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Elliston Park self-guided nature walk

A visit to this fantastic Calgary Park is a journey, but well worth it.  Located at the east end of 17th Avenue SE (International Avenue), it is only fitting that like the early pioneers who moved west to settle this region, or the many thousands of new Canadians who have also immigrated to Calgary to set roots here, that you too, must journey overland to reach Elliston Park.

Elliston Park has a great history and interesting past showcasing what a City full of international diversity can build & accomplish when working and living together as one 'City'.  And like the neighbourhoods and communities that surround this area, Elliston Park is full of diversity, growing roots and living side by side, together creating a beautiful ecosystem of many different types of trees which all stand together as one 'Forest'.

Come to Elliston Park and enjoy this Self-Guided Nature Walk(s) and accompanying 'Name Games'.  If you have children, the west parking lot on 60th Street SE is a great starting point.  If you have a dog and wish to have it off-leash, the east parking lot on 68th Street SE is a good starting point.

Follow the tour on Google Maps

Route 1: On leash area


Stop 1: Whether it’s the 'flora' or the 'fauna'......It's all international here!

Welcome to Elliston Park. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the rules and expectations of being a courteous park user.  Numerous stopping points are highlighted on this walk, each with interesting information to ponder and viewpoints to enjoy.

If you are starting here, the green waypoints are closest.  If you would like to venture further, the orange waypoints are great too! Take your time. Enjoy the many birds, animals and different plants you will see here. Visit all the stops or as many as you like in any order you like. It is possible to discover the name of the secret tree without visiting all the stops.


Stop 2: Pretty far from the river....so where does all the water come from?

This lake is actually an engineered storm water pond built in a low-lying area which was historically part of a network of wetlands.  Many of the surrounding streets and roads have storm drains which connect underground and unite to flow directly into this lake.  The lake here in Elliston Park is still part of a network of engineered as well as natural wetlands which are designed to handle run-off from the surrounding neighbourhoods.


Stop 3: Check the time here! No watch needed.

It's a sundial!  Have some fun and find out what time it is using the sundial.  There are instructions on the interpretive sign beside you.


Stop 4: Not just in Holland, windmills from here to Mexico

Windmills such as the one you see before you, as simple as it may seem today, have been instrumental in helping many civilizations to develop and flourish through-out recent history.  They harness the winds energy for many purposes.  Read the interpretive signs found at this stopping point to learn more.  Through innovation and an evolving social conscience towards renewable energy, today we see massive electricity producing windmill farms across North America.  Even 100 years ago windmills (such as this one) dotted the countryside, albeit a little more modestly.


Stop 5: Lakeview

Enjoy a break at this bench under some Schubert Chokecherry trees.  It is a great place to do a little birdwatching as many different waterfowl often inhabit this lake.  A simple animal and bird field guide and a pair of binoculars is all one needs to really appreciate the diverse and wonderful world of birds.  It could be the start of a new passion for you!  But alas, even here in Elliston Park, while you enjoy a little rest & relaxation, there are signs and sounds of a busy hard-working city all around.  Garbage trucks rumbling back and forth, airplanes coming in for landings and the hum of commerce in the distance.  In fact, at your feet right now is a picture of some hard-working people integral to the history and success of eastern Calgary.


Stop 6: Birthplace Forest welcome mat

Walk to this waypoint and consider it the welcoming mat, put out for you by the generosity of many who in 2001, planted a tree for every child born in Calgary.  Feel free to walk on the main paths through these diverse patches of forest.  Once inside, look at the many different species of trees which have been planted.  Different types of pines, spruce, poplars, elm, oak, ash and the list goes on.  Like all of us living together in Calgary, the trees are all competing for space and resources and some are enjoying more success than others.  Such is the way of the natural world.  Whether it needs to be that way as well for humans is a question posed to the philosophers among us.  A birthplace forest is meant to be celebrated, for it is a symbol of growth and life and is a reminder that we are all interconnected.  So please enjoy the shade and pathways through these forests as well as the sunny pathways along the lake edge.


Stop 7: Many interesting and different species of trees

Walk along the edge of the patches of forest here at Elliston Park and you can appreciate just how diverse the list of trees we can grow here in Calgary actually is.  True, the list is smaller than what grows in places such as Vancouver or Toronto, but when you start to realize that we have trees growing right here in Elliston that originate from all over the world, you really start to make the parallel comparison of how diverse we Calgarian's are too!  Siberian larch, American elm, Russian plive, scots pine to name a few, are all around living happily together as part of this completely mixed birthplace forest.  I think it is only fitting that such a great park, which continues to mature and take root, can be found at the end of International Avenue SE here in Calgary where diversity in the community is celebrated and showcased.


