3 July, 2024

Jacqueline’s Trans Canada Trail: Birding in Canmore

A scenic road with trees and mountains in the background. | Une route pittoresque avec des arbres et des montagnes en arrière-plan.

A walk along the Bow River

by Jacqueline L. Scott

Jacqueline L. Scott at the Mineside section of the Trans Canada Trail in Canmore, Alberta. | Jacqueline L. Scott au tronçon Mineside du Sentier Transcanadien à Canmore, en Alberta.

Jacqueline L. Scott at the Mineside section of the Trans Canada Trail in Canmore, Alberta.

The turquoise waters of the Bow River gurgled over the rocks as we walked along the wide pebble beach. I squatted and dunked my hands in the water simply because it was there. It was play. The water was ice-cold. A pair of Northern shovelers liked the river, too. The ducks dabbled, their over-sized beaks skimming the surface for food.

A trio of Black-billed magpies argued in the pine trees on my right. They then flew across the river to a stand of birch trees. Their quarrelling continued. Drying my hands on my pants, I sat on a rock and reached into my backpack. I pulled out the binoculars and a water bottle, but left the computer and its presentation slides. A birding walk along the Trans Canada Trail was part of my agenda for attending a conference in the area.

This section of the Trail was just outside the small town of Canmore, Alberta, the home and traditional territory of many Indigenous nations including the Stoney Nakoda, Blackfoot Confederacy and Tsuut’ina Nations.

The Three Sisters Pathway followed the route of the Bow River downstream for the next seven kilometres. The mixture of gravel or paved surface made for easy walking.

Children skipped stones across the river, laughing and high-fiving when their pebbles reached the other bank. Behind them a school-bus-yellow inflatable raft slipped into the river. About half a dozen paddlers hopped in, squealing as the cold water bathed and chilled their knees. They too were playing in the water.

I see mountains wearing hats of snow

View of the Bow River and the mountains from the trail. | La vue de la rivière Bow et des montagnes depuis le sentier.

View of the Bow River and the mountains from the trail.

I turned my gaze back to the mountains swaddling the small town. Most were still wearing hats of snow. The daisy-chain of peaks gleamed in the late spring afternoon sunlight. Soon enough alpine snow would turn into ice-cold river water.

I saw something that was new to me — a pair of grey-bodied, white-headed, dark-capped birds with large black eyes. The birds looked so happy, they made me smile. I checked my e-bird guide and identified them as Canada Jays. They were added to my life-list of birds seen.

A pair of Bald eagles flew across the heavens, soaring higher than the mountains. I wondered if John and Mildred Ware also marvelled at the beauty of the birds. John Ware was a legend in his own lifetime for his skills as a cowboy. Mount Ware and Ware Creek are named after him, and he was honoured on a Canada Post stamp in 2012. The Wares were among the first Black families to own a farm and ranch in Alberta in the 1880s. The legacy of the Black ranchers in the province includes the Calgary Stampede.  

A nature break worked its magic

Leaving the stoney beach, we walked along the riverside trail. This area was once known as Mineside. It was hard to believe that this section of the valley was once filled with mines and miners digging for coal. Time and conservation work helped nature to recover from the industrial past. People walked their dogs along the trail, obeying the posted instructions to always leash and control the dogs.

Two ravens flitted and jabbered ahead. They broke my reverie, reminding me it was time to head to the conference. A nature break along the Trans Canada Trail had worked its magic — both spirit and body were refreshed.


Jacqueline L. Scott is a scholar, writer and activist on race and nature. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. Her thesis is called Black outdoors: The perception of the wilderness in the Canadian imagination. Follow her at her blog and on Instagram @Blackoutdoors1.