Get Outside: The Urban Wild

Posted on April 21, 2023

Happy Earth Day everyone! To honour the day, we are talking about urban parks and wild spaces in Calgary. I spoke to the rest of the Green Calgary team and discovered where some of their favourite local places to soak up the wild, see some critters, and relax in nature without committing a whole day to the mountains, are. Calgary has many urban nature parks ranging from manicured to wild forested areas. You can find parks bustling with wildlife and native plants and grasses in every quadrant of the city. It is easy to take for granted the proximity of these great spaces and say “I’ll go another day, another week, another time” but why wait? This Earth Day get outside and experience what nature has to share with us. Please remember that in these spaces there are wild animals that should be treated with respect. Feeding birds bread products or leaving any food out for the animals to consume is unhealthy for them. Please pack out anything you pack in or use the waste bins provided. Keep pets on leash unless you are in an off-leash park, and mind the pathways; there are many parks where native plant restoration is happening. Urban wildlife such as deer and coyotes have been living side by side with humans, even in the inner city, for a very long time. There is room for us all.   

Confederation Park (N.W.) was created to celebrate Canada’s Centennial in 1967. It is 160 hectares of multi-use space that includes a golf course, a natural playground, a tennis court, picnic areas, wetland, and cross-country skiing, to name a few. The wetland supports many different species and the park is a popular place for birding. This is one of the manicured parks in the city with activities all year round, including the Lions Festival of Lights that runs from December to January. The park falls between 24 Ave and 14 Street N.W. to 30 Ave and 10 Street N.W. There is parking within the park, or bike along the Nose Creek pathway system, or connect to the closest bus. The #303, 38, and 105 all run near the park.  

Griffith Woods Park (S.W) is a 93 hectare natural environment park hosting one of only two large stands of White Spruce in the City’s park system and a thick growth of Balsam Poplar that thrive on the frequent flooding of the banks of the Elbow River. The river runs wild through the park, and its ancient flow has shaped a rich variety of aquatic systems in the area. This is another great birding area and one of the best places to see a Norther Flicker or a Red-breasted Nuthatch. Other wildlife in the park includes moose and deer. It is also advised to take BearSmart precautions when walking through this dense area. The park was created in 2000 when the couple that owned the land previously donated part of their estate to the City of Calgary to be set aside as a nature preserve. The park can be accessed from the Bow River pathway system, by vehicle, or via the nearby bus route #732.

West Nose Creek Park (N.E.) was created in the 1990s and is 73 hectares. Nose Creek Park is home to a riparian zone, a green space along the edge of a body of water. For the flora and fauna lover, this means that the plants and animals in the riparian area are different from the rest of the park, only a few meters away. West Nose Creek Park is the place to see one of the best know glacial erratics in the city in the form of “Split Rock” and the extensive trail and pathway network will take you through historical sites, an off-leash dog park, and one of the BP BirthPlace Forests. This park is considered one of the best locations in the park system to get a close-up view of beaver dams and lodges. There is easy access to the park on the Nose Creek pathway system, by vehicle, or via bus route #46.

Edworthy Park (S.W) borders the Bow River and includes the Douglas Fir Trail and Lawrey Gardens. It is 169 hectares and includes 2 off-leash parks, playground, multiple picnic areas and shelters, fire pits and BBQ stands, and pathways to roam. The land for the park was purchased in 1962 to be developed into the park it is today. Douglas Fir trail is one of the most easterly locations you can find the Douglas Fir trees, as they are usually found in the Rocky Mountains. Some of the trees are about 500 years old. This is another great birding area where you can find cone-eating birds like the Red and White-winged Crossbills. Access the park via the Bow River Pathway, by vehicle, or on the #40 or #1 bus routes.  

Dale Hodges Park (N.W.) is unique in that the park makes the storm water process visible as it travels to the Bow River. The purpose is to inspire curiosity in citizens about how our storm water systems work and experience how the natural and human-made systems work together. This 40-hectare park also hosts wetlands, wildlife habitats, trails, and look out points. It is adjacent to Bowmont Park, a natural environment park hosting playgrounds, picnic tables, and sports fields. The steep cliffs in Bowmont reveal the geological history of the area and a three-meter-high waterfall. The park is home to warblers and vireos as well as Boreal Chorus Frogs and Tiger Salamanders. You can access the parks via the Bow River pathway, by vehicle, or taking bus routes 408, 53, or 1. 

Renfrew off leash area and Winston heights off leash area (N.E.): The off-leash areas don’t get their own websites, and these two are not part of a larger park system. Renfrew’s Bottomlands off leash park is nestled in the valley west of Deerfoot between 8th Avenue and 16th Avenue NE. Winston Heights carries on from the opposite side of 16th Avenue to the Winston Heights Golf Club. Both areas have multiple trails you can choose from where you and your dog can appreciate the native grasses and flora of the area. Everything is left to grow all summer, so by August your dog is bounding through thick, tall field. The terrain is quite hilly, giving you and your dog a good workout while taking in this inner city wild space. Nose Creek Pathway runs along the valley next to the parks or find parking at one of the ends or along the ridges above. 

Happy Earth Day everyone!