Strathcona Island Park stretches along the shoreline of the South Saskatchewan River in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.
Well-signed access to Strathcona Island Park from Kingsway Avenue and South Railway passes through architecturally diverse residential and a speed-reduced school zone. The area is blanketed by mature, enveloping trees over some of Medicine Hat's grand historical residences from early days of aggressive investment and development.
Substantial parking is bracketed by parkland on one side and tennis courts on the other. Trail access for this more urban and developed park is obvious at several points near the entrance. Scaling the dyke and crossing the paved path drops onto more rustic pathway through dense forest adjacent to the south shoreline of the South Saskatchewan River. The formal paved trail along the top of the dyke is part of the TransCanada Trail aka The Great Trail which is a substantially more aggressive effort connecting the coastlines of three oceans and spanning a total of 24,000 kilometers (15,000 miles). At this time, The Great Trail is the longest through hike on the planet.
The Strathcona Island Park trail passes river viewpoints, a scenic bridge, public washrooms and a cookhouse for larger groups or hikers needing protection from inclement weather. Within a short hiking distance the trail approaches the river shoreline.
Forward progress is motivated by the profound beauty of towering cliffs reflecting on this day's still water at the pregnant river bend. Trail passes above and close to eroding river banks. Police Point Park occupies the other side of the South Saskatchewan River as this scenic hike continues past wetlands and rocky shoreline towards the impressive river bend cliffs. Past a formal baseball field with spectator seating, a TransCanada Trail Pavilion, which began as a tiny red speck, expands into view.
As customary in Medicine Hat, the end of this and nearly every trail continues to another undocumented destination on more rustic trail. Virtually endless hiking potential is multiplied by the number of seasons.
The TransCanada Trail Pavilion holds plaques inscribed with contributors names who donated towards the development of the spectacular and diverse collection of hiking opportunities. My name resides in a pavilion adjacent to the Bow River in downtown Calgary. Ken and I also shared the honor to be selected for participation in hiking (cycling) a short section of the inaugural trip across Canada which terminated in the forever memorable ghost town of Retlaw, Alberta. 'Walter' spelled backwards.
Deer are abundant in the brush and surrounding forest near the TransCanada Trail Pavilion at the end and return point for this scenic hike through the features and amenities of Strathcona Island Park. More rustic trail continues east towards the dramatic cliffs and substantial will power is required to avoid the temptation.
The return hike, on an alternate trail loop through grassland bordering dense and mature forest, arrives at an area of park amenities where parking is available for the elaborate playground and adjacent water playground popular through the warmer summer months.
The south cookhouse is rendered artistic by an ancient and weathered fallen tree bleached white by years of exposure to brilliant sunshine noticeably absent on this day. Red brick cinder trail deviates from the raised pavement trail to drop from the rise through incredibly beautiful forest leading to an old wooden beam stair access from one of the surrounding historic downtown communities.
Strathcona Island Park's primary paved trail is a component of Medicine Hat's Heritage Trail System which connects to Lions Park at the north end and Kin Coulee Park towards the southwest.
Pictures in this post were taken on an overcast afternoon while hiking in Strathcona Island Park along the south shore of the South Saskatchewan River which flows through the center of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.