Geocaching at Sandy Beach Park

On Saturday we attended the annual “end of the year” potluck for all the members of the competition team from Calgary Taekwondo Academy. For a few years running, our taekwondo master has reserved a picnic spot (with charcoal BBQ) at Sandy Beach Park, which is fairly centrally located, just north of the Glenmore Reservoir.

While Oldest GeoKid hung out and played soccer with other members of the competition team, Mrs. GeoK headed off in search of a geocache. About a half-dozen geocaches are hidden in the interconnected River, Riverdale, Altadore, Britannia Slopes and Sandy Beach parks. Together, these parks make up the 3rd largest natural area remaining along the Elbow River within the city of Calgary (other than Griffith Woods and the Weaselhead). So if you want to find all of caches in one visit, you’re probably better geobiking than you are walking.

There are a few misnomers here…first, the parks aren’t entirely “natural” since there are introduced shrub and tree species on Britannia Slopes, parts of Sandy Beach are relatively manicured picnic areas and River Park is one of the most popular off-lease dog parks in the city. Second, there’s no sand to be found along the banks of the Elbow River as it flows through Sandy Beach Park!

Even so, Sandy Beach is very popular in the summer time. Lots of rafters like to start their Elbow River float trips here. The Sandy Beach pedestrian bridge is an important river crossing along the Elbow River pathway (and is also a waymark). The picnic sites are well-used by families and community groups. And YMCA Camp Riveredge, which is located just upstream of Sandy Beach, is a very popular summer day camp.

The Elbow River is currently running high and dirty, primarily because of all the June rainfall. It’s likely to remain high as the deep snow pack melts over the next several weeks.

Elbow River
Due to recent above-average rainfall and early snowmelt, the Elbow River is running higher (and dirtier) than normal. This shot is from the suspension bridge connecting Sandy Beach to Britannia Slopes.
Pedestrian suspension bridge
This narrow suspension bridge is an integral part of the Elbow River pathway system that allow pedestrians and cyclists to travel from the Glenmore Reservoir pathway system all the way to the confluence of the Elbow and Bow Rivers near Fort Calgary. It also happens to be a waymark!

Good advice
It’s a good idea to comply with this sign. While waiting to take a photo of the bridge I watched one rider ignore the side and then tip over part way across the bridge, as pedestrians walking the other direction caused enough sway and bounce to unbalance the rider!

Cable connectors

Once across the bridge, it’s a short climb to the top of the Britannia escarpment, the hiding place for GC27JVG Britannia Escarpment – Calgary Parks 100, a small geocache placed a couple of years ago as part of the Calgary Parks 100th Anniversary celebration. There are some great views of the downtown Calgary skyline from the escarpment – and probably also from the off-leash dog park on the opposite side of the river.

Heading back down the slope, it’s almost like stepping outside the city for a few minutes…

Urban forest
Unofficial trails through Britannia Slopes offer the illusion of being outside the city, but it only lasts for a minute or two before roads, other trail users or the city skyline come into view!

Flowering shrub

Alberta wild rose blossom

Mother Nature's Sculpture

There’s an interesting and significant connection between this park and Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, which we visited a couple of weeks ago. The land for Sandy Beach was donated to the city in 1956 by Glenbow Investments, which was owned by Eric Harvie. The land for Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park was sold (at a bargain price) to the province by some of his children and grandchildren. Further research taught me that Eric Harvie is the man behind the Glenbow Museum, Heritage Park, the Devonian Gardens and much more. It’s no wonder the recently re-done wier on the Bow River is named the Harvie Passage – to recognize the extensive contributions of the Harvie family to the city and beyond. While we’re just four of the million+ residents of Calgary, we’d like to voice our thanks for the Harvie family’s foresight, generousity and on-going efforts to improve the quality of life for all Albertans. Merci beaucoup!

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