Exploring Alberta’s Provincial Parks: Fish Creek

About Fish Creek

Fish Creek Provincial Park is a large provincial park located within the city of Calgary, Alberta. It runs east/west through the entire Fish Creek valley within the Calgary city limits before connecting to another section running along the Bow River in the Bow River Valley.

Fish Creek Provincial Park’s Rich History

Calgary in 1886. Photo courtesy of prairie-towns.com.

The history of the Fish Creek Provincial park region dates back to 1883 when the wealthy Samuel William Shaw moved to the Calgary region from Rochester, England with his family. They moved to what was then – the Northwest Territories – in search of taming the wild and unforgiving Canadian wilderness. They arrived with 2 boxcars full of belongings and set up their homestead. This homestead would expand to include farming, ranching, and manufacturing operations. They opened a general store and a post office[1].

The Shaw Family’s Woolen Mill in 1896. Midnapore would be built around this mill. Photo courtesy of prairie-towns.com.

The family brought with them over 30 tons of wool mill machinery and set up Alberta’s first industry. He opened a woolen mill along Fish Creek and before long was manufacturing hundreds of pounds of wool each day. Samuel Shaw’s wife – Helen Shaw – opened the family’s Midnapore Woolen Mills store in downtown Calgary along Stephen Avenue. They sold skirts, blankets, flannels, tweed, and yarn produced from their wool factory in Fish Creek[1].

Over time, the town of Midnapore formed around Samuel Shaw’s homestead and factory and he opened the community’s first school. The Shaw family became a leader in Alberta’s farming, ranching, and urban development sectors[1].

By 1923, Midnapore had its own train station serviced regularly by Canadian Pacific Railroad. Photo courtesy of prairie-towns.com.

Another important person in the history of Fish Creek Provincial Park is William Roper Hull. In 1873 – when Hull was just 17 – he and his brother arrived from England to work on their uncle’s farm in Kamloops, BC. Within 10 years, the brothers would build an empire around their cowboy roots. In 1883 (the same year the Shaw family arrived), they opened a small butcher shop in Calgary which would later become Hulls Bros. & Co. By 1884, their company would supply meat to the entire Canadian Pacific Railway’s construction crews in British Columbia. Their system became the first version of modern cattle ranching in Western Canada[2].

In 1892, the Hulls Bros. & Co. would purchase a large area of land in the nearby Fish Creek Valley and they constructed their impressive base of operations: the Bow Valley Ranch. This building was an impressive 2 story brick mansion that would become a hub for visiting dignitaries, business affairs, and parties[2].

View of Calgary from the Grain Exchange Building (Built by William Hull). Photo courtesy of prairie-towns.com.

William Hull left his mark on Calgary – even today. The Ranch House itself serves as a visitor center and houses one of Calgary’s top rated restaurants. His irrigation system would increase crop yields in agriculture by more than 1300%. Hull was huge in Calgary real estate as well having constructed the Victoria Block, Albion block (today houses the palace theater), Hulls Opera House (demolished in 1963 – the Bow Tower’s parkade is under where this once stood), and the Grain Exchange Building – Calgary’s first skyscraper (fortunately this building still stands today – located at 1st & 9th Ave)[2].

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Summer at Fish Creek

Calgarians love Fish Creek Provincial Park in the summertime because of its many picnic opportunities, hiking trails, birding opportunities, mountain biking, trail running, group use, and environmental education capacities. There is swimming available in the park in both the Bow River, and Sikome Lake. Fishing along the Bow River is a popular activity.

Winter at Fish Creek

The park doesn’t have too much for winter activities although most of the Day Use Areas are year round. There is good photography opportunities through the park.

Camping at Fish Creek

There is no camping available in Fish Creek Provincial Park.

CampgroundAmenitiesType of SiteAmount AvailableCost/Night
This data is accurate as of 2023

Day Use at Fish Creek

Fish Creek Provincial Park has an extensive network of Day Use Areas for Calgarians to easily enjoy the park.

