will be then. One of the often unsung features of trees is there ability to occasionally arrest uncontrolled descent. The bottom of the steep, rugged drop into the valley arrives at a beautiful pond where a nearby ancient and long grown-over beaver dam provides passage over wetland and into an open grass area hosting a pristine marshland with marginally better path nearby. Everything about this place is spectacular. The aroma. The wide variety of avian life. The magnificence of surrounding forest hosting the sounds of nearby running water and the tapping of woodpeckers. The sensory experience is all encompassing and consuming. Standing still becomes an ethereal event. Photographs cannot remotely do justice. Words seem worthless.
The marshland extends through a narrow drainage on flat ground until more aggressive water flow from the nearby pond prevents further expansion of the bulrushes. A short hop across the stream begins the short stroll along the other side of the marsh until very scenic dirt trail is discovered heading past dry pond basins hosting manicured forest groomed long ago by beavers who have always served as nature's horticulturists.
Back on the paved trail apron of the original route, the hike travels west past fascinating and musical water features as better hiking trail passes forest along pond-bordered trail continuing west to the Bridge 3 crossing over Fish Creek.
A short distance upstream from Bridge 3 are a series of tiny waterfalls along the riverbank which are reminiscent of the tiny waterfalls draining into the Kananaskis River from Flowing Water in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park near the confluence with the Bow River and the former and now inaccessible Hamlet of Seebe.
All that remains is the scenic route beside paved trail travelling northwest for return to parking at the original Bebo Grove departure point. Thank you, Justin, for your recommendation and route in Fish Creek Provincial Park.
Photographs for this inner-city hike in Fish Creek Provincial Park at south central Calgary were taken on Thursday, April 20, 2017 during a sunny Spring day in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.