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. A plan proposed in 2016 doesn’t include any picnic tables for Elbow Falls.
I try not to get too political since I lost the battle to Save Kananaskis, but I have to say I don’t like seeing the dirt bikes and ATVs parked on the rock above the falls.
Elbow Falls Provincial Recreation Area Map
Click to enlarge.