Elbow Falls

Lat: 50.867767 Long: -114.781998 Click to see map

A former director of Kananaskis told me that the Elbow Valley is the most popular recreation area in Alberta. Its proximity to Calgary, its accessible terrain and its many features and attractions make this statement self-evident. Elbow Falls is surely the highlight that attracts the most attention. It is that popularity that makes its current state so troubling. The falls and most of the lookouts around it remain intact, but there is little else left. Many trees and much of the land where the picnic area once was are gone. The beautiful wheelchair accessible paved paths are mostly gone - replaced by a rubble of small stones and gravel that is very difficult to walk on and impossible to set out a tarp for lunch. There are four of forty-one picnic tables left and those are either covered in dirt and debris or surrounded by it. It is, in fact, heartbreaking to see what we've lost and to contemplate what can be done to restore its charms.

The parking lot was unaffected so there is ample parking. The modern style outdoor toilet is intact. So it remains an option for a day away from the city, but we need to look for alternatives. That is the reason for this review of day use areas in the Elbow Valley. As increasing numbers of visitors return to the valley in search of recreational opportunities there will be increasing pressure on the locations like Forgetmenot Pond that are mostly intact. People will have to adjust to the new conditions and try to avoid conflicts over the prescious little space left to enjoy a picnic and a day outdoors.

I try not to get too political since I lost the battle to Save Kananaskis and Preserve the Forest, but I have to say I don't like the dirt bikes and ATVs parked on Elbow Falls.


Before and After
Before and After
It's just too sad to see. What can be done to restore a lost treasure?
  • Before and After
    It's just too sad to see. What can be done to restore a lost treasure?
  • Picnic table in the river
    This pretty much says it all. The raging torrent of water ripped away the trees, the patways, the firepits, the picnic tables and the land itself in some kind of viscious assault of unprecedented natural forces. I wouldn't believe it possible if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.
  • It will never be the same again
    People seem to be in a state of shock and disbelief. This family has claimed what little land there is left to enjoy a picnic at the end of a broken path overlooking a field of rocks. This is likely not far from where their favourite picnic pad and table used to be - a place where they could roast their meal and eat their salads alongside the gurgling river flowing by. You can't even see the much of the river anymore.
  • Watch your step
    I found 4 tables buried under trees and debris; this one perched precariously on the shattered picnic pad. There used to be 41 tables in the Elbow Falls Recreation Area. Even if the tables and the paths are cleared of debris, there simply won't be facilities to begin to accomodate the hundreds of people who typically enjoyed a day outdoors near the Falls. Even if the government were willing to pump unimangineable amounts of money to restore it, what could they do and will it survive the next flood?
  • What a mess
    One small patch of picnic area survived intact, but it is buried under a pile of broken trees, pavement and dirt. It will take hundreds of man-hours and loads of resources just to clean and repair what's left. But, there is precious little left.
  • Work to be done
    I can't figure this out. Someone cleared away the worst of the dirt and debris to reveal the table underneath. But how did the human waste get there?
  • All gone
    The land and trees on the left used to provide a buffer between the traffic in the parking lot and the picnic area which used to be where the field of stones and gravel are on the right. Virtually the entire picnic grounds just disappeared.
  • Grumble, grumble, mutter, mutter
    I suppose I shouldn't care that people ride their dirt bikes and ATVs onto the most scenic feature in the Elbow Valley, but I do.


More Information


Elbow Falls Provincial Recreation Area Map

Elbow Falls pra map

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