Monday, October 13, 2008

Sheep River Valley and Bluerock Trail -- June 14, 2008

Sandy McNabb trail - (1.8 km loop) Head west from Turner Valley on Highway 546 (look for signs pointing to Bluerock). Turn down access road into Sandy McNabb Recreation area. Take third left into parking area.

Bluerock Creek Trail - (2.2 km loop) Head west from Turner Valley on Highway 546 (look for signs pointing to Bluerock). Look for turnout/parking lot along highway just before Bluerock Creek crossing.

When I'm picking my trails, I tend to focus too much on the areas west of the city... though who can blame me? West of Calgary my options include Banff National Park, Canmore, Kananaskis, Lake Louise and Elbow Valley, just for starters.

So at times I have to remind myself of the beautiful and generally less-traveled areas south and southwest of the city, and go check out the many many trails I have never hiked.

D and I briefly examined Brown-Lowery Provincial Park in April, a nice little family area south of Calgary and just north of Turner Valley. This time we decided to venture a little further out to the Sheep River Valley area.

We didn't intend to do a major hike, instead we strung a few smaller hikes together. As we drove along Highway 546 directly west of Turner Valley, we also stopped at road turnouts along the way.

First of all, Sheep River is beautiful in spring. There were so many shades of green, and the water was running high and fast (and pretty muddy). Our first stop was the Sandy McNabb trail, a very easy 1.8 km loop through grassy forest. The first real viewpoint was a stunning look at the valley:

We also pulled over at the Bighorn Sheep Lookout, but this view greeted us from the trailhead:

The cows were *everywhere*. The parking lot. The stop sign. The trailhead, the trail, the meadow. And they were all watching us very carefully. We saw a lot of cattle.... notsomuch on the sheep. ;-)

Further on down the highway, we stopped to hike the Bluerock Creek 2.2 km loop. The trail is along a campground, and the area is stunning in its beauty. Once I start camping again, this will surely be one of my first stops:

Plenty of colour here too... the wildflowers were in full bloom. In keeping with my attempt to go beyond calling them "blue ones", let me present the Smooth Blue Beardtongue (Penstemon nitidus) of the Figwort family. Or at least I think it is (eagerly receiving corrections if I'm wrong):

Another look at Bluerock Creek:

Back out along the highway, where the Sheep River and Bluecreek Creek meet:

We turned around to head back to the city (we stopped by Junction Creek trail, but didn't find the hiking that interesting), but stopped for a look at Sheep River falls. This might have been the highlight of the day, as those unplanned stops often are.

Here's the "mini-falls" on the path to the falls viewpoint. We saw ducks playing in the rapids around here, but none stayed still long enough for a photo!

Sheep River Falls:

Not a lot of hiking in terms of distance, but it was a great day traveling somewhere a little unfamiliar.


Suzanne Perazzini said...

What a soothing place to visit. But I have to know why it's called Sheep River, falls etc. Why not Cow river?

Mike.R said...

Hi Michelle, great post and even better pictures. Those are some of my most favorate spots to get away. Your Blog has really grown since the last time I visited.

Great work I must say and keep it up, Blogging is so fun hey !!!!


Michelle said...

Suzanna - ha! That's actually a really good question. The Bighorn Sheep lookout (which I didn't get a photo of thanks to the cows everyone), looks out over a pasture that Bighorn Sheep generally migrate to for the winter. It doesn't get a lot of snow, there are warm chinooks winds and they're safer from predators here (there's no hunting in provincial parks). There are three different traditional/Native names for the area... all translate to "Sheep River".

The down side? When the sheep congregate here in spring, the ticks follow. I tend to avoid this area until peak tick season is over

Mike - thanks so much. It's an under-appreciated area, but that's ok because it's nice to get away to the quieter spots at times! Nice to see you again.

Ben said...

Hum... I think those flowers are closely related to another type of flower here in the states called red ones.

Sheep (Cow) River Falls looks very impressive. I think you've captured it from a great vantage point here.