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Lost Creeks and Wetlands of Edmonton

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  • Lost Creeks and Wetlands of Edmonton

    Originally posted by Edmonton Journal, 2nd May 2002
    See related story "Edmonton's lost wetlands" on page D8.

    Don Faulkner can remember a time in Edmonton when you could hop on a streetcar on Whyte Avenue that would transport you to a lake the size of 10 city blocks where the McKernan subdivision now stands.

    It was here in wintertime where thousands of people would go skating beneath the glow of outdoor lights or tobogganing down a huge slide that had been built on the lakeshore.

    Each New Year's Eve, there would be a huge gala celebration around McKernan's Lake, complete with band and fireworks.

    "We tried swimming there in the summertime," Faulkner recalls. "But it was just too muddy. So we'd head over to Mill Creek, where there was a big rope you could use to swing across to the other side. The creek ran deep and wild back then in springtime. After one child drowned, though, the police were always warning us to stay away."

    McKernan's Lake is now long gone, drained in the 1940s to allow for the construction of new residential developments. What little there is left of Mill Creek produces only a trickle in summertime, most of it from storm sewers that drain into the stream.

    It was not long ago that there were hundreds of streams and lakes like these within city limits.

    Drunken Lake, the story goes, was the spot where Hudson's Bay Company employees sold liquor to native trappers. Rat Creek was the last camp for a famous North West Mounted Police patrol in 1874. Kennedale Creek was the site where Rev. Canon William Newton built a church, hospital and tiny community that came to be known as the Hermitage. All three of the water bodies have been drained, paved over or culverted in part or whole.

    That's why it's ironic in a way that Mayor Bill Smith has tried so hard to convince city council to spend $50,000 on a study to look into the possibility of creating an artificial lake for recreational purposes.

    Smith's proposal got turned down, but if trends in other cities across North America are an indication of what is to come, his and other ideas like it may be resurrected.

    The city of St. John's in Newfoundland recently freed part of Kelly's Creek from the pipe that it was buried in as part of an extremely successful effort to clean up and restore the Rennie River.

    Vancouver is hoping to do the same thing with Hastings Creek, which was one of dozens of streams within the city limits in which people could fish for salmon.

    And the city of Toronto, in partnership with the University of Toronto, is looking into the feasibility of rehabilitating Taddle Creek, now nothing more than a storm sewer.

    Last week, University of Alberta researchers Kathryn Martell and Henry Dammeyer presented a map to city officials that could easily serve as a blueprint for planners searching for similar ways of heightening the city's natural beauty while providing new recreational opportunities.

    Using historical maps, photographs and archival material, Martell and Dammeyer's map pinpoints the location of dozens of creeks, lakes and wetlands that have been paved over, buried or culverted to make way for roads and urban development.

    In many of the cases, the water is still flowing. But because it passes through iron pipes and concrete culverts, the streams no longer give rise to the verdant meadows that once attracted a rich variety of wildflowers, birds and animals.

    Martell believes that "daylighting" some or part of these lost creeks and wetlands would be good for wildlife, people and the city's image.

    "Many people feel a strong connection with water," says Martell. "Most of us have childhood memories of swimming at the lake, romping on the beach and playing in small streams near our homes. Water enhances perception of a place. As the history of McKernan Lake has shown, these lakes and streams can act as anchor points for society. They also enhance property values. As we lose creeks and wetlands, we also lose some of the ties that bind us all together."

    City river valley planner Dean Wray thinks the map that Martell and Dammeyer presented to him and his colleagues is a wonderful resource that will prove to be useful in the City of Edmonton's future planning exercises.

    River valley planners, he notes, are already working with drainage personnel and engineers to soften the impact of developments around natural areas to preserve the few streams and wetlands that remain.

    Daylighting lost creeks and wetlands is a North American phenomenon that the city is keenly watching, says Wray.

    "But with the state of the city's budget, I think that realistically it is still some years away. Right now, there isn't the budget for innovative projects like this, and without a lot of public support, it would be a difficult sell. It would, however, be interesting to try."

    In Sunday Reader, pages D6 and D7, The Journal's Ed Struzik provides some historical background and the map that Martell and Dammeyer produced.
    The researchers' site can still be accessed at

    Last edited by Foolworm; 17-05-2013, 11:04 AM. Reason: Added source article

  • #2
    The blobs in McKernan were ponds I believe.



    • #3
      They were, yes, and were largely drained by the 20's/30's from massive irrigation for farmland, also due to natural loss of water over the years. What really ticks me off is the Fulton Ravine being destroyed in the 50's and 60's for freeway development that largely never happened. The southside would be even more precious if the kept only a few tracts of treed ravine. The northside really got shafted for natural parkspace.

      ^I stumbled upon this a few years ago, and since I wasn't a part of C2E I never thought of posting it. Good on you to get this discussion going! I know a new neighbourhood in the southeast by Tamarack is heavily protecting the end-leg of the Fulton Ravine. The full connection and rehabilitation of the Mill Creek Ravine is on the City's radar as well, with a ped/bike bridge over Whitemud Drive. Most of Mill Creek through the industrial sections is still intact, but heavily neglected.
      Live and love... your neighbourhood.


