Brown-Lowery along the Cowboy Trail is a gem of a Provincial Park
This sweet little park of Brown Lowery Provincial Park has stunning views of the Rocky Mountain front ranges to the west as well as vistas of downtown Calgary to the northeast.
The habitat here is moist and easily damaged, so walking lightly and sticking to the trails really matters in this sensitive environment. An old Spruce forest protects the forest floor from the sun and allows the amazing plant varieties to grow in this foothills oasis. This makes the park a mysterious deep-woods adventure and great fun for the whole family.
The cool plant species include: Mares Tails, Western Canadian Violet, One-flowered Wintergreen and many Fungi species. Like many native species, the one-flowered wintergreen depends on a particular fungus growing in the moist, humus-rich forest floor of this park – where the Spruce provide the necessary shade. A fun way to zoom into the forest floor and discover the diverse species growing there is to take the kids on a wintergreen plant hunt to tally up how many you see. If you use binoculars backwards, looking through the wrong end of the lens, and zero in on fungus and other small plants it actually magnifies them and looks really cool!
There are 12 km of trails in the park. Families can choose from at least 8 different trail loops from a wee 1 km route to the full 12 km tour. If your little ones love exploring the forest floor, you can search for wildlife clues like forest animal homes, critter trails, chewed up logs, scat and tracks – all waiting for the kids to discover. Many species of wildlife live here including deer, moose, elk, lynx, bush bunnies, weasel, cougar, squirrels, owls and many species of birds.
The Park is located approximately 50 km southwest of Calgary. Access is via Highways #22x west and #22 south until you get to Plummers Road then head west and southwest just over 11 km. The parking lot is easy to miss and although the road is paved it’s windy so drive with care.
The Brown-Lowery Park’s History
From 1896 to 1915 logging took place on parts of the property. Many of the hiking trails are old logging roads. The old building in the park is the remains of a small lumber camp and sawmill. If you make it to the meadow on Old Sawmill loop with your 8-year-old or older, it is a great site to explore and imagine how people did things in the old days of early settlement in Alberta. This type of history is part of the Grade 5 curriculum, so you can be part of your child’s schooling at this hands-on-learning spot.
Home Oil Company Ltd ran seismic surveys in the 1950’s looking for oil and gas. The old seismic lines, like the old logging roads, are now trails in the park. The park is named for the Home Oil founder Major James Lowery and subsequent partner, and company president, Robert A. Brown. The company donated the land to the government of Alberta in 1969 with the understanding it be kept in its natural state. In 1992 it was designated Brown-Lowery Provincial Park.
Brown-Lowery is a great place to explore eco-system variety from grasslands (including native fescue and wildflowers at the lookout) and Aspen groves on the ridge, to mature Spruce and small creeks in the valley bottoms. Because of this variety of plant communities Brown-Lowery is a great spot for birders, wildflower enthusiasts and those who love the Fungi and mushrooms. Truly a fun family hideaway that is cool and shady on those hot summer days – everyone will find something to explore at this gem of a park.
Due to the nature of the Montane eco-system it is a good mix of coniferous and deciduous trees and mosses along with boggy areas and gently rolling hills. It can be moist and muddy at any time of year and due to the shade the trails can be icy or snowy from October to March so pack along snowshoes or ice trekkers.
– by Julie Walker, outdoor educator and owner of Full Circle Adventures.