By JENNI O’NYONS and RACHEL FREY
One of the largest urban parks in North America, Calgary’s Fish Creek Provincial Park features wild prairie-grassland and forest scenery as well as excellent recreational opportunities such as hiking, biking, golfing, picnicking, bird-watching and more. The park is open every day, 8:00 am to 10:00 pm, and access is free.
The heart of the park is accessible by car from Bow Bottom Trail SE, Sun Valley Boulevard SE or Hwy 22X, and all major day-use areas can be reached by road. All parking is free, and central lots feature bike racks. It can also be reached via Calgary Transit.
Pathways and Day Use Areas
Following the Fish Creek river valley, the park features extensive paved and unpaved trails with navigational signage. These are detailed in the City of Calgary Pathways & Bikeways app. Though the park is largely recovered from flooding in June, the area directly around the Bow River is still closed, including parts of the Bow River pathway as well as the Boat Launch, Chinook Rotary Nature Park and Lafarge Meadows day use areas.
Most day-use areas are open year round and equipped with washrooms, picnic tables and potable water sources. Campfires are allowed at several.
Sikome Aquatic Facility features a man-made lake (open June 15) wrapped by a sandy beach with adjacent change rooms, shower facilities and playground equipment. Snacks and drinks are available at the concession.
The park’s grassy east side is home to whitetail and mule deer, coyotes, weasels, jack rabbits, ring neck pheasants and endangered northern leopard frogs.
The white spruce and poplar forest of the park’s west side is home to great horned owls, snowshoe hares and six types of woodpecker. Bald eagles and osprey nest in the Shannon Terrance and Marshall Springs day areas.
Friends of Fish Creek leads nature tours through the. These include bird-watching courses and private golf cart tours.
Bow Valley Ranche
Home to The Ranche Restaurant and Annie’s Bakery, the historic buildings of the Bow Valley Ranch have been lovingly restored. Make a quick stop at Annie’s for ice cream, snacks and coffee, or take a longer break at The Ranche for acclaimed Rocky Mountain cuisine with emphasis on local game and produce in an idyllic setting.
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Rancher William Roper Hull built the Bow Valley Ranche in the late 1800s. “This was the golden age of ranching, which inspired the Calgary Stampede,” says the city’s 2012 historian laureate Harry Sanders. This is where, in 1912, several city entrepeneurs known as The Big Four conceived of the Wild West event. Its buildings have been restored and a visitor and interpretive centre has been added, which details the fascinating history of the Fish Creek area.
The Bow River’s renowned trout fishing ramps up in late spring. While the Bow is open to angling year round, fishing is allowed in Fish Creek itself from June 16 to October 31. For sportfishing rules and regulations refer to the current Alberta Guide to Sportfishing Regulations. Guided fly-fishing trips can be arranged with local outfitters such as Out Fly Fishing and Hanson’s Fishing Outfitters.
McKenzie Meadows Golf Club in the park’s southeast corner was impacted by June’s flooding and is still working to recover the 18-hole course. However, the driving range is currently open. The Clubhouse Restaurant serves full meals and cold beer.
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