Share this page Print

What does the Bow River mean to you?

​As part of the Public Art Program's Celebration of the Bow River 2010 event, citizens of Calgary were asked to share their reflections about the Bow River - its relevance, its importance, or how they personally experience this precious resource in everyday life. The following is what we heard...  

The Bow River connects me.... It connects me to places, it connects me with people, and it connects me with nature. The Bow River is integral to how I identify with the city. It provides a natural artery of recreation and transportation directly through the middle of the urban landscape.... and gives the city of Calgary LIFE.
- Greg Stewart
I lived along the Bow River for many years and when I lived in other parts of Calgary, I frequently drove down to walk or cycle. I love this river it is one of the most beautiful places on this planet. To me it means life and beauty, pure water from the mountains. It reminds us of our responsibility to care for it by keeping it clean and flowing.
- Beatrice Tellier

What does the Bow mean to me? One may respond by asking "How deep is down?" I feel perception and description of the Bow are infinite. The Bow flows within a genre of itself. To address its history and predict its future might comprise voluminous resources.

Many literary greats to interpret, through research, surely have attempted to define and possibly unleash some form of mysticism which lures us in appreciation of its splendour.
The waters of the Bow seem to synchronize nature's choreographic ambience in celebration of the many imaginations fascinated by its majesty and awe.

It's O.K. to say "I love the Bow."

I respect the Bow as a life vein, a sustenance and maybe a media of conceptualization.
In my experience, I must let my imagination guide me to fruition while curiosities entice my search. The deeper the search, the greater the want; a want, to meld my psyche with the 'who is it?'(ness) of the Bow.

The Bow river is a sharing; simple as water flowing downhill; complex as interpretations and perceptions permit.

I dare dive into strange waters; better left to those qualified to address such secrets; those of giving so much, sometimes receiving so little.

Recently, while traveling south, we crossed the Bow; when our trip (many kilometres from home), just became just a bit more familiar, casually, friendly – thinking while driving onward, "In some strange way, its family, I considered.

Our Bow continues.
- Marcol

Growing up in a city in Northern Alberta where the river was so far away, I appreciate the Bow because I live so close to it. I lived in Edmonton and the water was dirty and uninspiring really, just a torrent of dirty water going through the river valley at all times of the year. In Calgary, I can see the water pass over the rocks.

In the springtime, it's amazing to see the levels of the river rise and rush by like the water is in a rush to get somewhere; similar to a busy Calgarian on a deadline. In the springtime I like to watch the water levels. I see large and small chunks of ice breaking off from the banks and moving away like a child leaving a parent off on a new adventure. There is a gravel island where large trees grow and hundreds of birds gather like a large convention and chatter up a storm as they create new life for the year, be it daytime or night time like a Calgary nightclub full of lively people who are out for a good time. They come to nest and I watch them as I lift my head and see the office towers of downtown Calgary and think of nature in the center of the city. When I look at the river, it makes me think that winter is a lifetime away and the ice floating down the river seems like a dream because it's clear cool and looks alive with quiet peace and the occasional gurgle.

In the summer time it's nice to see people floating down the river on rafts soaking up the sun. As I walk along the paths, the river looks almost peaceful as it's usually at a low point. I stop on a bridge crossing the river and look down and it's so clear I can see to the bottom. I think of the mountains draining their snow which created the Bow River.

In the autumn, the water just adds to the beauty of the trees with their leaves changing. It never runs out of water even if the levels are low. The Bow River is a naturally occurring, ever constant entity that I rely on to live every day that I live in this city. The river provides an abundant resource that people in other parts of the world (like Africa) would love to have because they are so short of drinking water.

In the winter, the steam rising off the water amazes me because it's eerie and different at the same time, even though I have experienced it for years. The trickle of water through the heavy ice makes me want that hole to get bigger so summer can come. The footprints of some explorer or daredevil walking across the ice surface and tracks of animals who came to visit and left their mark.
- Gary

I love the Bow River. It is the spine that makes Calgary such a desirable place to live. I love the moods of the Bow - I love the way the ice chunks start to overlap and bind together as the weather gets colder in the fall. I love the way the Bow flows so smoothly in the summer when her belly is full of rain and glacier run-off.

I ran down to the river a few years ago when we had that grand rain and the river overflowed her banks. It was marvelous to behold such power and might from such a quiet entitiy. A beaver was so close to me that day that I could see the question in his eyes - "What has happened to my home.....?"

