Griffith Woods self-guided walk
Welcome to Griffith Woods Park
This park is very large, covering 93 hectares and is primarily a natural environment park. There are many trails throughout this park, both paved and unpaved. All of the trails at Griffith Woods Park are flat and easy to walk. The stopping points on this self-guided nature 'name game' walk are all wheelchair accessible as well as bicycle and dog friendly. At each stop and throughout the park, you will be able to enjoy and immerse yourself into a provincially significant forest which is home to a diverse mix of flora and fauna, some of which are not commonly found anywhere else in the City.
Stop 1: Parking lot
What is this plant?
Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the rules and expectations of being a courteous park user. To make visiting the different stopping points on this walk more fun, numerous hints will be given out at each stop which, when combined, will lead you to discover the secret animal of the 'name game' on your walk today. Good Luck!! 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 animal without visiting all the stops.
The main stops are all on the paved pathway and is accessible to all. Additionally, 3 bonus stops are for those looking for more adventure, or for those on mountain bikes (i.e. not wheel-chair accessible). If you visit these 3 stops, you may discover the identity of the second bonus animal in the ‘name game’.
HINT: Throughout the park, you will find many informative signs with interesting facts. And if you read carefully here at the starting point, you will learn about a rare plant which can be found in Griffith Woods, a rare plant which shares the first letter in the spelling of it's name with that of the secret animal of the 'name game' today. But don't expect the secret animal to want to eat this 'round-leaved' plant, or any plant for that matter, as the secret animal prefers a more 'scales & tails' sort of diet.
Stop 2: Stormwater Retention Pond
Stormwater retention pond
Stormwater Retention Ponds like this one in Griffith Woods have been engineered to handle storm water runoff from the nearby neighborhoods. When it rains and snow melts, water flows from our rooftops, driveways, lawns, streets and sidewalks.
The stormwater system carries water to storm ponds where the water is held long enough to settle out sediments and pollutants. In Calgary, we have wet & dry Stormwater Ponds. The secret animal has fantastic eyesight and can often be seen looking down into the Stormwater Wet ponds as well as rivers of Calgary for something good to eat.
HINT: Here in Griffith Woods it is easy to see past and present beaver activity in some of the Wetlands and along the Elbow River, and like the beaver, our 'name game' animal shares an interconnectedness to the water, as well as the fifth letter in their names.
Stop 3: “A wild river by any other name”
The Elbow river naturally fluctuates in flow rate depending on the amount of precipitation the front ranges of the Rockies are receiving, as well as how much & how fast the snow is melting within it's watershed (river drainage basin) in spring. Typically, you can expect the river to be flowing at its highest between late May to early July.
Exercise caution around the Elbow and Bow river whatever the season, as they are cold and wild like many of the rivers in 'Wild Rose Country'.
HINT: This native four-lettered flower, unlike the red and white varieties sold in flower shops, is pink and has all four of it's letters present in the name of the secret animal, possibly soaring over your head right now!
Stop 4: “Berry beary good meal”
Whichever direction you choose to go, whichever route you decide to take, ensure you look at one of the many trail maps available throughout the park to ensure you do not get lost.
Stay on the designated trails and well worn paths and stay aware of your surroundings because you are in bear country. Look around and notice many of the plants along the trails with berries.
Plants such as Saskatoon berry and buffaloberry are a favourite high calorie food for both species of bears found in Alberta. And although you are not likely to see either a black bear or grizzly bear in Griffith Woods, they have both been seen here over the years and the possibility exists.
HINT: Speaking of bears, the larger of the two, the one with long claws evolved for digging, shares the last letter in its name with our secret animal today.
Stop 5: Where to build a home?
HINT: Standing here on the main paved path, you may see a couple of nesting cavities in a large balsam poplar to the north. While these are great nesting spots for some birds, it isn't suitable for me, the mystery animal of the 'name game'. I would rather build my nest of sticks on a tall structure with a good vantage point, such as the many power poles you see above. But as you can imagine, it is not safe for me to unknowingly build my nest on or near such high electricity lines, and so, humans often build me very tall poles with nesting platforms at the top to safely build a nest, while still having a great view of my surroundings. Who am I?
Stop 6: Three-way intersection
Here is a great intersection to have a break in the shade and/or to explore the immediate area. If you choose to learn about a nymph whose name starts with '?', then you might discover the second letter in the 'name game's' secret animal's name.
Likewise, if you are taking a break on the bench, you'll be enjoying the shade of a coniferous tree whose name also starts with '?', the second letter in the secret animal's name.
Take a break in the shade
Stop 7: Giants of Griffith’s
At this intersection, you can find some of Calgary's biggest specimens of this type of native tree species. It starts with the letter 'S' which is the second letter in the 'name game's' mystery animal's name. These two big trees at this stop are not the 'black' species found in the muskegs and bogs of northern Alberta. They are common in all regions of Alberta and although they are not the color of snow, it is in their name.
HINT: They have a sub-alpine loving cousin named 'Engelmann' here in Alberta too and just east of here on the main trail, there is a really 'burly' example who stands as an enormous 'snag'.
Stop 8: Cattails and mare’s tails
What's in a name? Well, many common names of plants can be confusing. In this wetland marsh in front of you, you will find what is commonly referred to as cattails which are tall marsh plants. And behind them you can see mare's tail marsh plants growing. Mare’s tail is a common aquatic plant in Griffith Woods, not to be confused with the similar looking horse's tail you can see growing throughout Griffith's Woods on the forest floor.
Equally confusing is the common name wolf-willow given to the silvery-leafed shrub growing around the information sign at this stopping point. Sometimes also called, silverberry, this shrub is not a willow at all despite the name. Alas, move the shrubs branches and read the sign to obtain the real ***.
HINT: Although you will not find the mystery animal pictured on this sign, the Belted kingfisher who is on the sign is eating something that I too enjoy eating. “Unlike the Kingfisher who dives beak first into the water to catch fish, I prefer to thrust my talons forward at the last second in order to catch my dinner. Have you figured out who I am yet?”
Bonus stop #1: Bridge
If you come here at a quiet time of the day, you may catch a glimpse of a common goldeneye. It's a type of duck which dives underwater for aquatic insect larvae and other small organisms. You may also spot a few American goldfinch flying and chasing each other amongst the understory as many happy songbirds do.
HINT: But the bonus mystery bird is the most 'golden' of them all, and if you are ever fortunate enough to see one, and I'm not talking about it's distant 'bald' cousin, you are more likely to be looking way up in the sky where you'll see it soaring and gliding effortlessly on thermal air currents. “Who am I?”
Bonus stop #2: Creek crossing
The 'bonus' mystery animal can rarely be seen catching fish in the rivers and lakes of Alberta. Unlike other fish-eating bird species, this raptor prefers to swoop down and pluck large fish right out of the water before simply flying away with the prey in its talons.
Bonus stop #3: Multi-stemmed
At this stopping point, you will notice a multi-stemmed balsam poplar growing. Look a little closer and you may notice that one of those tree trunks is not like the others.
HINT: Large poplars such as this are great nesting trees for the other more well-known raptor of this name in Alberta. But this bonus animal in the 'name game' prefers to nest on rocky cliffs or outcroppings vs. a tree.
Thank you for joining us. Our walks are meant to encourage Calgarians to get outside and enjoy nature.
‘Name Game’ Answers
- Osprey Pandion haliaetus
- (Bonus) Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos