I am an avid hiker with a focus on easy to moderate trails in natural settings. I occasionally do harder trails.
A Bright Light Among Calgary's River Valley Trails
When people look for trails to hike in Calgary, I think that Nosehill Park is the "go-to" trail network. It's a large park, there is elevation to get the heart pumping, and the area is very peaceful. Furthermore, the park offers something to dog owners, cyclists, and pedestrians.
However, the Beaver Dam Flats is an area that should not be overlooked. This is a City of Calgary park and it is near Glenmore Trail on Calgary's east side. It's a nice contrast to Nosehill Park for those visiting Calgary and looking to vary up their trail-hiking experiences. It's also a park that can be reached with public transportation.
Wildlife in Beaver Dam Flats Park
Beaver sightings, as the name suggests, are a distinct possibility in Beaver Dam Flats Park (might also be called "Beaverdam Flats" by some sources). The Bow River runs through it and there is a powerful current in the water but there is also a calm area where the water is not noticeably flowing. There was a beaver dam in this calm area when I visited the park in 2020 and 2021.
In the area of this dam, I have seen beavers on many occasions. One time I also saw a large coyote and wondered a little if it may have been a wolf. Furthermore, the river is a resting area for many species of birds.
The trail in this park is not completely flat. There is a long stretch along the river's side that doesn't include much elevation, however, getting down to the riverside and then getting back up requires hiking a small ravine. There is also some uneven terrain throughout the trail. In the following video, you will see me on the edge of this ravine preparing to descend into the park. The entry points are along Lynnview Road SE in Calgary.
Entering Beaver Dam Flats Park
Sapper's Bridge in Beaver Dam Flats Park
After descending into the park toward the Bow River, you will come to a flat stretch. There are points where you get really close to the river and the current looks very threatening. I have seen people in bathing suits flirting with the idea of swimming in this water, however, I don't know that it's a great idea for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, common advice is not to swim in water that's flowing out of a major city because pollutants in the city might be in the water. But secondly, this river looks a little too rough to swim in.
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It is around a point called "Sapper's Bridge" that you are most likely to see beavers. In the following video, I show the beaver dam as viewed from Sapper's Bridge and the current of the river. When you are at the park, then you can use a golfing range that's visible on the west side of the river to try and orient yourself.
View of the Beaver Dam in Beaver Dam Flats Park
Pros and Cons With Beaver Dam Flats
Unfortunately, I did not spot a beaver on the day I went to this park in August 2020. They are unpredictable so you can't bank on a guaranteed sighting. If you are taking kids, then be sure to manage their expectations.
But this isn't a bad park when it comes to visiting one that's in the city of Calgary. Usually, river valley parks that are in major cities have some domestic homelessness that can give the park a bad vibe. However, in this park, I have not come across that too often.
One criticism I have is that, as an in-city park, the scenery is not the most amazing. You can see businesses and factories from some trails that connect to this park so it's not like the amazing scenery you get in nearby Banff.
But this trail is part of a larger network. You can definitely take a few hours to walk around in this region with the Beaver Dam Flats only comprising a small part of your outing. To the south or to the north, there are connecting trails, much of which involves hiking or walking near the Bow River.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Shane Lambert
Liz Westwood from UK on August 31, 2021:
This is a balanced review of the area. I appreciate the advice about managing children's expectations and your description of the scenery.