Beaver Lodge and Elbow Falls

The result of the beavers' hard work.
  • Washrooms: In the Elbow Falls parking lot
  • Paved and Dirt Path
  • Parking: Lot on site
Standing and Running Water     

For today's walk we headed out to Kananaskis Country, just 40 minutes west of Calgary.  On drives like this, I'm always surprised how quickly the relative flatness of the city grows into foothills and mountains, with rocky outcrops peeking through the trees crowding the road.  Happily, we arrived at the  well-marked parking lot without incident (despite the distracting scenery), and started down the trail.  I could hear the noisy Elbow River rushing nearby, but when the trees thinned, it wasn't the river that I saw but a beautiful pond, as still and clear as glass.

One of several dams holding back the water.
The dams that formed this natural mirror were just up the path.  The beavers had woven together sticks and mud to block the flow of the creek, just like the sketches in my childhood textbooks.  I never thought much of it as a student, but seeing it with my own eyes was impressive.  How amazing that these awkward little creatures can make such enormous changes in their environment!  Dam after dam slowed the water, and at the edge of the resultant pond we found what looked to be a lodge built up around a dead tree.
Elbow Falls.

We may have missed a turn off, but the path turned out to be closer to 1km (rather than the 5km we were expecting) so we stopped in at nearby Elbow Falls on the way home.  I had heard that the area had been decimated by the 2013 floods, but it was shocking to see it for myself.  A huge area, once busy with picnic tables and open lawns, has been washed away.  The original asphalt path has been ripped in half and hangs like a gang plank over a six foot drop.  Green grass has been replaced by a rocky expanse.  

A butterfly posed for the camera!

But the Falls are still there, and now seem even more powerful as they burst out of this barren landscape.  The water is mesmerising, first tumbling over the low rapids of the upper river, then cascading over the cliff into a churning, misty cauldron below.  The colours change from black to white to blue to green, and then settle into a peaceful sparkling silver in the river downstream.  Quite the contrast from that quiet pool at the beginning of the walk!

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