Pearce Estate Wetland

The Pearce Estate Wetland is a city park located in Calgary, Alberta. The park occupies 21 hectares (52 acres; 0.21 km2) along the Bow River to the east of downtown Calgary. It is described as "constructed wetlands filled with native plants and animals". The land was donated to the city around 1929 by then prominent Calgarian William Pearce.[1]

Pearce Estate Wetland
TypeUrban park
Location1440 17A St. S.E. Calgary
Nearest cityCalgary, Alberta
Coordinates51°02′30″N 114°00′53″W
Area21 hectares (52 acres; 0.21 km2)
Operated byCity of Calgary

The park is located east of the Calgary Zoo and the neighborhood of Inglewood, at the eastern end of International Avenue, inside a bend of the Bow River. An interpretative trail was opened to the public in 2004.[1]


The main parking lot for the park is located at 1440 17A St. S.E. Calgary, to the west of the neighborhood of Inglewood. It is west of the Calgary Zoo, at the eastern end of International Avenue, inside a bend of the Bow River.


William Pearce (1848–1930), who served as the Inspector of Dominion Lands Agencies, where he oversaw the "development and allocation of all land, forests, mineral and water resources" from "Winnipeg to the eastern foothills of the Rockies"—representing 400,000 square miles of land. With such influence, he earned the nickname the "Czar of the West".[2] On October 21, 1880, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) signed an agreement with the federal government to build a 1,900 mile-railway from Kamloops, British Columbia to Callander, Ontario. The railway was to receive "$25 million and 25 million acres of land 'fairly fit for settlement.'"[3] Pearce convinced the CPR to build the line through Calgary, with the Bow River watershed used to irrigate lands in southern Alberta. John Palliser who led the 1857-1859 British Palliser expedition to Western Canada, and for whom the Palliser's Triangle was named, had said the land was "unfit for settlement."[4][5] By 1915, Pearce's vision of a vast irrigation system had been realized; land that Palliser thought would never support settlement, was "fertile and valuable". A 1915 article in Scientific American described it as "America’s Greatest Irrigation Project."[4] According to E.J. (Ted) Hart, director of the Whyte Museum in Banff, who is the author of "several histories" of the Bow River watershed region, the "irrigation history of the Bow is one of the great industrial projects of Canada’s history. It created an economy out of an area that was considered useless."[4]

Pearce moved to Calgary, Alberta in 1884 and worked for twenty years for the CPR. A year before he died he donated his estate in the southeast of Calgary, which occupied about 80 hectares (200 acres; 0.80 km2) in a curve along the Bow River as it flows through the city.[2]

Pearce's land, on which the Pearce Estate Park is situated, was "devoted to experimental methods."[4] Before Pearce owned the wetlands, they were once part of a "riverine forest complex".[2] Pearce used some of the land for agriculture.[2] Pearce "believed in urban parks" and he "is the reason so much of the Bow remains accessible" to the public as it runs through the city core.[4]

In 2004, the city opened the newly developed wetland area and interpretive trail to the public.[2]


Pearce Estate Park includes naturalized, reconstructed wetlands with ponds and streams along its pathways. It has a playground, picnic sites, seasonal washrooms, cross-country skiing, walking and biking trails, and access to the kayak rapids. Trails include the "Walking on Water Trail," the British Petroleum (BP) "Discovery Trail," and the Ducks Unlimited "Webbed Foot Lane". The Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery, which is operated by the province, and provincially operated Bow Habitat Station are on the site. The nature interpretation facility is "jointly developed and operated" by the province of Alberta, the City of Calgary, along with private and non-profit sectors.[2] The park occupies 21 hectares (52 acres; 0.21 km2) hectare which includes 15 hectares (37 acres; 0.15 km2) of wetland area and the adjacent Bow Habitat Station.[2]


The Estate ecosystem is a Balsam Poplar riverine forest, where willows, including the silver willow, Water Birch and Red-osier Dogwood thrive. Balsam Poplar Populus balsamifera, which are also known as call Black Cottonwoods, prefer a very moist soil and can tolerate flooding. The bark of the balsam poplar is thick and gnarly and their leaves are large and pointed leaves. These trees provide habitat for a diversity of native fauna. In the small streams and ponds, submergent vegetation, like Sago Pondweed can be found. Common Duckweed floats on surface waters.[2]


