What will happen to Allen Bill, Elbow Falls, Cobble Flats and Forgetmenot?

The Elbow Valley has been one of the, maybe the, most popular recreation and tourism destinations provided by Alberta Parks. No wonder. It’s close to Calgary and it’s beautiful – with loads of facilities and trails to enjoy, all set against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. In 2013 it got hit hard. A huge dump of rain in the headwaters of the river way back in the mountains sent a torrent of angry water downriver, ripping land from rock, changing the river flow and hurling picnic tables from their moorings. The dam that held the water for Allen Bill Pond broke, for the second time in 8 years and the paths, picnic tables, even the river at Elbow Falls disappeared. In 2016 the government published a plan to rebuild and renew this highly prized natural area. Here’s the plan:

Allen Bill Day Use Area and Fullerton Trailhead

Allen Bill used to be a pond and used to serve as the trailhead for the Fullerton Loop. No more. But, paths at Allen Bill will be repaired, be wheelchair accessible and there will be 5 large picnic tables and 30 small ones. The signs and toilets will be restored. Importantly the shoreline will be remediated. So this will be a great location for picnics. The crosswalk, across Highway 66, to the Fullerton Loop Trailhead, will have lights. The trailhead will be dramatically enlarged and upgraded with trees, signage and a toilet. It looks like there will be bus/RV parking and 90 cars. Sadly, the pond will remain a field of stones.

Elbow Falls

Elbow Falls

Elbow Falls

So sad, but what can they do? The area was wrecked in the flood. It, won’t recover, at least as a site for family picnics. The paths and parking will be rebuilt and restored, but there won’t be any picnic tables. There will be parking for 156 cars and 5 bus stalls. It looks like one of the paths will be paved, making it wheelchair accessible. That huge field of stones where the river used to run is now part of the landscape. They will do important work to improve drainage and repair what used to be the shoreline. The shoreline is now a fairly high kind of cliff. They’ll build ramps down to the flood plain, with benches, but there will be hazard signs. The Falls are still falling and the viewpoints will be repaired so we can still admire the view.

Cobble Flats Day Use Area

There are some significant upgrades envisioned for the Cobble Flats Day Use Area. There will be new asphalt on roads and pathways, making them wheelchair accessible. There will be a new group picnic area with a shelter, 5 large picnic sites with tables and 25 smaller sites without tables. Washrooms and signage will be upgraded. So, Cobble Flats will replace Elbow Falls as a family friendly picnic site.

Forgetmenot Pond Day Use Area and Nihahi Trailhead

Paths here suffered some serious damage in the flood. They will be restored, along with picnic tables and signage. There will be asphalt for RV, car parking and some trails making it wheelchair accessible. The trailhead parking for Nihahi will accommodate 76 cars. The trail to access Nihahi will be rebuilt. There will be new picnic tables. The equestrian parking and staging will get new gravel. The shoreline will be reinforced with a clay berm.

Here’s the plan  Click to download