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Celebrating the Bow

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Light up the Bow

River of Light, by D. Hayes

August 21, 2010

This summer, Calgarians have been invited to celebrate the beautiful river that runs through our city. As part of the City’s commitment to protect and sustain our natural resources, including our rivers, an innovative public art project was launched that involved six artists each directing a project to allow citizens and visitors to reflect on the beauty and significance of the Bow River. One of the projects, River of Light, wrapped up on Saturday with a unique show, as hundreds of lighted spheres were released to float down the river from Edworthy Park to the lagoon at Prince’s Island. I watched this water-borne procession from the Bow River pathway, near the osprey nest in Broadview Park. The display was beautiful and I was happy to be a part of a very large crowd of people who had gathered to pay homage to the river that has been described as “the spine” of our city. If you want to read more about this project, which was designed by Createmosphere, you can visit the blog at

PC 267

View from Mount Pleasant, ca. 191_

Postcards from the Past, PC 267

As the Celebration of the Bow has revealed, when people look at the Bow, they see different things. For example, “when lumberman Isaac Kerr looked at the river, he saw a city” (The River Returns by Armstrong, Evenden and Nelles). Watching the spheres float, and noticing the speed of their travel and the efforts by the kayakers to keep the flow going, I was reminded of the log drives that, every spring, brought trees from west of the city to the sawmill of the Eau Claire Lumber Company, founded by Kerr and Peter Prince. While log drives are not as artistically pleasing as a flotilla of lighted orbs, they are beautiful in their own way. (I loved the song “Log Driver’s Waltz” as recorded by the McGarrigles and animated by John Weldon for the NFB.)

PC 141

Log Jam on the Bow River, ca 1910

Postcards from the Past, PC 141

I was always astonished that we had a lumber industry here in Calgary. There are very few trees in this city that were not planted by the inhabitants but because of the rich forests that lay to the west and the mighty Bow River, which provided the perfect transportation system, Calgary was the lumber supplier to the area, and Eau Claire Lumber was the major player. You can see photos of the Eau Claire Lumber Company and its companion company, the Calgary Water Power Company, in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. There is an excellent chapter on the lumber industry in Calgary called “The Wooden River” in the book The River Returns, which is available at many of the branches of the Calgary Public Library. There is also a history of the Eau Clair Lumber Company written by T. M. Schulte based on the reminiscences of an employee of the company, Theodore Strom. It is in the Local History room, call Lumber 333.7932 SCH.

Documents from the Eau Claire Lumber Company are at the Glenbow. You can view the timber surveys online from this finding aid:

I have always lived within walking distance of the Bow and I am delighted by this initiative to celebrate its importance to the city. Please feel free to share your comments about your feelings for the Bow by clicking on the Comments link, then on “Click here to join”. You will become a member of our online community and will be able to post comments on anything you read here.


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