      • #4
        Natural water loss is probably the larger culprit. Most of the lakes and ponds out west are now dry. Beaverhill out east is a major example of what has happened over the years.

        Beaverhill is also an example of what most of the "lakes" referenced here were. Large, extremely shallow, sloughs. Yes, there were wetlands in the area, but I would hazard to guess that like many of the sloughs in the region, these would be dry today.

        One only has to look at the Sturgeon "river" and Big Lake to see that effect. A slight increase in waterflow and the whole shallow valley floods. However, look at it in about 4 weeks - it will be a nice hue of algae green.

        ...that said, it is a darn shame that there is not more active watershed management in this province.
        President and CEO - Airshow.


        • #5
          I walk by the original Mill Creek outfall almost every day, in Henrietta Muir Edwards park. The mostly dry creek bed (it floods when the North Saskatchewan is high) meanders along north of 98 Avenue. I've always thought the creek should be brought back to its original bed, it's almost entirely parkland.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Foolworm
            (...) However, it is a stretch to consider the situation 'natural' water loss. The region is one of the most intensively farmed areas in Canada (if not the world) and a major breadbaskets. I will note that farmers are not exactly the most environmentally friendly folks around - in the end, it's all about increasing yields at pretty much any cost. I will also note that they are the breeding grounds for our current crop of politicians.

   a former farmer in the "breadbasket"...

            ...we did not irrigate. We used the sloughs for drinking water (livestock) and very heavily and actively protected them...

   did all the other farmers in the area.

            While some farming operations can be questioned, I will stand up for the farmers and say that many were "eco friendly" long before it was an urban buzzword. Farmers made their living of a healthy ecology. Farmers continue to try to do this. It is not about increasing yields at any cost. I'm sorry Foolworm, but I take heavy exception to that opinion.

            What I've observed is that since 1986 - we have lost 2 artesian wells, and 3 6-20 acre sloughs that were 10' deep. They are now shells of their former selves.

            It is the same along highway 627, 770, 16, 16A, 622, 39, 22, and the myriad of farms in Parkland and Leduc county.
            President and CEO - Airshow.


            • #7
              ^ I would use this. I frequently will take the LRT to belvedere station with my bike and then ride to this ravine to get to the river valley trail system, and then ride all the way back to the SW...
              A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims, but accomplices.


              • #8
                Came across this site (link below) and see that it’s already posted to c2e above.

                Very interesting few pages here for anyone that hasn’t seen them yet.

                Any updates on the restoring mill creek?

                Lost Creeks and Wetlands of Edmonton
                Last edited by KC; 28-09-2019, 06:51 PM.


                • #9

                  Kennedale Ravine Extension — Make Something Edmonton_

                  “...daylighting Kennedale Ravine would give Northeast Edmonton their equivalent to Mill Creek or Whitemud Creek: an uninterrupted ravine system that stretches all the way to the North Saskatchewan River.”



                  Daylighting Revelstoke’s lost creeks can return natural aquatic ecosystems - Revelstoke Mountaineer

                  A century ago, burying Revelstoke’s natural creeks was thought of as progress. Restoring these natural ecosystems can bring many benefits to the community.

                  By Fraser Blyth - Jan 8, 2019

                  “There are several reasons why culverted streams aren’t as desirable as natural ones. Some of Revelstoke’s culverts are 100 years old and are overdue for replacement. The cost of replacing the culverts is comparable to the cost of daylighting.

                  Culverted streams tend to reduce overall water quality because they travel at a higher velocity than natural streams. The higher velocity increases the amount of pollutants that are transported and washed into our natural water bodies. Natural streams, by comparison riffle over debris in the riverbed which oxygenates the water, while plants and microorganisms work to “fix” pollutants.”

                  Flooding risk is increased in two ways. First, ...

                  Vancouver buried all but just two streams ? ! ! !
                  Restoring streams | City of Vancouver
                  Restoring streams

                  Vancouver once had a vast network of natural streams and creeks. As the city developed and grew, many streams were buried under pipes, filled in, or diverted.

                  Still Creek is one of the two remaining visible streams in Vancouver,...”


                  Uncovering the Mystery of Vancouver’s Lost Streams - Fraser Riverkeeper

                  Bringing long-buried streams to light a part of urban renewal in Vancouver
                  "We're sort of finally realizing that nature has a lot more value than we often give it credit for and that you know our concrete and engineered solutions often kind of suck compared to them," Lee said.

                  "In the future I think we'll be seeing more and more city planners, engineers and architects sort of work with and learn from nature instead of well burying it underground."


                  ‘Never Give Up on Any Waterway’ | The Tyee
                  Bringing new life to Burnaby’s buried and abused creeks, streams and wetlands.
                  By Christopher Cheung
                  21 Feb 2019 |


                  This Calgary creek was paved over and treated as stormwater — now activists want it to see the light

                  'Burying these creeks is not the way to go environmentally'
                  Sarah Rieger - CBC News
                  Posted: May 12, 2019
                  Last edited by KC; 29-09-2019, 06:55 AM.


                  • #10
                    Bring back mckernan lake!
                    A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims, but accomplices.