We must never take our Bow River for granted. She needs us to be good stewards - to keep her banks clean and to not put toxic waste in her. She gives us life - and in return we must care for her - always.
- Sharon Woodhouse

I am writing to share two pieces of writing from Langevin Science School Gr. 1/2 students. The Bow River was an important part of our year long study on water. The students had many opportunities to observe and learn from the Bow River. We did work around the Stormwater, the Calgary Reservoir and Weaselhead, the Glenmore Dam, the weir at Pearce Estates and went out to the mountains to see where our river water comes from.

As an educator and Calgarian, I was invited to participate in the Celebration of the Bow River, in particular, the art installation Passages. I took this experience back to the four grade one/two classes to share and I invited the students, if they wish, to write a piece about what the Bow River means to them. The following are two individual pieces, written by a grade one student and a grade two student. Enjoy!

Bow River
The bow river people's home.
Shiny blue rocks and river shine from the distance.
When you look at the water you are going on a journey.
Dip your hand on the shallow end, you can feel the smooth rocks and sand gently tingling through your fingers.
Go in the water, feel the smooth soft waves swaying through your legs.
When you close your eyes you can almost see birds doing a loop around you.
The Bow River is like a secret place, everyone has their own secrets and their own future, their own feeling...
- Nila, grade 1

The Bow River brings life to Calgary. 
- Brock, grade 2

I live about two blocks from the river. It's the Elbow not the Bow but it's still a river and it is such a pleasure to just walk along the pathways beside the river and smell the fresh air and see what the river is doing during all the seasons.  It seems to be an escape from city things like traffic and the hustle-bustle of life in the city. That's why I love to have rivers in our midst.
- Nancy Allison

The transition of the Bow from the mountains through the foothills and on to the prairies is a metaphor to my life in Calgary. Transitioning through my own existence the river has always been central to my feelings for Calgary. From a young age we would picnic on the banks and skip rocks in the currents, sometimes daring to go for a swim. As I grew it became the place to go fish and canoe, all the while serving peace in my soul. It has been the giver of life, drinking water and electricity. It has sustained my continuation, physically, mentally and spiritually.
- Patrick O'Donoghue

The Bow River has always been one of the anchors of the City of Calgary. Without the water and minerals it provided to earliest farming communities, as well as transportation opportunities before the arrival of the railroad, it's hard to believe that anyone would have settled here, let alone remained for over 100 years.
- Anonymous

Every day I cross the Bow River.  I cross it on the way to work.  I cross it on the way home. As I cross it I know I am about half way home.

It is there every day – slowly going to the sea. Most of the time I never think about it, but as I walk home I notice slight changes. I can always tell how the weather is further up at the higher elevations. In the spring it is darker and runs faster, as the snow melts. As the summer progresses it is slower and the water levels are less. In the winter it is sometimes frozen and other times it is not. On the really cold days as the steam rises from the river between the chunks of ice – I try to walk as quickly as possible to get away from the cold. There is a measuring stick on the base of one of the bridges that I can see from the bridge I use to cross the river. I often look over to see where it is at.  Usually I forget where it is.

I have many fond memories of floating down the river on a raft with my former girlfriend. She introduced me to rafting on the Bow – I always did the Elbow before that. After a week of working long hours and doing what had to be done – spending three hours between Bowness Park and the Zoo together with her beside me, relaxing in the sun spending quality time was always enjoyable – even if friends joined us. I miss those leisurely Sunday afternoons. I didn't do it last summer, she kept my raft and hasn't returned it yet. However, I look forward to making more memories on the River with someone new this summer.

A number of years ago, I used to ride my bicycle to work when I lived somewhere else. During the summer an elderly Oriental lady would often practice her tai chi on a pedestrian bridge in the middle of the Bow River that I crossed. I am sure she has passed away now. I always thought it was beautiful place to do it – allowing the river to wash away the negative energy and stresses of the day. So many times we take the river for granted. I guess because it is always there.
- Daniel Lindley

To me the Bow River is one of the arteries of the earth, connecting land to sea. In the Massey lectures of 2009, anthropologist Wade Davis provides a most beautiful description of the "sacred geography" of unique headwaters in British Columbia*. He sets forth to explain how most cultures value ephemeral and spiritual qualities of the land, and that our Western view of natural resources as a commodity to be exploited is a unique one.

In a time when we are facing the consequences of our industrial way of life in the form of climate change and environmental pollution, it is valuable to be reminded of an alternative orientation towards the land. A change of view is the first step in working towards a solution. The Arts offer a way to propagate alternative thinking. Peter von Tiesenhausen's Passages is a poetic tool to create holistic awareness of the fact that Calgary's stretch of the Bow River is a tiny part of an enormous fragile watershed system, and that our interactions with the river have far reaching consequences.

*Wade Davis. The Wayfinders. Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. House of Anansi Press, Toronto, 2009
- Eveline Kolijn