Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A love letter to the North Saskatchewan River

One of the main reasons I love living in Edmonton is our river valley. We are so blessed to have the
North Saskatchewan River flowing through our metropolis from west to east, and even more blessed that , over many years, our city councillors have protected its banks and made it into the largest urban park in Canada. A string of about 30 municipal parks covers about 18,000 acres, with more than 160 km of maintained pathways for walking, jogging, cycling and other outdoor pursuits.

Over our Christmas and New Year's break, Lee, Shadow-dog and I walked over 60 km along our river, doing what we call a chain walk. Basically, we crossed 11 bridges (some more than once) and walked in 28 parks on both sides of the river, starting at one bridge and walking to the next, returning on the opposite side of the river, except in the parks out west where the trails meander up into neighbourhoods like Rio Terrace, Quesnell Heights, Rhatigan Ridge, and Ramsay. That was our longest walk, almost 10 km from Quesnell Bridge to Terwillegar Footbridge and back.

Here's a list of the parks we hiked through, borrowed from Wikipedia's North Saskatchewan River valley parks system page. Up until now, I didn't even know that some of the parks had special names!

Walterdale Bridge
  • Terwillegar Park - south bank
  • Oleskiw River Valley Park - north bank
  • Whitemud Park (also known as Whitemud Creek)- south bank
  • Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park - north bank
  • Buena Vista Park - north bank
  • William Hawrelak Park - south bank
  • McKinnon Ravine Park - north bank
  • Government House Park - north bank
  • Emily Murphy Park (named for one of Alberta's/Canada's "Famous Five") - south bank
  • Victoria Park - north bank
  • Kinsmen Park - south bank
  • Queen Elizabeth Park - south bank
  • Nellie McClung Park ("Famous Five") - south bank
  • Irene Parlby Park ("Famous Five") - north bank
  • Rossdale Park - north bank
  • Louise McKinney Park ("Famous Five") - north bank
  • Henrietta Muir Edwards Park / Rafters Landing ("Famous Five") - south bank
  • Mill Creek Ravine Park - south bank
  • Gallagher Park - south bank
  • Riverdale Park - north bank
  • Allan Stein Park - north bank
  • Forest Heights Park - south bank
  • Dawson Park - north bank
  • Kinnaird Park and Ravine - north bank
  • Capilano Park - south bank
  • Gold Bar Park - south bank
  • Floden Park - north bank
  • Rundle Park - north bank

We were fortunate that the weather was reasonable (it's reaching into the -30 degrees Celcius range these evenings, with a -35 windchill at the moment) and the skies were blue for the most part. The thing about living here is that if you can adapt to the cold (read, dress properly), there's every reason to get out and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, and there's plenty of beauty to enjoy.

As we walked, I decided that it was time to write a love letter to my river valley.

Dear North Saskatchewan,

I love your
frosty, misty mornings, 

sounds of squirrels and songs of birds,
your still, shining waters,
frozen surfaces and chunks of ice,

your woodpeckers' holes in snags,
tall trees and frost-encrusted shrubs,

your snowy paths and quietly curving trails,
bridges and city views.

Low Level Bridge view

I love walking, hand in my partner's hand,
and the dog's prancing gait
as we meander with you,
North Saskatchewan River,
and return home
with pink cheeks and tired feet.

I love the part you have played
in the lives of those 
who have inhabited your banks and bluffs
for thousands of years.

I am grateful 
for the way you sustain life
from the glaciers 
to Saskatchewan River Forks.

Pileated woodpecker

Thank you
for your water and ice,
for your beauty and serenity
in my hometown
amid the noise of traffic
and the construction of your bridges.

Thank you
for being a refuge,
a nature-haven
for city-weary souls.

May your waters flow

With love and gratitude,

Fort Edmonton Footbridge

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