The White-breasted Nuthatch and Gray Catbird are very common. Birds that nest in cavities, such as Common Goldeneye, Tree Swallows, and Northern Flickers, are attracted to the older Balsam poplar trees. Some of these trees can live up to 200 years.[2] Pond birds include American Coots. Invertebrates include the Water Boatman, Midges, and Diving Beetles that the ducks feed on.[2]

Bend in the Bow

Pearce Estate Wetland is part of a larger city project which is a project that connects Pearce Estate Park and the adjoining green spaces on the banks of the Bow River to the Inglewood Wildlands and Inglewood Bird Sanctuary (IBS).[6] The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is the "only urban-centred, federally-recognized bird sanctuary in Canada."[7]

The Calgary Weir, is part of a network of canals and ponds originally created by the CPR in the early 20th century to divert water from the Bow River. where water was diverted from the Bow River as part of the Western Irrigation District (WID), first opened in 1914. This was one of three irrigation districts in southern Alberta that supplied water from the Bow River—the two others are the Eastern Irrigation District (EID),[8][9]The Bow River has been an "engineered and managed river" since the early 20th century.[10][Notes 1] The CPR construction of the diversion weir at the bend in the Bow River in Calgary, was the first stage in what would become the network of irrigation canals and reservoirs.[11][12][13] According to a 2011 series by the Alberta Water Portal, WID receives much of Calgary's storm water and has more rainfall than the EID and BRID, so the Calgary Weir diversion, is supports the needs of the City and those of the southern Alberta agriculture sector.[14]

Harvie Passage

The Pearce Estate provides access to the Harvie Passage, which was officially reopened for recreational use in 2018,[15] a high water channel, for skilled kayakers and a "low water channel for novice paddlers." It had been closed to recreational use since the 2013 flood.[16]


  1. The Calgary-based Alberta WaterPortal released a series entitled The Story of Water Management on the Bow River consisting of ten videos about the past, present and future of water management on the Bow.


  1. City of Calgary (October 2008). "Pearce Estate Wetland". Retrieved 2009-08-04.
  2. "Pearce Estate Park". Calgary Parks (CSPS). October 12, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
  3. "Atlas of Alberta Railways". The Canadian Pacific Railway. University of Alberta Press. 2005. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  4. McGregor, Roy (October 12, 2015). "Protecting the health of Alberta's Bow River". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  5. The Encyclopedia Saskatchewan - The Palliser and Hind Expeditions
  6. Bend in Bow Phase 2: Preferred Concept Option (PDF). Bend in Bow. September 2016. p. 21. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
  7. "Bend in the Bow". O2 Planning + Design. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
  8. "The Eastern Irrigation District". Western Irrigation District: where water is life. The Eastern Irrigation District. 2011. Archived from the original on April 19, 2012. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
  9. The Canadian Railroad Company (CPR) developed the original irrigation system on the land allocated to them by Pearce as part of the Dominion of Canada's final payment for building the railroad from Ontario to the Pacific coast of British Columbia. CPR irrigated land in southern Alberta to attract settlers that would increase the use of the railway lines. In 1910, construction began and by 1914 the first irrigation water began flowing. The current Eastern Irrigation District was established in 1935, when a group of farmers "negotiated a deal with the CPR to take over control of the project".
  10. Future of Irrigation on the Bow River. Alberta WaterPortal. The Story of Water Management on the Bow River. Calgary. February 26, 2011. Event occurs at 2:13. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
  11. By 1905, Reservoir #1 (Chestermere Lake) was filled for the first time as water flowed from the Bow at the weir through the Main Canal.
  12. The Western Irrigation District. "Our Beginnings". History of the WID. The Western Irrigation District. Archived from the original on December 28, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
  13. The Western Irrigation District. "Western Irrigation District: where water is life". History of the WID. The Western Irrigation District. Archived from the original on December 28, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
  14. "Episode Three: Western Irrigation District". Alberta Water Portal. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  15. Kaufmann, Bill (July 12, 2018). "Province officially re-opens Harvie Passage". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  16. Calgary, Family Fun (2018-06-25). "Harvie Passage on Bow River Re-Opened After 2013 Floods". Family Fun Calgary. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
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