Prince’s Island Park: Constructed Wetland

It was such a pleasure to discover a constructed wetland in the heart of Calgary, Canada. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know it was even there until I finally walked to the far side of Prince’s Island Park the other day. I used to work beside the entrance to Prince’s Island Park so I am amazed that I never knew about the wetland. Obviously, if you are close to the river at all in Calgary, you will notice the large population of Canada Geese and various duck species but you would never guess that there is a wetland tucked into the park. The wetland was created to treat storm water before it enters the Bow River, but it also acts as a new habitat for lots of species and increases the biodiversity of the area.

This amazing work has been carried out by the Alberta Conservation Association. By artificially damming water and planting carefully selected plants like Wood’s Rose, Balsam Poplar and Slender Wheatgrass, they have developed a very impressive constructed wetland.

After the initial construction, it is up to nature to take over and that is definitely what has happened here. Whilst walking around the wetland area, you are surrounded by waterfowl, mostly Canada Goose, Mallard and the American Widgeon and the trees that line the pathway are filled with birds. I was treated to a sighting of my first North American Water Vole which was swimming between the banks of the wetland.

North American Water Vole (Microtus richardsoni)

Wetlands are an extremely important and useful ecosystem that we need to preserve and learn more about. I love that the pathway takes you all around the wetland banks on Prince’s Island and is filled with information signage to help teach people more about the importance of the flora and fauna of this special habitat. Constructed wetlands are a concept that other large cities should be thinking about; they increase biodiversity, improve water quality and can act as a buffer zone against floods, storms and other extreme weather events, especially along coastlines.

Grotto Canyon Trail: Canmore, Alberta.

On a recent trip to the Canadian Rockies I decided to visit the Grotto Canyon Trail, close to Canmore, Alberta. I have seen many photos across social media of this trail during Winter and I was excited to visit it.

Of course I looked up the trail online to find out more information and I found a lot of recommendations for the use of cleats or studded footwear due to the slippery ice, and I immediately said “…..Awk, I’m sure it will be grand”. This is a typical Irish response to most things, where we ignore perfectly good advice and just hope for the best!!

The first part of the trial is through a sparsely forested area and the terrain is pretty good but as soon as I got to the canyon and saw the frozen river, I immediately regretted my decision. The sun was shining and any ice not in the shade was starting to melt and was extremely slippery. I was able to walk most of the trail but struggled as I got towards the end where the waterfall is located. I was annoyed at myself to be able to get so far and then having to give up. I did not give up without a bit of a fight, I tried to walk further but it was a bit of a disaster and I had the bruised knees to prove it.

Where I stopped, I could see the frozen waterfall at the end of the trail and could even spot some ice climbers scaling it. I even got to witness some extremely comical falls that I wish I captured on my camera!!

The sights from within the canyon are amazing, especially on a beautiful sunny Winter day. I was lucky to spot some wildlife along the trail; there were lots of Squirrels and Chipmunks scurrying around on the ground and in the trees and I spotted my very first Bald Eagle as it swooped high above the canyon. When walking within the deep canyon walls, I could hear the echo of other hikers, the wildlife and even the falling of melting snow from the tall pines that lined the top of the canyon.

This spot is simply amazing during Winter and I would recommend anyone in the Alberta area to give it a try, just DON’T FORGET YOUR CLEATS!! i