Bowmont Natural Environment Park self-guided walk
Welcome to Bowmont Natural Environment Park!
This is a self guided walk. There are several stops along the map to tell you about the natural and historical features of this unique urban park. Enjoy your visit to one of Calgary’s Natural Environment Parks.
Stop 1: Start
Starting at the 85th Street and 51st Ave NW parking lot (north of the railroad track), we will explore the west end of Bowmont Park with a 2.5km walk around the ponds.
Please remember park etiquette:
- Stay on trails and pathways to protect vegetation and wildlife.
- Share trails and paths with other users – sections of this park are designated off-leash areas.
- Maintain your distance from animals – help keep wildlife wild.
- Take only pictures - leave all natural material for wildlife and other visitors to enjoy.
- Enjoy your walk!
Enter the park through the right gate onto the gravel pathway, and stop at the aspen trees ahead.
Stop 2: Trembling trees
The leaves of this tree flutter in the slightest breeze, and that’s why it’s called a “trembling aspen”. In the fall, these leaves turn a brilliant golden yellow before dropping to the ground. Deer love to eat the bark, shoots and leaves, and use it for shade on hot sunny days. Many bird species will build their nests in its branches or in a hole in its trunk.
A trembling aspen is one of the few trees that reproduce mainly by sprouting suckers from its roots. The oldest tree on earth is a trembling aspen named Pando. Above ground Pando looks like a gigantic grove of individual trees, but it’s truly only one tree because all 47,000 suckers came from the same underground root system that’s been alive for 80,000 years.
Continue east on the gravel pathway, and stop at the two blue-green trees off the path on your right.
Stop 3: Beautiful Bowmont
The leaning trees to the right of the pathway are blue spruce. They can be identified by the unique silvery blue-green colour of the needles. Blue spruce are typically bushy, providing good hiding and nesting places for birds, as well as protection from cold winter winds and snow. Blue jays and chickadees may be spotted near these trees.
Looking east from this spot you get a great view of the park: the rushing river, forests, grasslands, lookouts and many criss-crossing pathways to explore. Bowmont Park is one of Calgary’s largest and most diverse natural environment parks with a unique mix of natural grassland and riverine poplar forest. Stretching 4km along the north side of the Bow River, this park provides protection and important habitat for many wildlife species.
Continue east on the gravel pathway to the Stormwater Wet Pond sign. View of pond on your left.
Stop 4: Stormwater ponds
Ahead of you is a stormwater wet pond, created and designed to help keep Calgary’s water clean. As water flows over land, it picks up all kinds of pollutants such as oil, chemicals and litter. This run-off water is collected here before emptying into the Bow River. Its slow movement through the stormwater ponds allows pollutants to sink to the bottom and filter out, naturally cleaning the water before it flows back into our river system.
You would think mosquitos would love it around here, but they don’t because stormwater wet ponds are designed to prevent their breeding. Mosquitos like shallow still water; but wet pond water is deep and continuously flowing, discouraging mosquitos from laying their eggs. You may still hear some mosquitos buzzing around you, but not nearly as many if this were a still-water pond!
Take the path to your right around the pond. Stop at the very large boulders beside the path.
Stop 5: Magnificent mallards
Take a moment to sit quietly with your eyes closed and ears open. How many different bird calls and songs can you hear? Over 200 bird species have been identified in Bowmont Park, and many make their home in this part of the park. Northern shoveler, goldeneye and mallard are a few of the ducks you might see on this pond.
Mallards are one of the first ducks to arrive back in Calgary the spring, returning after the ice melts and open water is available. Can you spot a duck in the pond with a white neck ring and a brilliant green head shining in the sun? That magnificent bird is a male mallard. Females, like many birds, don’t display the showy colours of the males. Mallards are called “dabbling ducks” because they tip their heads into the water to nibble on underwater plants, pointing their tail feathers up in the air.
Follow path to the end of pond. Stop at the boulders on your left, across from the gate to the paved pathway.
Stop 6: Wildlife detectives
Bowmont Park is home to many species of wildlife including beaver, deer, coyote, squirrels, porcupines and snowshoe hares. Boreal chorus frogs and tiger salamanders have been spotted in the inland ponds as well.
During your walk, you’ve heard birds singing, perhaps seen some swimming in the pond, perched in trees or flying above. Keep your eyes and ears open for other signs of wildlife: animal tracks left in the soft soil, feathers fallen from a bird, tree bark chewed by a beaver, depressions in the grass where a deer may have rested, mounds of earth pushed up by a pocket gopher, and more. Be a wildlife detective!
Go through the gate across from the boulders, and turn right onto the paved pathway. Follow the wide paved pathway towards the second pond. Stop at the Stormwater Wet Pond sign.
Stop 7: Pond plants
While plants in the ponds help clean the water by slowing it down and absorbing pollutants, the plant community at the water’s edge has its role too. Notice how the willows, grasses and a few cat tails provide shade and hiding places for wildlife. The grasses and shrubs also provide nesting and feeding sites for different birds.
The large shrubs with their long narrow leaves are willows. There are lots willows around these ponds because they are water-loving plants. For centuries plants have been used as natural medicines, and the willow is no exception – it’s been used as a pain reliever for more than 3500 years. The study of willow led to the development of aspirin because its bark contains salicin, a natural compound similar to aspirin.
Follow the path with the pond on your left until you reach the wooden fence at the river.
Stop 8: The mighty Bow
The Bow River got its name from the reeds that grow along its banks, as local First Nations found these reeds made strong bows for hunting. This river’s starting point is in the Rocky Mountains at Bow Lake, where it’s fed by melting ice from the Bow Glacier. It collects more water through the mountains, flowing past Lake Louise and Banff before making its way downstream to Calgary.
We rely on the Bow River as a major source of our drinking water and enjoy it for recreation. Beaver, fish and many kinds of insects live in it; and birds feed on the fish and insects. Look for Franklin’s gulls and mergansers along the Bow. You might see someone trying their luck at fishing. People from all over the world come to the Bow River as it’s known as one of the best freshwater trout rivers on the planet.
Follow the wooden fence to the left. After just a few steps, go left at the Y intersection with the pond on your left. At the far end of the pond, take a right at the Y intersection, and stop at the 5 large wire-wrapped trees immediately on your right.
Stop 9: Busy beavers
Have you heard the saying "busy as a beaver"? It’s true! Beavers are one of nature’s most hard-working creatures, and they have a huge appetite for trees. Just one beaver can bring down 200 trees in a year! They have long, sharp front teeth that never stop growing, and must constantly chew on wood or their teeth would grow so long that they wouldn’t be able to eat anymore. Beavers use trees for both food and shelter, building lodges to live in and dams to slow the movement of water. They play an important ecological role, as their dams help create new habitat where plants, birds, fish and other wildlife can live.
To balance the well-being of beavers with conserving our urban forests, some trees like the 5 balsam poplar in front of you are wrapped with a wire mesh that beavers can’t chew through. Other trees are left so that they continue to have food to eat and material for building.
Continue on the path to the right and stop at the bench ahead.
Stop 10: Balsam poplar forest
Take a minute to rest at the bench and listen to the sounds all around you: the birds singing, the leaves trembling, the water trickling…. Relax and breathe in the natural environment.
As you follow the curving path ahead you are at the edge of a balsam poplar forest. Located beside the river, poplar forests like this one are important to wildlife as they lie between the water and grasslands. Birds nest in the forest and feed in the river or the grasslands. Beavers live in the river and use the trees for food and building material. And deer like the low shrubs for hiding places and food.
This part of the park is the historical Fournier site. The Fournier family homesteaded here starting in the 1930s, and then donated their land to the City for conservation in 2000. Their donated land includes this area now designated as a wildlife sanctuary. This means the plants and wildlife here are given extra protection to keep them safe. Signage lets park visitors know they are not allowed in the sanctuary.
Continue following the path with the wooden fence on your left past Stop 7 (The mighty Bow), and stop under the big balsam poplar branches that stretch over the path toward the river.
Stop 11: Wild roses
Bowmont Park is graced with beautiful wildflowers of all shapes, sizes and colours blooming from late March until September. Wild roses are part of the shrub community in this balsam poplar forest. Look along the sides of the path as there are many rose shrubs with blossoms ranging from pale to deep pink.
Look and listen for bees visiting the roses, as they are doing a really important job. When a bee drinks nectar from a flower, pollen sticks to its buzzing body and some of that pollen rubs off and clings to the next flower it visits. This is called pollination, and it’s essential to create new plants. Without pollinators like bees, birds and butterflies most plants would not be able to reproduce. You can thank a pollinator not only for the beautiful flowers around you, but also for one out of three bites of food that you eat!
Take a left at the T-intersection ahead. Keep right on the wide paved path and go through the gate, back to the first pond. You can turn right or left as either path will take you around the pond and back to the parking lot. Or you can stay a while and continue to explore this beautiful park.
Come back and visit Bowmont Natural Environment Park again. There is so much to explore here with its diverse habitats, abundance of wildlife, interesting geological landforms and spectacular views of the river valley.