  1. Bankside (Year Round) – Bankside is located downstream of Mallard Point day use. It is located along the Bow River. It is accessible by trail from Deer Run, or by road at the end of 153 Avenue SW. Bankside has flush toilets, tapwater, and picnic areas. There is no fires allowed in the Bankside Day Use Area. Liquor is permitted on site. Trails in this area run through groves of poplar trees.
  2. Bebo Grove (Year Round) – Bebo Grove is the second most western day use area in Fish Creek Provincial Park. It is accessible by trail from both Woodbine and Evergreen. By road, follow 24 St. SW. to its southernmost point (The stretch of 24th that stretches between 90th Ave SW and Woodpark Blvd SW). Bebo Grove has firepits that users can enjoy as well as flush toilets and tapwater. The day use area is located in a white spruce forest.
  3. Boat Launch (April 1 – October 31) – The Boat Launch Day Use Area is located on the southernmost part of the park north of Stoney Trail. It is accessible by following Bow Bottom Trail to its southernmost part. There is a T-intersection near the day use area. The purpose of this day use area is to provide boat access to the Bow River. There is a boat launch and outhouse here. Fires are not allowed and there are no picnic tables here. Note that motorboats are banned in Calgary city limits.
  4. Bow Valley Ranch (Year Round) – The Bow Valley Ranch is widely considered to be the center of Fish Creek Provincial Park and has trails connecting it in all directions. Trails connect Park Ridge in the North and Sun Valley in the south to the day use area. The road access is a right turn off of southbound Bow Bottom Trail. The Boy Valley Ranch Day Use has flush toilers, a visitor center and tapwater available.
  5. Burnsmead (Year Round) – Burnsmead day use area is located downstream from both Mallard Point and Bankside day use areas. It is accessible by trail from Deer Run and McKenzie Lake. It if located off of 153 Avenue SW. This is a good area to view local birdlife since it is located in wetlands. There are no picnic tables here and fires are banned.
  6. Chinook Rotary Nature Park (Year Round) – The Chinook Rotary Nature Park is the first day use area found south of Stoney Trail in the southern portion of Fish Creek Provincial Park. Trails connect the day use area to the community of Cranston. To get here by road, you need to follow McKenzie Meadows Drive right to its end. There isn’t any fires or picnic tables allowed in this area. Birdwatchers can view red-winged black birds, spotted sandpipers, and American white pelicans at this day use area.
  7. Glennfield (Year Round) – Glennfield is the closest day use area to Macleod Trail. It is accessible by turning off of Bannister Road SE right beside the spot it passes underneath Macleod Trail. There are group day use areas located here as well. Trails connect to the nearby communities of Midnapore, Lake Bonaventure, Shawnee, and Canyon Meadows. Glennfield Day Use Area has firepits, flush toilets, and tapwater.
  8. Hulls Wood – Hulls Wood day use area is accessible from Bow Bottom Trail right before it splits into a one way road at its southernmost end. Hulls Wood day use area has an amphitheater, firepits, flush toilers and tapwater. The amphitheater is commonly used as a wedding venue due to its beautiful location. Liquor is permitted in this day use area between 11am and 9pm.
  9. Lafarge Meadows (Year Round) – Lafarge Meadows is the southernmost day use area in Fish Creek Provincial Park. It is only accessible by trail from either the Chinook Rotary Nature Park, or by its own parking lot located at the end of 194 Ave. SE. This day use area was formerly a Lafarge gravel pit and is one of the few day use areas developed by private enterprise. Storm water runoff from nearby neighbourhoods fill the wetlands with water, pollutants, and sediments. The pollutants and sediments settle in the wetlands so that cleaner water gets released into the Bow River. There isn’t any picnic tables here and fires are not allowed. Additionally, the water is unsafe for swimming or skating and can rise rapidly during rainfall or snow melting.
  10. Mallard Point (Year Round) – This is the northernmost day use area in the park. It is accessible off of Canyon Meadows Dr. Simply follow the road east to its end and it will curve down into the day use area. Flush toilets and tapwater are available in this area. Fishing and birdwatching are popular activities at this riverside location. There are no picnic tables and fires are not allowed however.
  11. Shannon Terrace – Shannon Terrace is the westernmost part of Fish Creek Provincial Park. It is accessible by trail from Woodbine and Evergreen. By road, the day use area’s access is located just off 130 Ave SW on Woodpath Rd. SW. Shannon Terrace offers an amphitheater, firepits, flush toilers, and tapwater. The day use area is buried in a spruce forest offering beautiful hikes and good opportunities to view wildlife. Since it is on the edge of Calgary, there is common wildlife encounters here. The amphitheater is a popular wedding venue. There is also the Fish creek Environmental Learning Center located at Shannon Terrace Day Use Area.
  12. Sikome Aquatic Facility (Summertime) The Sikome Aquatic Facility is a swimming area in Fish Creek Provincial Park on the banks of Sikome Lake. This is one of Calgary’s most popular urban beaches. There is an entry fee to access the lake however. Additionally, there is no lifeguards here so the visitor assumes their own risk.
  13. Votier’s Flats (Year Round) – Votier’s Flats is a day use area found in the western parts of Fish Creek Provincial Park. It is accessible by trail from Canyon Meadows and Shawnee. By road, you would simply follow Elbow Drive to its southernmost point and this will become the Votier parking lot.

Fish Creek Provincial Park also offers Group Day Use opportunities for different events such as birthday parties, celebrations, and corporate events.

  1. Glennfield Area: Aspen Group Use (April 1 – October 31) – $90/day – Provides access to a large and modern shelter with power, parking, and picnic tables. There area also flush toilets, tapwater, and wheelchair accessibility.
  2. Glennfield Area: Blackbird Group Use – (April 1 – October 31) – $90/day – Provides access to a large and modern shelter with power, parking, and picnic tables. There area also flush toilets, tapwater, and wheelchair accessibility.
  3. Glennfield Area: Crocus Group Use (Year Round) – Free – Provides access to a large shelter, parking, and picnic tables. There is no electrical power here and washrooms are found in the Glennfield Day Use Area.
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Distances to Alberta Cities

Distance to Calgary: 22km (from city center)

Distance to Edmonton: 313km

Distance to Red Deer: 163km

Distance to Lethbridge: 199km

Distance to Grande Prairie: 728km

Coordinates: 50°54’36.3″N 114°01’22.4″W

Alberta Parks Website

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References

[1] Pioneer Adventures -The Shaws of England. (n.d.). Available at: https://www.albertaparks.ca/media/3007267/fish_creek_shaw_family.pdf [Accessed 12 Feb. 2023].

[2] Alberta Parks (n.d.). Rancher, Businessman and Entrepreneur. [online] Available at: https://www.albertaparks.ca/media/3007245/fish_creek_william_roper_hull.pdf [Accessed 12 Feb. 2023].

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