When the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) received its land grant in 1903 (3 million acres east and south of Calgary, bounded by the Bow and Red Deer Rivers), it agreed, in return, to develop an irrigation system for this fertile but arid area, known as the Palliser Triangle.
When it was completed in 1906, the Western Irrigation District Canal was one of the world’s largest water diversions, second only to the Nile River. The WID Canal is a hard-working waterway, serving more than 38,000 hectares of farm between Calgary and Cluny. It also collects the majority of stormwater runoff for northeast Calgary and Chestermere.
Since that time, a paved pathway has been constructed along the entire length of the Canal. The Western Irrigation District (WID) Canal Pathway begins at the headworks of the Western Irrigation District Canal across from Pearce Estate. It winds through a number of picnic sites, past the Bow Waters Canoe Club, under the Deerfot, through the light industrial areas of Foothills and South Foothills and finally, outside the city limits, through grain fields, pastures and acreages. The total length of the pathway is 26 km, terminating at the south end of Chestermere Lake.
We first cycled the WID Canal Pathway last summer. At that time, Youngest GeoK was riding a smaller bike and his average riding speed was about 13 km/h. This year, with a larger bike and larger tires, he’s averaging closer to 20 km/h. So even with a long snack break and several stops for geocaching, we completed the 43 km (return) ride in less than three hours.
Even though it was Saturday, when Calgary-area pathways are generally quite busy, we saw less than 20 other cyclists during our time on the pathways. We also spotted a fox (bounded across the path about 15 m in front of us), a hawk (devouring its latest catch), a nice fat pheasant (spooked from the tall grass when Mr. GeoK squawked over the FSR), and lots of swallows, geese and ducks.
Things went well on the geocaching front, too. By far the most enjoyable find of the day was GC1YE0T Minstrel in the Gallery, which was our first geobiking stop. We found another three along the WID Canal Pathway and then a couple more in the new Quarry Park subdivision just before arriving back at our parking spot, for a grand total of 6 smileys (and 1 DNF – apparently AWOL as a result of a recent clean-up of a rest stop along the Pathway).
If the wind’s not blowing and you’re looking for a relatively flat ride, hop on your bike and ride the WID Canal Pathway out to Chestermere. If you take care at the road crossings and keep a watchful eye for wildlife, you should have a great ride.
Canola field along the WID Canal Pathway