Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park

Trip Date: March 2017

Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park
Take a step back in time and discover some of Alberta's earliest frontiersmen at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), in their ambitious quest to span the continent, continued their westward push reaching Cochrane in the fall of 1883, opening more of the Canadian west for settlement, ranching, and industry. Due to the fact all trains at that time were steam powered, water was a necessary component for operation. In 1889 the Glenbow Valley immediately east of Cochrane was selected for a water tank and a section house. This land originally belonged to the Cochrane Ranche, one of the most ambitious cattle ranching experiments of the late 1800's. By 1903 the CPR had established a station and laid additional track that ran parallel to the mainline, known as siding. Then in 1905 the small, but growing community of Glenbow became a flagstop along the CPR's mainline. This decision provided much-needed passenger and freight services that were sorely lacking for the valley's residents.

If you look to the east as you enter the parking lot you can see the ruins of the Stevenson home on Millionaire Hill
Looking west towards the Rockies from the viewpoint near the parking lot
Looking east down the valley with the Bow River far below
All that remains of the Morris family home are two chimneys; one brick (above) and one stone (below)
The Morris family lived on Millionaire Hill from 1914 to 1918. The home eventually burned down in 1977, leaving behind only these two chimneys.
The railway was directly responsible for the birth of Glenbow. As early as 1907 men were mining the valuable sandstone in the hills above the town. The sandstone was a sought-after building material. Were it not for the railroad the Glenbow Quarry would not have had access to a market to sell its product and without the quarry the town of Glenbow likely wouldn't have been needed. As the quarry flourished, so too did the burgeoning town. Corrals, a grain elevator, a stock chute, a post office, a general store, and a school were all built to suit the town's growing needs. Wealthy businessmen and their families flocked to the valley, erecting elaborate homes on the hillsides overlooking the town below, which eventually earned the nickname 'Millionaire Hill'.
"We have many visitors at present who are anxious to buy lots for residential purposes, being so close to Calgary, and where the best fishing and sport can be secured easily." 
                               ~Calgary Daily Herald, April 7, 1909
This is the only building still standing from the once thriving town of Glenbow. This is the General Store & Post Office and was originally painted green. Both businesses closed in 1920.
These piles of unused bricks are all the remain from the failed Glenbow Brick Plant
These corrals were built in the 1950's and were upgraded in the 1960's by Glenbow Ranching Ltd.
The Glenbow General Store & Post Office with a backdrop of the Canadian Rockies
Richardson's Ground Squirrels can be seen by the dozen in the park
By all accounts Glenbow was a roaring success. At the height of its prosperity 350 residents called the town home, but alas this success story was to be short-lived. The sandstone, the root of Glenbow's achievements, was discovered to be flawed. Due to present weaknesses to freeze/thaw erosion the sandstone could only be used for the lower sections of buildings and the deeper parts of the stone contained a 'blue hardhead' that was very difficult to work with. Due to these limitations and the frequent break-downs in the quarry's expensive equipment the whole operation closed in 1912, leaving the future of Glenbow quite murky.
"The town of Glenbow situated as it is in the hollow surrounding hills and on the banks of the river Bow, is destined to become a large town, if not a city, in the course of a very few years."                                
                               ~Calgary Daily Herald, July 15, 1909
Crossing the railroad tracks
A section of the Glenbow Trail that eventually ends up in Calgary
Hiking along the Bowbend Trail with the Park Office at the top of the hill in the background
This stone chimney is the lone testament to the historic Waverley Ranch 
In an effort to combat the quarry's closure a brickyard was established, but it too was shuttered in 1914 due to mounting debt and poor quality product. That year also marked the beginning of World War I and many locals left to join the war effort or to pursue other interests in different locales. The population slowly declined over the years until the last residents moved away in 1927, leaving only industrial relics, a few crumbling foundations, and the long-abandoned general store.

Look at the ears on this Mule Deer that I spotted across the coulee from the Tiger Lily Trail
Hiking the Tiger Lily Trail
Just off the trail are the rusting frames of several cars from days gone by
There is no interpretive sign about these automobiles, so I can only guess how they ended up on the side of this hill
This vehicle is almost completely overgrown
Glenbow remained a private ranch owned by the Harvie family until 2006 when the land was donated to the Government of Alberta and would officially become Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park in 2008. After a $3 million face-lift, which included pathways, viewpoints, fencing, maps, interpretive signs, a railway crossing, washrooms, and picnic facilities, the park officially opened in summer 2011.

As I was leaving the park I saw this Red-Tailed Hawk soaring in circles while utilizing a thermal updraft
The hawk was carrying some nest material in its talons
The park features more than 25 kilometres of paved and un-paved trails to suit all ability levels. My day consisted of hiking along the Glenbow, Bowbend, and Tiger Lily Trails, which passed many of the park's historical artifacts. I totaled about 12 kilometres over the course of the afternoon, but would love to get back there again sometime soon and see what the rest of the park has to offer.

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