Stop 8: Manitoba Maple

It is amazing how resilient and strong a Manitoba maple can be. They are one of those species that has been introduced to the Calgary region and one that has proven to be very capable of thriving in some of the most inhospitable of places it seems. Sometimes called the 'Box Elder' by eastern Canadians, the Manitoba maple is a true maple. It is now growing and reproducing in our natural areas to some extent, and it is that little tree you see growing through a hardened gravel alley road, or that tree that seems to not want to give up amongst rocky river berms or challenging and inhospitable industrial yards. And that is why you should love it. For its 'never stop trying' attitude. Here, beside the first of three great playgrounds for the kids to enjoy and challenge themselves on, you can relax a little under this healthy multi-stemmed example.

Being a deciduous tree, this maple tree produces flowers in the spring, whose seeds mature inside what are called samaras (better known by children as helicopter seed pods).

True or false? There are male and female Manitoba maples?...................True. Manitoba maples are dioecious, meaning the reproductive parts which grow within the flowers of this tree occur on separate trees. Other trees which flower may be monoecious meaning that one individual of that species will have both male as well as female flowers. Birch trees are a great example. Still others have flowers which are considered ‘perfect’ meaning that these trees have flowers which contain both the male & female reproductive parts within each individual flower. Apple trees are a great example.

Route 2: Off-leash area


Stop 1: Start

Welcome to Elliston Park. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the rules and expectations of being a courteous park user. Numerous stopping points are highlighted on this walk, each with interesting information to ponder and viewpoints to enjoy.

Take your time. Enjoy the many birds, animals and different plants you will see here. Visit all the stops or as many as you like in any order you like.

Before you head out into the park, have a look around and notice the different tree species.  Some are native to Alberta and many are not.  There are a few tree species like the mountain ash which did not grow in this region prior to human introduction, but have managed to successfully grow and even reproduce on their own with limited success.  They can and have spread into our natural areas and parks.  Although they may not be truly invasive in comparison to some invasive plants, they manage to multiply to a small extent.

And there are other types of trees here in Elliston Park which are also introduced non-native species growing successfully, except that they are not reproducing and spreading on their own.  An example of one of these types of trees is the ponderosa pine.


Stop 2: Poplar - Unfortunately often unpopular

One of the most contentious trees in Calgary, Poplar trees are loathed by some and yet loved by others.  Perhaps one of the most suited and best growing trees for the harsh and often variable climactic conditions of southern Alberta, poplar trees are a great choice for an area where they have space to grow.  Because grow they will! One of the faster growing of the trees you see here in Elliston Park, the native Balsam Poplars as well as the many hybridized poplar trees which have been planted in Calgary are known to have shallow aggressive roots which can create problems.  Some consider them a messy tree as they perpetually shed twigs and small branches, or in spring when the poplar fuzz/fluff can make it 'snow' in July.

But give them a nice open area to grow, far from any infrastructure, and poplar trees are great.  Enjoy the view of the lake at this waypoint and take a look at this hybrid poplar.  There are a few tell tale signs that it is not a native Balsam Poplar and even more identifying features that distinguish it from Aspen Poplars.


Stop 3: A walk in the woods

Feel free to explore the 'Birthplace Forests' which surround the lake here in Elliston Park.  Take particular note of the new poplar shoots which have sprouted up from the lateral roots of previously planted poplar trees in these forests.  The result, is a forest which has begun expanding and successfully re-generating on its own.  Not all trees do this.  Take for example the lone elm tree growing next to the lake.  If conditions are perfect, a few of its seeds may germinate in spring, but it will never clone itself suckering from one or many of its roots.  The many different poplar species in the poplar genus have evolved to do this and it has proven to be an advantage.


Stop 4: Florence? Nope, Forest Lawn!

The tall columnar shape of Swedish columnar aspen and towering poplars will remind you of a movie set in Florence with vineyards and rolling countryside sunsets.  But why not plant one of these beauties in your own yard.  Increasingly popular as an urban tree because of its ability to fill a small space with great vertical growth, these columnar varieties are becoming increasingly seen in Calgary.


Thank you for joining us.  Our walks are meant to encourage Calgarians to get outside and enjoy nature.