In 2013, the residents of the Bow Valley, where the Bow River passes through, found out in a pretty spectacular way the nature of a Valley. Even today, the cleanup and restoration of the valley after the 2013 flood is still underway. At the time of the flood, all transit through the valley was at a standstill.
It’s important to understand the narrow channel that a valley represents. Flowing through this narrow channel is the original means of valley creation, the river. Sometimes powerful in Spring flood flow as the snow melts on the peaks and flows down into the river channel through many pathways. Most of the time, the river provides a pleasant place to picnic, to float down on tubes, or an incredible sight as it tumbles down the mountain sides as stunning waterfalls.
Water in the valley continues to form the valley, slowly, over time, widening the passageways. However, what we face today are some very narrow passageways and so many uses of those passageways. The most obvious one people encounter is the Trans Canada Highway. Often referred to with the phrase “follow the only road”, it is the one and only East/West roadway through the valley. Travel on this road is pretty much a must for visitors to the valley. You may choose to bike on it, tow your trailer or boat behind your car on it, truck commercial goods down it, hike it or view the mountain scenery from it, stopping along the way to take photos of the incredible views. Understand that since it is the only road into and out of the mountains, the traffic here can be quite heavy. Be patient with each other and use the overflow parking lots and shuttle service to get to your destination.
Beside the highway, mostly traveling right next to it, is the railroad. I don’t know why, but just watching the massive, red engines pulling a train of cars in one direction or the other puts a smile on my face. Driving beside the train, you can catch up with it and pass it or watch it pass you as both forms of transportation travel in tandem through the valley with mountains on either side, twisting and turning around the base of these mountains along the curves first cut by the river waters.
Although, in Canmore, if you have to stop at one of the railroad crossings you may scowl at the time it takes for one of these long trains to pass by, keeping you from crossing from one side of the town to the other. The good news is that the trains don’t often stop in Canmore and just breeze through as quickly as possible, keeping the wait times to a minimum. Although at Christmas time, the CP Holiday Train usually makes a stop, featuring live music and fun for the whole family.
Transit through the valley is not for the exclusive use of humans either. With the train and the highway traveling lengthwise through the valley, it is tricky for our local animals to cross from side to side of the valley. This used to result in quite the carnage on the highways, until the fences were put up on either side of the highway and the brilliant animal bridges were built! Now, although you don’t see them, our animal friends travel through the same valley we all use, leaving behind only tracks.
What is most fascinating in the local towns in the Bow Valley is driving through the town or waiting at a railroad crossing for a train to pass and standing nearby is a herd of Elk or other wildlife also waiting for the train to pass. You may even get to watch the wildlife cross at the walkways when the lights change!